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Philip Reeker, US Embassy in Iraq spokesman, speaks during a press conference in 2007. Photo: Khaled Mohammed/AFP via Getty Images

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told House impeachment investigators Saturday that top State Department officials overruled his attempted defense of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Reeker after the State Department directed him not to attend his Saturday deposition. Reeker is one of several Trump administration officials to testify that he was disturbed by Rudy Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine policy and by the State Department leadership's lack of support for Yovanovitch.

Context: President Trump ordered Yovanovitch's removal in March, after Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, argued that she was talking badly about the president and was obstructing efforts to persuade Kiev to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

  • Around the same time, Reeker was named to his current role. He testified that he endorsed efforts by some officials in the department to issue statements supporting Yovanovitch, but the statements were blocked from being released, AP reports.

Reeker said he also became troubled during a White House meeting in which Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, raised concern over the freezing of congressionally approved Ukraine aid.

Go deeper: EU ambassador told House panels Trump's Ukraine action was quid pro quo

Go deeper

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.