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Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Republicans are no longer arguing the "quid pro quo" on Ukraine, focusing instead on denying that it came from President Trump himself.

Why it matters: Democrats see EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony today as a tipping point, even though he has trouble recalling events exactly as they happened.

  • Sondland testified today: "I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' ... the answer is yes."
  • "We worked with [Rudy] Giuliani because the president directed us to do so."

During the first recess, Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois said Sondland’s testimony makes him curious about what acting WH Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would say.

  • “The veneer is off. Everybody’s in," Quigley said.

The White House didn't publicly acknowledge the blow Sondland delivered.

  • Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Democrats are “chasing ghosts,” and Trump said he barely knew Sondland.
  • But Trump was far more circumspect than he’s been with prior witnesses, and today his remarks were prepared in huge sharpie font.

After lunch today, House Republicans Jim Jordan and Mike Turner turned on Sondland, treating him like a hostile witness.

  • “No, we’re not friends,” Sondland said of the president, though he said “yes” when asked if he likes him. 

This exchange is also worth watching, Jonathan Swan notes.

  • Rep. Mike Turner to Sondland: "So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations."
  • Sondland: "Other than my own presumption."
  • Turner: "Which is nothing!"

The bottom line: Unless former national security adviser John Bolton does a last-minute reversal and voluntarily testifies — a scenario that appears implausible — Sondland will be the witness who serves as the test case of the White House’s theory of impeachment, Swan reports.

  • The theory goes that nothing that happens in these hearings could convince 20 Republican senators to convict Trump.

What's next: The White House will deny categorically that Trump told anyone to condition anything on anything — and that if Rudy Giuliani told Sondland that the White House meeting was conditioned on a statement about investigations, then that was Giuliani freelancing.

Go deeper: Full highlights from today's hearing

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

10 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.