Former National Security official Dr. Fiona Hill repeatedly got the better of Republican questioners during tense testimony in Congress Thursday as she delivered extended orations on how she came to learn a separate group of officials were running a Ukraine policy that was ‘domestic and political in nature.’
In her riveting testimony Hill outlined how EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland had been sent on a ‘domestic political errand’ on President Donald Trump’s behalf that would ‘blow up’ and she warned against the dangers of mixing together domestic and foreign politics.
‘He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy,’ she said of Sondland in her testimony, ‘and those two things had just diverged.’
She admitted to clashes with Sondland – particularly with his lack of coordination on a staff level – and said she told him flat-out: ‘”I think this is all going to blow up” and here we are.’
Fiona Hill, who took a star turn in Thursday’s impeachment hearing, leaves Capitol Hill after around six hours of testimony
State Department staffer David Holmes departs the hearing room after his testimony on Thursday
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff bangs the hearing to a close – the final public hearing in the impeachment inquiry this week
Overall, lawmakers heard nearly 31 hours of testimony over three days this week and showed signs of impatience, exhaustion and testiness near the end. Schiff notably used his gave more than usual in the final day’s proceedings and Republicans grew increasingly snippy and frustrated with the Democrats’ majority rule on the panel, complaining about the time restraints on their questioning and their lack of ability to call witnesses.
Hill closed out three days of nine officials testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in their impeachment inquiry into Trump. No more public hearings or witnesses have been announced although that could still happen. Congress, however, is on recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Schiff made what appeared to be a closing statement in his final moments, outlining why he decided to pursue the impeachment inquiring, comparing Trump to Richard Nixon and ending his soliloquy with a quote from Elijah Cummings, the recently deceased chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
‘I resisted going down this path for a long time,’ he said of the impeachment inquiry.
‘I will tell you why I could resist no more. And it came down to this, it came down to actually – it came down to timing. It came down to the fact that the day after Bob Mueller testified,’ Schiff said, ‘Donald Trump is back on the phone asking another nation to involve itself in another U.S. Election. That says to me, this president believes he is above the law. Beyond accountability. And in my view there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.’
Then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress on July 24 – the day before Trump’s now infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky where Trump asked him for a favor and mentioned the investigations.
‘What we have seen here is far more serious than a third rate burglary of the Democratic headquarters. What we’re talking about here is the withholding of recognition in that White House meeting, the withholding of military aid to an ally at war. That is beyond anything Nixon did,’ Schiff said. ‘The difference between then and now is not the difference between Nixon and Trump, it is the difference between that Congress and this one.’
Schiff ended the day with a bang of his gavel and choked up as he quoted Cummings, who worked with him on the investigations of the Trump administration: ‘I would just say to people watching here at home, and around the world, in the words of my great colleague, we are better than that. Adjourned.’
Adam Schiff quoted his former colleague Elijah Cummings as he closed hearing saying ‘we are better than this’
Fiona Hill, left, shakes hands with a man as she and David Holmes, right, leave Capitol Hill after their testimony
Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Democrats of running a ‘show trial’ aimed at over turning the result of the 2016 election.
‘What you see in this room over the past two weeks is a show trial. The planned result of three years of political operations and dirty tricks. Campaigns waged against this president. And like any good show trial, the verdict was decided before the trial ever began,’ he said in his closing statement.
‘Exploiting the Intelligence committee as a venue for impeachment has one of the grossest abuses in the process filled with cynical manipulations, large and small. But this farce will soon move to the Judiciary committee or impeachment rightfully belongs. I wish my Republican colleagues well in fighting this travesty and defending the idea,’ he added.
Hill was joined at the witness table on Thursday by longtime State Department staffer David Holmes, who was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and overheard EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s phone conversation with President Trump where Sondland assured him Zelensky would launch the investigations they had been pressing for.
But it was Hill, with her no-nonsense demeanor and English accent, who was the star of the day.
Hill, a British-born Russia expert who served as deputy-National Security Adviser to then-NSA John Bolton, fielded a series of questions by ranking Republican member Rep. Devin Nunes and committee lawyer Steve Castor Thursday afternoon following her earlier testimony.
