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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump directed his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine days before he phoned the country's president and allegedly urged him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, the Washington Post and New York Times report.

Details: The White House told Axios that the reports, published late Monday, are "completely false." WashPost reported that officials in the administration's Office of Management and Budget notified the Pentagon and State Department about the request at an interagency meeting in July.

  • The departments were reportedly told that the Trump administration was examining whether the spending was necessary.

What they're saying: "The media pushed the Russia lie for almost 3 years with no evidence, and now they are doing it all over again," White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told Axios' Alayna Treene.

"These allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this President."
— Hogan Gidley

Context: Trump earlier flatly denied that he had withheld aid in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate allegations of conflicts of interest related to the work of the former vice president's son Hunter Biden with a Ukrainian energy company.

  • The country's prosecutor has found no evidence to support the claims of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.
  • The president defended his right to discuss Biden during his July phone call with Zelensky on Monday. "If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?" he said.

The state of play: Several Democratic lawmakers and party allies — including Biden — have called on Trump to release a transcript of the call and have demanded that a whistleblower report flagging the call as problematic be turned over to Congress.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The big picture: Several House Democrats spoke out in support of bringing impeachment proceedings against Trump if the White House tries to block Democratic investigations into the allegations, or if they are proven to be true.

  • 7 freshman House Democrats in swing districts who have previously been hesitant toward impeachment wrote in a Monday Washington Post op-ed that they "believe these actions represent an impeachable offense" if proven true.

Go deeper: Key House committees threaten subpoenas over Trump-Ukraine allegations

Go deeper

32 mins ago - Health

Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific COVID vaccine

A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have started clinical trials for a reformulated vaccine to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Why it matters: The rise of the Omicron variant has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines.

Retail stock traders power stunning comeback after deep selloff

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Stocks staged a Patrick Mahomes-esque comeback Monday, after plunging for the first few hours of trading.

Why it matters: The remarkable recovery suggests that retail traders who upended markets over the last year — most notably during the GameStop bonanza that occurred almost exactly a year ago — continue to be powerful influence in the markets.

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.