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tv   Impeachment Hearings  CNN  November 21, 2019 5:00am-8:00am PST

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good morning. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. chris cuomo is joining us from capitol hill. in one hour, another impeachment witness, another rejection of the white house's narrative on why ukraine was pressured. we are now learning how dr. fiona hill, president trump's former top russia adviser on the national security council will push back on the president. more potentially bad news for the president. >> because it's going to be more perspect biff what was true
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versus what was being offered up as motives for the president's actions. hill will dismiss the core of the gop impeachment defense that ukraine tried to influence the 2016 election so it was okay for the president to say it needed to be investigated. instead she'll make clear it was not ukraine meddling in 2016. it was russia. and it will be russia again in 2020 and we are not ready. joining hill this morning, david holmes. he's the ukraine embassy official who says he overheard ambassador gordon sondland in that july phone call with president trump at that restaurant in ukraine, wolf. >> it's interesting, the eu ambassador, he testified for hours and hours yesterday that not only was there a quid pro quo directed by the president, but both vice president mike pence and secretary of state mike pompeo knew all about it. it's a very, very serious development, chris, that
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unfolded. >> it's the closest thing we've seen to putting meat on the bones of the allegations this was a bribe. that's how it was intended and solicited. let's begin here on capitol hill with senior congressional correspondent manu raju. what more do we know about hill's testimony? >> she's going to make it very clear that the claim being pushed by not just president trump but some of his republican allies on the house intelligence committee that ukraine meddled or may have meddled in the 2016 elections to help hillary clinton. she's going to call that fiction. she's going to make it clear that this is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by russian security services themselves. she's going to make it clear this is distracting from what the u.s. should be focusing on, the kremlin's interference and effort to interfere in the 2020 elections. she also says this. she says she respects the work of congress, but if the
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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. this is a very serious concern being raised by an individual, former top russia adviser in the white house, fiona hill. someone who served in democratic and republican administrations. she'll make it very clear that what is being discussed and what the president raised in the phone call with president zelensky to investigate ukraine, potentially ukraine interference, that's harmful to the national interest. we have now learned through the various witnesses that the president himself and some of his allies made clear that was essentially a condition for moving forward some of these key efforts. so expect some very strong words from her in just under an hour, guys. >> the shorthand will be that she's going to make an argument that what the president was doing was a threat to national
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security because he was chasing down a rabbit hole of something that's just a conspiracy theory and constructively mitigating the blame on russia and thereby also distracting from the intensity of the need to protect against russia which is something this president has been charged with for a long time now. david holmes, what does he provide in the puzzle? >> well, he, of course, we learned overheard a phone call between president trump and ambassador sondland of the european union in a restaurant in kiev in which president trump and sondland were discussing in the testimony of david holmes an investigation into the bidens that should be launched by the ukrainian government. according to his testimony, sondland made clear to the president that the ukrainian president would move forward with that investigation and would do anything the president wanted. the president cared only about that according to what we'll hear from david holmes. and that's what he said in his closed door deposition last month -- last week. saying that's all the president cared about according to what gordon sondland told them.
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of course, sondland has a slightly different story yesterday but we'll see how it's much more contradiction he gives to what sondland testified to yesterday. >> appreciate it, manu. joining susdemocratic member of the house intel committee congressman eric swalwell. good to see you. >> good to see you, chris. >> you got to the president this morning. he's talking about you. >> news to me. >> you were on fox, and he tweeted about it. they're going to put up the tweet at some point. luckily i know what it said. he said why is fox wasting time with you? you recently left the primaries. you had a grand number of zero in the polls. he doesn't even know how that's possible and then he said to fox, stick with who got you where you are. now i don't care to talk about you and your politics and running for president. good for you for making a go at it. was does that tell you about how the president sees that outlet and sees the dialogue you're all
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engaged in. >> first off, i have to go on that other network. it's the only way my parents will see me on tv. but second, you know, he's clearly not working. you know, he should not just be focused on this impeachment inquiry. there's other work he can be doing on gun violence, health care, prescription drugs. but i want to actually -- you pointed out something that's really important about david holmes coming forward. and that is the power of people hearing what the facts are in this investigation and raising their hands and saying, i have information. you've covered a lot of investigations. you know most investigations these days are document driven. witnesses are shown, emails, text messages, documents to refresh the recollection. this investigation is entirely driven by firsthand accounts of people who had the courage to come forward. we have no documents and we are as far as we are. >> now there was a suggestion last night. sondland was making the
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suggestion. the secretary of state won't let me -- the department of state won't let me have my documents, and, obviously, i talked to the big shots but the big shots are being kept from testifying. then there was a counterargument. well, david hale got all his documents from the state department. why couldn't sondland? do you accept that premise? >> i don't. and if that's the case with mr. hale, it's selective releasing of documents. and there are questions now that are fair. why don't you bring in mulvaney, pompeo, perry, all of these others who have been invoked. and the answer, i believe, is we should actually look at why is the president blocking us from bringing them in? that goes to his consciousness of guilt if they can help him, he would send them to us and we actually have a solid case as it is and there's not a need to play this how many angels can dance on the head of a pin game when the evidence is already overwhelming. >> so the evidence is overwhelming depending on who is looking at it, right?