She managed to swat down their own theories of Ukrainian political interference – while revealing how she came to harbor what she described as an alarmed view of a ‘different channel’ of policymaking that came to be on Ukraine.
Castor asked Hill about a July 10 meeting involving Bolton, Sondland and other officials.
Hill then went on a long explanation where she revealed why she blew up at Sondland at the time – only to later appreciate he was ‘right’ because he was working on orders from President Trump.
‘He was absolutely right,’ she said. ‘He wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same things that he was doing.’
‘I had a bit of a blowup with Ambassador Sondland and I had a couple testy encounters with him,’ she said of the Trump inaugural donor who revealed Wednesday he was engaged in a ‘quid pro quo’ for Ukraine investigations.
‘One was on June 18 when I actually said to him who put you in charge of Ukraine? and I’ll admit I was a bit rude. And that’s when he told me: the president, which shook me up,’ she said.
Dr. Fiona Hill, who was the White House’s top Russia expert until August, gave evidence Thursday in the final scheduled day of public impeachment hearings and warned against a ‘fictional narrative’ that it was the Ukraine and not Russia who interfered in the 2016 election
Hill pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security. David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, is also testified Thursday of his knowledge of a call between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland
Dr. Hill testified that she ‘had a bit of a blowup’ with Ambassador Sondland until she asked who put him in charge of Ukraine. ‘That’s when he told me: the president, which shook me up,’ she said (Sondland and President Trump are pictured in 2018)
Hill appeared to target Rep. Devin Nunes (right), a staunch supporter of Trump, when she testified: ‘Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did’
The GOP has spent days trying to disassociate the president from the Ukraine affair, with suggestions that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sondland could have been outside their lane, while arguing that a July 25 transcript provides no direct linkage between security aid and investigations.
As Dr. Hill’s questioners looked on, the career official went on to implicate an array of top people in the administration.
‘I was actually, to be honest, angry with him,’ she said of Sondland. ‘And, you know, I hate to say it but often when women show anger, it’s not fully appreciated. It’s often, you know, pushed on to emotional issues, perhaps are deflected on to other people. And what I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us.’
She continued: ‘I’ve actually realized having listened to his deposition that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me: ”But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo and I’ve talked to ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?”
‘And the point is, we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine … But it struck me when yesterday when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s e-mails and who was on these e-mails. And he said these are the people who need to know, that he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged. So he was correct,’ she said.
She said she told him: ‘I think this is all going to blow up.
‘And here we are,’ she said.
‘His feeling was that the national security council was always trying to block him. What we were trying to do was block from straying into domestic or personal politics. And that was precisely what I was trying to do,’ she said.
‘But Ambassador Sondland is not wrong that he had been given a different remit than we had been. And it was at that moment that I started to realize how those things had diverged and I realized, in fact, that I wasn’t really being fair to Ambassador Sondland because he was carrying out what he thought he had been instructed to carry out.’
Then Rep. Devin Nunes – the top Republican on the panel – jumped in to make the point that the president gets to make policy and have his concerns carried out.
‘The president of the United States, commander in chief, was concerned about the 2016 elections and Burisma. He had his personal attorney working these issues because he was under investigation by Robert Mueller, special counsel,’ Nunes said. ‘Partly beginning with an investigation that started with the Steele dossier that we’ve already established that the democrats had paid for.’
‘At the end of the day, isn’t it the commander in chief that makes those decisions?’ Nunes asked her.
Hill responded that she was never brought directly into the chain on those policies, if they were indeed the official policies.
‘My point, Mr. Nunes, is that we at the National Security Council were not told either by the president directly or through Ambassador Bolton that we were to be focused on these issues as a matter of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. So when you were talking about Ukraine in 2016, I never personally heard the president say anything specific about 2016 in Ukraine,’ she said, using the term for a theory that Trump himself has pushed that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. elections.
‘Thank you,’ Nunes said, while the witness talked on.
‘In fact, I was given a directive on July 10th by Ambassador Bolton very clearly to stay out of domestic politics,’ she said, referencing the Republican former UN ambassador who she says referred to the Giuliani channel as a ‘drug deal.’
