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Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official, is interviewed on CBS. Photo: CBS

Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official, told CBS News in an interview that aired Wednesday that his phone conversation with Rudy Giuliani documented in a draft impeachment report had nothing to do with Ukraine. He added he was "never a back channel to President Trump on Ukraine matters, at all, ever."

Why it matters: Call records included in an impeachment report released by House Democrats Tuesday show Patel spoke with Guiliani two months before the Trump administration suspended military aid to Ukraine.

  • Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, told impeachment investigators that she heard the president thought Patel was his Ukraine director and that Patel was slipping Ukraine-related "materials" to him outside normal NSC channels, per Axios' Jonathan Swan, who notes Patel has never been assigned to Ukraine on the NSC.

The big picture: Following Hill's testimony last month, Patel categorically denied ever discussing Ukraine with Trump.

  • In his interview with CBS News, Patel said his conversation with Giuliani was "personal" and he was "delighted" to speak with the former mayor of New York City, where he grew up.
"If [Democrats] had any actual information as to the substance of those calls, then they would've put it in there," he said. "But they didn't. This is a standard operating procedure to castigate someone's name and reputation — especially when they work in the White House."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot"

The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday that he "absolutely" will accept the offer from President-elect Joe Biden to serve as his chief medical adviser, telling NBC's "Today" that he said yes "right on the spot."

Why it matters: President Trump had a contentious relationship with Fauci, who has been forced during the pandemic to correct many of the president's false claims about the coronavirus. Biden, meanwhile, has emphasized the importance of "listening to the scientists" throughout his campaign and transition.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

The quick FCC fix that would get more students online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic forces students out of school, broadband deployment programs aren't going to move fast enough to help families in immediate need of better internet access. But Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission say the incoming Biden administration could put a dent in that digital divide with one fast policy change.

State of play: An existing FCC program known as E-rate provides up to $4 billion for broadband at schools, but Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai has resisted modifying the program during the pandemic to provide help connecting students at home.