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i know you'll argue objectively it doesn't matter who you are. but you're in a political process. and i have never seen, now that we're all doing our homework on impeachments past all the time. i've got a professor of it sitting right next to me right now. we've never seen a president get the kind of backup from his party that this president is getting right now. you have to expect you'll get zero buy-in for any articles of impeachment. how do you handle that? >> i'm putting my faith in the eyes and ears of my republican colleagues meaning, do they read the emails and the mail that will be coming in from their constituents? do they listen to their constituents concerns at the town hall because i don't think the facts are in much dispute here, especially with the president releasing the call reco record. is this a country where we want the president to leverage his massive power over a foreign government to involve itself and our election for his benefit. i think my republican colleagues will be hearing from their
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constituents. >> fiona hill is going to say, listen, you guys are talking about, the president had a good-faith effort that ukraine was involved in 2016. so that makes all this okay. no. based on her opening, she's going to say there's no basis for that. it's a conspiracy speculation. and by engaging in it, no matter whether you thought it was good faith, it is bad practice because not only are you ignoring and, therefore, mitigating the wrongdoing of russia, but you are creating a national security threat by not focusing on the real entity and that leaves us unprepared and is a national security threat. do you accept that? >> i do, and president putin proves her right. yesterday he was talking about how ukraine is now at the center of election meddling. and, chris here to the -- there's a couple of defenses we've heard about the president. one if the ukrainians didn't know about it, how is it a, quote, bribery or extortion. we heard from ms. cooper as early as july 25th, they were
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asking about security assistance the same day the call with the ukrainian president took place. second, while this president cares a lot about corruption so he was going after the ukrainians, we heard from ms. cooper yesterday on may 23, she told the white house that all the corruption issues were cleaned up. the hold is later placed on them. and finally this voices in his head defense, even if the president was irrational, these concerns he had about ukraine justified doing what he did and again, that's not a defense in any criminal court and it's not going to be a defense for the american people. >> eric swalwell, thank you so much, congressman. good luck today. >> thank you. >> the country is watching. wolf, over to you. >> thanks very much. good interview. let's continue the discussion with my team of experts. our correspondents and our analysts. jim sciutto, we've been going through dr. fiona hill's prepared testimony. she's going to be testifying the former top russia adviser to the president, on the national security council. this line also jumped out at me near the end of her opening
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statement. 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, she tells these lawmakers. >> we always have to get back to what the core of this issue is. here's fiona hill. a respected russia expert. president trump's appointee to lead russia policy. and russia is america's -- one of america's top national security threats. she's articulating there and she's going to be uttering these words under oath, that the president subjugated u.s. national security interest for his own political interest. she's stating what the case is. and she was, by the way, involved in developing and carrying out the president's policy there. she goes on to call out members of the committee for propagating both myths but also things contrary to u.s. policy. she said this is also from her statement, based on questions and statements i heard, some of
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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. she goes on to say it also happens to be a russian narrative. that's remarkable for people inside this administration. appointed by this president to say definitively that he was subjugating u.s. national security interest to his own interest. >> she specifically, jamie, and i'll get everyone to weigh in on this. she specifically says this whole narrative that ukraine interfered in the 2016 u.s. presidential election, that was propagated by the russians and now you have people like rudy giuliani and maybe the president himself accepting what the russians originally came up with. >> and just to put this in some context, what have we been saying for three years. donald trump will not criticize vladimir putin. as nancy pelosi said in her
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finger pointing meeting, why do all roads keep going back to putin? this is another example of a difference between his top senior officials and what they see and what the intelligence committee sees. and then what donald trump wanted to do. i think it's also worth pointing out at the beginning of her statement, she makes a big point of saying, i'm here as a fact witness. i am nonpartisan. and i am here for the truth. she is also representing people who are not testifying today. namely, john bolton. she was his top aide, and i think people are going to be looking very closely to see what she can say about what bolton did. >> where the hell is john bolton? why is he not testifying? why doesn't he walk in there and testify. she has an interesting line in her testimony where she says, i believe that those who have information that congress deems