Then Castor came back with another question, saying: ‘Just for sake of the timeline, I think as of July 19th, they hadn’t even engaged in Rudy Giuliani yet. I don’t believe that happened until a little bit later. So you believe by July 19th, they were already engaged in those types of activities?’
The witness responded with a barrage of dates and information that pointed to Giuliani’s earlier activities.
‘We had already had a discussion with [U.S. Ukraine envoy] Kurt Volker which was in the depositions of his assistant Chris Anderson that indicated that he had met with Rudy Giuliani at this point,’ she said.
‘And Ambassador Sondland made comments about meeting with Giuliani. And as we know, in the May 23rd meeting, they had been instructed to meet with Giuliani. they gave us every impression that they were meeting with Rudy Giuliani at this point and Rudy Giuliani was also saying on the television and indeed has said subsequent subsequently that he was closely coordinating with the State Department. So it was my belief that he was meeting with them.’
Holmes, the staffer at the Ukraine embassy who was at lunch with Gordon Sondland when the EU ambassador spoke on his personal cell phone to Donald Trump, testified Thursday along with Hill
Dr. Hill revealed why she blew up at Gordon Sondland at the time – only to later appreciate he was ‘right’ because he was working on orders from President Trump
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan repeatedly interrupted David Holmes during questioning, leading to Adam Schiff’s interference. The GOP has spent days trying to disassociate the president from the Ukraine affair, with suggestions that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sondland could have been outside their lane
In the fifth hour of the hearing, Hill asked for permission to speak, praising a Republican congressman for his military service and attempt to bring the country together and bluntly calling out two GOP lawmakers for their partisan rancor.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, a decorated veteran, talked about his time in the military under then-President Bill Clinton, who he noted he didn’t vote for, and also how he was one of the lawmakers who was at the 2017 baseball practice when a gunman opened fire on the members of Congress.
‘I know it hurts after losing an election especially as Americans. We usually get over it,’ Wenstrup said. ‘And I imagine it would hurt even more if you were promised the position in the next administration and lost. And your hopes and your dreams are dashed. You know, I’ve seen hatred for political reasons. Specifically on June 14, 2017 at a ball field in Virginia. And I’ve seen hatred in war. And I know that hatred blinds people. I’ve been in war and I’ve studied war. And coups create division. And it’s time for this phase of the publicly announced and proclaimed Democrat coup to end. Thank you for your service,’ he concluded to Hill.
Wenstrup, a colonel in the Army Reserves and Iraq War veteran, is a medical doctor who treated Congressman Steve Scalise on the scene of the 2017 shooting.
After he finished, Hill asked Chairman Schiff for permission to speak, which he granted.
She mixed together a plea for the country to come together with criticism of Republican Congressmen Michael Turner and John Ratcliffe, two of President Trump’s defenders on the panel.
‘I think what Doctor Wenstrup said was powerful about the importance of overcoming hatred and certainly partisan division,’ she said. ‘And it’s unfortunate that Congressman Turner and Ratcliffe both left as well. Because I think all of us who came here under legal obligation also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came as fact witnesses.’
She went on to say she knew the partisan rancor that divided the country after Trump was elected but pointed out she joined the administration to try and heal some of those wounds.
‘I know that this has put a huge cloud over this presidency and also over our whole democratic system. That’s actually why – as a non-partisan person and as an expert on Russia and an expert on Vladimir Putin and on the Russian security services – I wanted to come in to serve the country to try to see if I could help. I heard President Trump say he wanted to improve relations with Russia. We have to. We can’t be in this unending confrontation with Russia. We have to find a way to stabilize our relationship and to professionalize that relationship,’ she said.
She went on to plea for the country to come together so outside foreign influences could not interfere in the 2020 contest.
‘We’re here just to provide what we know and have heard,’ she said, ‘to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here. We do not make that decision. I do, again, want to underscore what you said here, Dr. Wenstrup, very eloquent and moving about your service, and trying to bring us all together again as Americans. We need to be together again in 2020 so the American people can make a choice about the future and about make their vote in a presidential election without any fear that this is being interfered in by, from any course whatsoever.’
