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President Trump denied knowing about a May 2019 letter from his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani requesting a private meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite Giuliani claiming that he was reaching out with Trump's "knowledge and consent."

Why it matters: The letter, released by the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, says that Giuliani was acting at the express direction of the president when carrying out a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

  • "I don't know anything about the letter, but certainly Rudy is one of the great crimefighters in the history of our country," Trump said. "I didn't know about the specific letter, but if he wrote a letter it wouldn't have been a big deal."

The big picture: Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who has been indicted on campaign finance charges, alleged in an explosive MSNBC interview Wednesday that Trump was fully aware of and authorized Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.

  • Trump told reporters that he does not know Parnas, suggesting he was simply one of the thousands of people with whom he's taken pictures at fundraisers.
  • Parnas claimed on MSNBC that Trump is lying about not knowing him and that while he wouldn't consider them "friends," he and the president interacted on numerous occasions at roundtables and fundraising events.

What to watch: Parnas said Wednesday that not all of the records he intends to hand over to the House Intelligence Committee have been released yet. He has signaled that he wants to testify in the impeachment trial, but it's not clear whether the Senate will vote to call him as a witness — especially given that he is under indictment and may not be a reliable narrator.

Read the letter:

Go deeper ... Lev Parnas: "Trump knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine

Go deeper

More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated

Graphic: Axios Visuals

Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

The big picture: The Federal Government in May said that it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

White House: Over 500,000 new shots recorded Friday, highest since July 1

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."

Biden to announce sanctions, other efforts to address crisis in Cuba amid protests

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.

Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

  • The president is also expected to make announcements on remittances and plans for U.S. embassy augmentation, the official said.
  • The official noted that the administration is in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people.
  • "Given the protest of July 11, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people and if we can do that in a way that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that we will undertake," he said, noting that the president would announce more details later this afternoon.

The details: The president will meet today with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Cuban-American, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), among other political and community leaders and artists.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken voice on Cuban issues, is not expected to attend the meeting.
  • The meeting follows a series of engagements by Cedric Richmond and the Office of Public Engagement with the Cuban-American community, the official said.

What they're saying: "We're gonna do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner, so we can keep the conversation on the rights of the Cuban people and their rights to manifest peacefully," the official said on the call with reporters.

Be smart: Cuba is a tricky political issue for Democrats, who are split on the matter. The president was defeated by Donald Trump in South Florida during the 2020 election, and Democrats fear similar results, particularly in the upcoming midterms, if they mishandle the situation.

Go deeper: The newly announced sanctions today will follow already imposed sanctions against Cuban officials and entities allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the government's crackdown on island-wide protests earlier this month.