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Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump said in a tweet Tuesday that he did not want the U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland to sit for a deposition in the Ukraine investigation because of the format House Democrats' impeachment inquiry has taken on.

I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!

Why it matters: Sondland's legal counsel said in a statement on Tuesday that he was directed by the State Department to forgo the deposition, but Trump's tweet suggests that the order came from the White House.

The big picture: Text messages were released last week between Sondland and two other diplomats wrapped up in an alleged pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

  • In one particularly memorable exchange between Sondland and Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Taylor texted: "I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
  • That text came after Taylor said that "the message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. That's my nightmare scenario."
  • Sondland, a Trump political appointee and GOP donor, 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."

Of note: The Sondland "tweet" that Trump was referring to is actually a text. The New York Times reported that Sondland's response about there being "no quid pro quo's" came after he spoke to Trump.

Go deeper: Trump administration directs Sondland not to appear for House deposition

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).