A staff member on the Republican side placed signs hitting out at Chairman Adam Schiff during a break – including one that read ‘0 Days Since Adam Schiff Followed House Rules’ – which means he did in fact follow the rules
Rep. Devin Nunes (left) made the point to Dr. Hill that the president gets to make policy and have his concerns carried out when he directed Sondland to work with Rudy Giuliani on a Ukraine-led investigation into the Bidens
Final evidence: Fiona Hill, a British-American policy expert who was the NSC’s most senior, pictured being sworn in along with David Holmes Thursday
‘The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined,’ Hill warned in her opening statement
Dr. Hill earlier in her testimony hit back at an unproven theory pushed by President Trump and his defenders that it was the Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election, issuing a warning of a ‘fictional narrative’ and pleading with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security.
‘These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,’ Hill warned in her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.
She warned of Russian President Vladimir Putin acting like a super PAC to influence American elections as the 2020 presidential contest approaches.
‘President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy,’ she said.
The likely target of her words were Republicans Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan – two staunch defenders of the president who sit on the House Intelligence Committee.
‘Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,’ Hill warned in her testimony.
Trump and some of his allies have pushed a conspiracy theory that it was the Ukraine who hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and made it appear it was Russia, which would mean Trump did not win the election with Russian interference.
The president has asked the Ukraine to turn over the DNC server even as U.S. intelligence agencies say it was Russia that influenced the election and DNC officials have said the Ukraine does not have its email server.
Hill kept her short opening statement focused on foreign threats to U.S. security and pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with combating that threat.
‘The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined,’ Hill warned.
‘If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention. But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm,’ she added.
Hill, who has previously worked for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, quit her role as the National Security Council’s most senior officials on Russia and Europe in August.
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney began his questioning of Hill with an apology for the behavior of Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio earlier in the hearing.
‘I thought it was epic mansplaining forced endure by my colleague Mr. Turner and I want you to know some of us think it was inappropriate but appreciate your forbearance,’ Maloney told Hill.
About an hour earlier, Turner opened his questioning with a monologue directed toward Hill, not asking her a question and then proceeding to question Holmes – her male co-witness – when Chairman Schiff asked Turner if he had a question for Hill.
‘Dr. Hill, you have provided me probably the greatest piece of evidence that’s before us to illustrate the problem with hearsay,’ Turner told her.
‘You said, based on questions and statements, I have heard some of you on this committee – that be us – appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country. Perhaps somehow for some reason it was Ukraine,’ he said.
‘What you had heard, but you felt the no need to put it in your eight page statement before you went on to tell us a bunch of other things you heard about other people,’ he added.
He continued his lecture, which went on for about four minutes.
‘The problem with no matter how convinced we are, Dr. Hill, no matter how much we believe we know that what we’ve heard is true, it is still just what we’ve heard,’ Turner said.
Chairman Schiff stepped in to ask: ‘Is there a question for Dr. Hill?’
Turner did not respond but turned to ask Holmes a question without giving Hill the opportunity to speak.
David Holmes, a career diplomat and the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said under oath that he heard Trump ask Sondland about ‘investigations’
Holmes testified behind closed doors that he overheard Trump asking Sondland about ‘investigations,’ during a lunch in Kiev, but during the hearing President Trump shot down those claims in a tweet
Meanwhile, State Department official David Holmes testified on Thursday on what he said was his first-hand knowledge about the pressures placed on the Ukraine to open investigations – going all the way up to President Trump.
Holmes, in his 12-page opening statement, emphasized his non-political role in U.S. Embassy in Kiev and outlined how U.S. priorities in the Ukraine were overshadowed by Rudy Giuliani and the ‘three amigos’ running a ‘shadow’ foreign policy.
The career diplomat arrived in Kiev in August 2017 to work with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and then with Bill Taylor after Yovanovitch was recalled in May of this year.
He noted a change in U.S. policy began ‘dramatically’ in March 2019 when American policy directives in the country were ‘overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.’
That agenda led to Yovanovitch’s ouster as ambassador, he testified. He outlined a campaign led by then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko to discredit her, a campaign Giuliani then took up to have Yovanovitch recalled.
That discreditation campaign involved the Bidens and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board until earlier this year – a mixture President Trump would ultimately take up to rage against the Bidens in his campaign rallies.
Holmes argued Lutsenko was angry Yovanovitch had pushed him to follow through on reform commitments and retaliated against her because of it.
