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Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a meeting in early May with his top aides to seek advice on how to navigate pressure from the Trump administration to investigate Joe Biden, two people with knowledge of the briefings told AP.

Why it matters: The sources said Zelensky was concerned that the White House wanted him to take action that could influence the 2020 presidential race — well before the July 25 call with President Trump that's at the heart of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Details: Staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, were briefed on the meeting, meaning that U.S. officials knew early on that Zelensky felt pressured to investigate Biden.

  • The sources said that notes on the meeting that circulated at the State Department indicate that Zelensky tried to hide the purpose of the May 7 meeting by claiming it was about energy policy.

The big picture: Zelensky later denied that he felt pressured while talking to reporters at the UN General Assembly meeting in September.

  • House Republicans have defended Trump in impeachment hearings with Zelensky's public statements that he felt no pressure to open investigations.
  • Democrats have argued that Ukrainian officials can't admit they felt pressured because they still rely on aid from the Trump administration.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.