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Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Ron Johnson (R.-Wis.) told the Wall Street Journal that he learned of a possible quid pro quo between the Trump administration and Ukraine's government from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The big picture: Johnson said that he pressed President Trump on the issue, which allegedly linked the distribution of $400 million in U.S. military aid with a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, in an Aug. 31 phone call. "He said ... 'No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?'" Johnson told the Journal of his conversation with the president.

  • Johnson asked the Justice Department earlier this week to look into links between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. His letter questioned the narrative that Biden's actions in Ukraine had nothing to do with his son's connection.
  • However, it was also discovered that he signed onto a 2016 letter that mirrored Biden's work to reform Ukraine's prosecutor general and judiciary.
  • There is no evidence that Biden's reform work in Ukraine was to protect his son's business dealings, as the president and some of his allies allege, or that he committed any form of corruption.

The state of play: Sondland, a Trump political appointee who donated $1 million to the president's inaugural committee, denied that there was a quid pro quo between the Trump administration and Ukraine's government in a series of text messages that former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker provided to a group of House committees investigating the Trump-Ukraine matter.

  • "I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, texted Sondland.
  • Sondland texted back: "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind."
  • The New York Times reported that Sondland's response came only after he spoke to the president.

Go deeper: House committees release texts from former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker

Go deeper

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Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."