‘In retaliation, Mr. Lutsenko made a series of unsupported allegations against Ambassador Yovanovitch, mostly suggesting that Ambassador Yovanovitch improperly used the Embassy to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party,’ he said.
He explained how Lutsenko made unsubstantiated allegations that the U.S. Embassy had pressured Lutsenko’s predecessor to close a case against a different former Ukrainian official, solely because of an alleged connection between that official’s company, Burisma, and former Vice President Biden’s son’s Hunter Biden.
Giuliani took it up from there, according to Holmes.
‘Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets, asking ‘why Biden shouldn’t be investigated,’ attacking the ‘New Pres of Ukraine’ (Zelenskyy) for being ‘silent’ on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about the New York Times attacking him for ‘exposing the Biden family history of making millions . . . from Ukraine criminals,’ Holmes testified.
With Yovanovitch recalled in May, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland took over Ukraine policy and was in communication with Giuliani.
Holmes outlined Sondland’s role in the Ukraine, which was not a part of the European Union, and talked about how Sondland bragged about his access to President Trump and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
He said Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker named themselves the ‘three amigos’ and ‘made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelensky Administration.’
And Giuliani was working with the amigos, he charged.
‘Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador
Sondland stated, ‘Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up,’ Holmes testified.
He then tied in the work of the amigos with the desire for a White House visit by the newly-elected Zelensky to give his administration credibility and show it had American support.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (left) began the hearing with his opening statements and was followed by top Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (center)
Hill pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security
A portion of Trump’s phone transcript from his July 25 call with Ukraine president is displayed as Fiona Hill and David Holmes, testify before the House Intelligence Committee
The Embassy tried to arrange a White House meeting – which Zelensky’s team wanted for his first overseas visit. When that didn’t happen Zelensky was invited to a Fourth of July party that Sondland hosted in Brussels that featured a number of bold-faced names, including White House Counselor Jared Kushner, Secretary Pompeo’s counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, senior European Union officials, and comedian Jay Leno.
But the pressure remained on the Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Holmes testified that on June 27, Sondland called Bill Taylor – the top U.S. diplomat at the Embassy – and Taylor told him that Sondland said President Zelensky ‘needed to make clear to President Trump that President Zelensky was not standing in the way of ‘investigations.’ I understood that this meant the Burisma/Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since March.’
Holmes added it was ‘clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting’ between Zelensky and Trump.
He then said the Embassy also worked on trying to find out why nearly $400 million in U.S. assistance to the Ukraine had been frozen.
‘The order had come from the President and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further explanation,’ Holmes said he was told by an Office of Management and Budget official.
Holmes was also in attendance meetings on July 26 – the day after the now-infamous Trump phone call with Zelensky – but he revealed Sondland kept him out of meeting with one of Zelensky’s top advisers.
Holmes was not on the July 25 call between the presidents and said he did not know the details until he read the transcript when the White House released it in September.
But he recalled when he, Sondland and other officials met with Zelensky on July 26, the Ukrainian president ‘stated that during the July 25 call, President Trump had ‘three times’ raised ‘some very sensitive issues,’ and that he would have to follow up on those issues when he and President Trump met ‘in person.’
He then revealed Sondland kept him out of a meeting with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Zelensky, that took place after the meeting with Zelensky.
After that Yermak meeting, he and Sondland went to lunch at a Kiev restaurant with a few others. That was where Sondland took out his cell phone and called President Trump to give him an update.
‘While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The President’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume,’ Holmes said.
‘I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from Kiev. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine,’ he added.
‘Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky ”loves your a**.” I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to,’ he said.
He added that ‘after the call ended, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad mood, as Ambassador Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning.’
Holmes also testified that on September 8, Bill Taylor told him that the three amigos now insisting Zelensky publicly commit to an investigation during an interview with CNN.
‘I was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete,’ he said. ‘This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit, on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival.’
But then the hold on the U.S. aid money was lifted on September 11 but Holmes said Embassy officials were worried Zelensky had agreed to the CNN interview in exchange for it.
‘In short, everyone thought there was going to be an interview, and that the Ukrainians believed they had to do it. The interview ultimately did not occur,’ Holmes said.
