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President Trump. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Staff/Getty Images

Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official accused of running a secret backchannel to President Trump on Ukraine matters, has categorically denied ever discussing Ukraine with the president.

What he's saying: "A number of media outlets have falsely reported that, as senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, I have communicated with President Trump regarding Ukraine," Patel told Axios on Friday night. "At no time have I ever communicated with the president on any matters involving Ukraine.

  • "Any reporting to the contrary, and any testimony provided to Congress, is simply false, and any current or former staff who suggest I have raised or discussed Ukraine matters with President Trump, are similarly misinformed or spreading outright falsehoods."

Why it matters: Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, told impeachment investigators that she heard Trump thought Patel was his Ukraine director and that Patel was slipping Ukraine-related "materials" to the president outside of the normal NSC channels. Patel has never been assigned to Ukraine on the NSC.

  • Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee seized on Hill's allegations about Patel, who previously worked for ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and who helped write a memo that accused the Russia investigators of bias.

Between the lines: Hill said that when she heard from another NSC staffer about Patel's supposed involvement on Ukraine, she considered it to be so "strange" and alarming that she reported it to her superior.

  • Hill said, however, that she never found out what actually went on with Patel and that her superior, Charles Kupperman, never got back to her after telling her he'd look into the matter.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an NSC official who testified before impeachment investigators, also mentioned Patel in his testimony.
  • Vindman testified that Hill told him that Patel was misrepresenting himself as an Ukraine expert and the president had come to believe Patel was in charge of Ukraine policy on the NSC.

In a statement Friday night, Patel categorically denied all of these allegations from his current and former colleagues.

  • "I pride myself on my record as a dedicated national security professional who is entrusted to handle our nation's most sensitive matters," he said. "At no time have I strayed from my mission to protect the homeland in service to President Trump and the National Security Council."

Go deeper: Vindman says Mulvaney coordinated plan to push Ukraine for Biden investigations

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).