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President Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

Behind the scenes: Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call.

  • Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Zelensky was "perfect"and he did nothing wrong.
  • But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: "Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquefied natural gas] plant," one source said, recalling the president's comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source's recollection.

Why it matters: The president's remarks suggest he may be seeking to distance himself from responsibility or recast the pretext for the call. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Another source on the call said Trump added that "more of this will be coming out in the next few days" — referring to Perry.

Worth noting: Text messages released this week between Trump administration officials and Andrey Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, suggest that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a primary advocate for arranging the call.

  • There is no mention in the text messages of Perry playing a role in making this call happen.
  • Zelensky talks about buying American oil and wanting to work with the U.S. on energy independence, but Perry and LNG are not discussed in the 5-page memo of the Trump-Zelensky call released by the White House.

Between the lines: Perry, who is reportedly resigning by the end of this year, has become increasingly embroiled in congressional Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Perry's spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, told Axios: “Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the president to speak to the new president of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development." 

  • "He continues to believe that there is significant need for improved regional energy security—which is exactly why he is heading to Lithuania tonight to meet with nearly 2 dozen European energy leaders (including Ukraine) on these issues,” Hynes added.

The White House acknowledged the conference call in a Friday readout that said participants included Minority Leader McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, and GOP leaders on key House committees — and that they discussed Friday's jobs report, the economy and concerns about Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

  • The readout makes no mention of Rick Perry.

Go deeper: Politico examines Perry's ties to Ukraine.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that Kevin McCarthy is the House minority leader, not the majority leader.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.

Ina Fried, author of Login
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CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

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