‘Let him get sentenced, play the racism card. Tell the Kardashians you tried.’ Gordon Sondland’s conversation with Donald Trump about A$AP Rocky’s trial in Sweden in a restaurant in Kiev is revealed in impeachment hearing
In that July 26 phone call, Holmes testified, Sondland also updated Trump on the status of A$AP Rocky, who had been jailed in Sweeden after a Stockholm street fight.
David Holmes, the under secretary of state for political affairs, describes the phone call he overheard between U.S. Donald Trump and Gordon Sondland while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. He said Trump asked for ‘investigations’ in a call that also dealt with rapper A$AP Rocky
‘The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland’s efforts, on behalf of the President, to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador Sondland’s side of that part of the conversation,’ Holmes told lawmakers in a hushed room while the cameras rolled.
‘Ambassador Sondland told the President that the rapper was ‘kind of f—-d there,’ and ‘should have pled guilty,’ he said – referring to a case that would land the rapper in jail for a month until his conviction and ultimate release.
Sondland ‘recommended that the President ‘wait until after the sentencing or it will make it worse,’ adding that the President should ‘let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home,’ according to Holmes.
‘Ambassador Sondland further told the President that Sweden ‘should have released him on your word,’ but that ‘you can tell the Kardashians you tried.”
Reality star and activist Kim Kardashian West speaks about a second chance hiring and re-entry initiative alongside U.S. President Donald Trump, right, at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday June 13, 2019 – weeks before A$AP Rocky got arrested after a street fight in Stockholm
A$ap Rocky is seen outside the Loewe show during Paris Fashion Week SS20 on September 27, 2019 in Paris, France
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland said Holmes’ earlier testimony about the rapper jogged his own memory about the phone call, which he confirmed happened
Holmes also provided damaging testimony about his interactions with Sondland and other officials in Ukraine, where he is stationed at the U.S. embassy
Rapper Kanye West, left, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. West and Kardashian sought intervention by Trump to help A$AP Rocky
Holmes, who attended prestigious schools and had diplomatic postings in Moscow and New Delhi, spoke with extensive recall about the meeting with Sondland, describing sharing an appetizer with Sondland and a bottle of wine for the table – even describing a table-runner that covered two adjoining surfaces for the meal.
‘It was quite loud when the president came on,’ he said, calling Trump’s voice ‘quite distinctive.’
Sondland ‘sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear like this,’ Holmes said, holding his hand away from his ear for emphasis. ‘And he did that for the first couple exchanges.’
Sondland vouched for the call in his own testimony Wednesday, although he didn’t bring it up in his closed deposition.
‘What triggered my memory was someone’s reference to A$AP Rocky, which was I believe the primary purpose of the phone call,’ Sondland testified with information that appeared to directly connect the president to the call for ‘investigations’ – short hand for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden served on the board.
The president’s efforts to explicitly seek a probe of the Bidens while getting A$AP Rocky out of a Swedish prison converged in late July.
A$AP Rocky (R) leaves the district court in Stockholm, Sweden, 02 August 2019 on the third day of his trial
On July 25th – the day Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a ‘favor’ and mentioned Joe Biden, he sent out an escalatory tweet in the campaign to pressure the Swedes to short-circuit their judicial process for the rapper.
That same day, at 5:24 pm, Trump tweeted: ‘Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky.’
In substance key to the impeachment probe, Holmes said: ‘I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to.’
‘Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the President,’ Holmes said.
The rapper had been arrested after a street fight which was captured on video in Stockholm. Trump got involved following a push by Kim Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kanye West.
‘I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!’ Trump tweeted in late July, in an effort that proved unsuccessful.
Human ‘hand grenade’ Rudy Giuliani said ‘explosive things’ which have ‘come back to haunt us,’ former top Russia aide tells impeachment probe – as president’s attorney is revealed to have posed as adviser to Mike Pence
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up,’ Hill noted in her testimony
Giuliani, who is the personal lawyer to Donald Trump and has no formal government role, was also revealed to have called himself an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence in some of his dealings with Ukrainian officials.
New details about the Giuliani’s dealings in U.S. policy in the Ukraine were revealed in testimony in Thursday’s hearing.
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up,’ Fiona Hill testified
New details about Rudy Giuliani’s role in Ukraine policy were revealed in Thursday’s hearing
One of the most explosive charges against the former New York City mayor came from Hill.
‘Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that’s going to blow everyone up,’ she said Bolton told her during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
‘Did you understand what he meant by that?,’ the Democratic counsel asked her.
‘I did actually,’ she replied. ‘That obviously what Mr. Giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case, he was frequently on television, making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this and he was clearly pushing views that would probably come back to haunt us. And, in fact, I think that’s where we are today.’
Giuliani was advocating an unproven conspiracy theory that it was the Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server in the 2016 election and made it look like the Russians did it.
And EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland complained that Giuliani f***ed everything up when he got involved in Ukrainian policy, a State Department official testified on Thursday.
David Holmes, a career diplomat assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, described a pressure campaign on the Ukraine that went all the way up to President Donald Trump in his testimony.
And he joined Hill in offering new details on the role played by Giuliani.
Holmes relayed a comment made by Sondland, who Trump had put in charge of U.S. policy in the Ukraine despite the fact that country was not in the European Union, in regards to the former mayor.
Sondland, Holmes and other officials were taking part in a meeting to discuss the upcoming inauguration of newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenksy.
Holmes relayed the frustration Sondland expressed with Giuliani, who – both through his personal twitter account and in some media interviews – was taking part in a campaign to push the Ukraine to open an investigation into the role Joe Biden played as vice president in getting the Ukraine to dismiss a top prosecutor who was believed to not be doing enough about corruption in that country.
‘At one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, ‘Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f***s everything up,’ Holmes testified.
Giuliani, Trump and others have charged Biden interfered to help Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board until earlier this year.
Joe Biden has denied any wrongdoing and pointed out he was following U.S. policy in regards to the Ukraine. Neither Biden has faced any charges.
Holmes, in his testimony, outlined a series of tweets Giuliani was writing to push the conspiracy.
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up’
‘Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets, asking ‘why Biden shouldn’t be investigated,’ attacking the ‘New Pres of Ukraine’ (Zelensky) for being ‘silent’ on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about the New York Times attacking him for ‘exposing the Biden family history of making millions . . . from Ukraine criminals,’ Holmes testified.
Holmes said it was these actions that led him to realize the role that ‘Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.’
He also revealed Giuliani was telling some Ukrainians he was an adviser to Vice President Pence.
‘On April 25, Ivan Bakanov, who was Mr. Zelensky’s childhood friend and campaign chair, and was ultimately appointed head of the Security Services of Ukraine, indicated to me privately he had been contacted by ‘someone named Giuliani who said he was an advisor to the Vice President,’ Holmes testified, adding he reported the incident to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
State Department official David Holmes also revealed new details about Giuliani’s role in his testimony
David Holmes also said that Giuliani portrayed himself as an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence in his dealings with some Ukrainians
He described how Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker named themselves the ‘three amigos’ and ‘made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelensky Administration.’
And Giuliani was working with the amigos, he charged.
‘Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine,’ he said.
Trump, in his now infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky, told him to talk to Giuliani.
‘Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great,’ the president told Zelensky.
President Trump has argued he has done nothing wrong and his phone call was ‘perfect.’
Republican Congressman Mike Turner criticized Holmes for revealing details of Ambassador Sondland’s conversation with President Trump this summer, when Sondland told the president that Zelensky ‘loves your a**.’
‘You didn’t embarrass Ambassador Sondland, you embarrassed Zelensky,’ Turner said to Holmes.
Holmes, later in the hearing, expressed his administration for the Ukrainian president, particularly for with standing the pressure from the Trump administration to give into their demands.
‘Mr. Turner suggested earlier that I somehow embarrassed President Zelensky. I have the deepest respect for President Zelensky,’ Holmes said.
‘This is a guy, this is a guy of Jewish background from a pre-Soviet industrial suburb of southern Ukraine who made himself one of the most popular entertainers in the country and somehow got elected president, and he’s not going to miss that opportunity. This is a Ukrainian patriot. This is a tough guy. Frankly, he withstood a lot of pressure for a very long time. And he didn’t give that [CNN] interview. I have the deepest respect for him,’ Holmes added.