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relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it. john bolton apparently has a legal and moral obligation to give speeches for money, to give -- have a $2 million book contract to talk about all these issues, but when the congress of the united states is deciding impeachment, john bolton has to go to court and say no. i mean, what is that about? >> i agree with that. i think what fiona hill is very much coming from john bolton who is a trump appointee, who is a hard-liner. and thinks this was completely inappropriate but i agree. he ought to come forward and actually say it because that gives you some window into the fact that there was an official track of foreign policy and there was a road track but it wasn't one person. it was from the president to his lawyer, perhaps secretary of state and others who were involved. there's another piece. the humanity of these folks who are foreign policy experts who serve the government. fiona hill spending time on her biography. who she is. where she comes from. her dedication. we have a president who has
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dismissed these professionals and these foreign service officers and their commitment saying things that always have sexist overtones like, oh, the woman and i don't even know who she is. and he says it about men, too, just to dismiss them as faceless bureaucrats instead of seeing what america can see. people who are dedicated not only to their expertise, but to the united states. >> the president clearly is fixated on all of this right now getting ready to watch more of this dramatic testimony. just tweeted this. and i'll read it it you. i never in my wildest dreams thought my name would in any way be associated with the ugly word impeachment. the calls, transcripts, were perfect. there was nothing said that was wrong. no pressure on ukraine. great corruption and dishonesty by schiff on the other side. he's getting concerned by what's unfolding. >> he is, and he should. what he's hearing in these hearings are an existential threat to his presidency, and for good reason.
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it's really important the comments that you, jim and jamie, made about the russia implications here. it's not just that he subverted u.s. policy for this fictitious theory about ukrainian meddling in the election which, by the way, the absolutely unanimous conclusion it was russia, not ukraine is a conclusion placed on fact. the united states government has detailed hard forensic evidence of the russians' engagement in that meddling. so he adopted a conspiracy theory propagated by russia with the effect of withholding security assistance that would have been used to battle russia and ukraine. it's not just his adoption of the conspiracy theory is in line with russian goals but the effect of that adoption is to deny our ally, the aid they need to fight the russians on that. >> and she makes the point, carrie, this is dr. fiona hill, president putin and the russian security services operate like a superpac. they deploy millions of dollars
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to weaponize their own political opposition research and false narratives. >> you know, a lot of the story of the trump presidency has been about foreign influence. that was really the main part of volume one of the mueller report. it was about foreign influence and the 2016 campaign's openness to receiving that foreign influence. what we've seen be uncovered about the summer and the early fall of 2019 is that pattern continuing. the trump campaign, this time the trump 2020 campaign, willingly wanting foreign assistance and embracing and trafficking in conspiracy theories that are feeded by foreign influence and foreign governments hostile to the united states' interest. and dr. fiona hill is a subject matter expert on ukraine, on russia, on that region of the world. and i think her testimony is going to be incredibly
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compelling and a real warning about the current situation that the united states is in. and the president is using his very powerful use of social media over 60 million followers, i think, and that's something that we see that we worry about. those of us in the national security space that we worry about authoritarian governments using technology, using social media to influence how their citizens are thinking about things. and so it's very concerning. >> certainly is. >> just to put it another way. what did the president always say? no collusion and no obstruction. what we have seen with ukraine is collusion, again, between the united states and a foreign government to try to help him win the election. and obstruction. no witnesses produced voluntarily. no documents produced voluntarily. collusion and obstruction, it's what happened with mueller and it's what happened with ukraine. >> everybody stick around. there's a lot more we're following. the arrivals of dr. fiona hill
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and david holmes. they're set to testify moments from now. we're on top of all these fast-moving developments. chris, this is going to be powerful. >> it is. it's going to be the culmination of the first part of a very important process to our democracy. and not to be forgotten, ten democratic candidates squared off as the impeachment hearings were consuming washington. how did it fit in to the debate last night? what did they have to say about this? and who made some points for themselves last night? we have much more coming up. ♪ ♪ ♪ experience the power of sanctuary at the lincoln wish list sales event. sign and drive off in a new lincoln with zero down,
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all right. we have the arrival of dr. fiona hill. there he is going through the magnetometer. of course, the threat she carries with her is in her head. the words and ideas that she's going to explain today in the impeachment inquiry about how wrong it is to suspect that
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ukraine had something to do with election interference in 2016 and how it literally creates a national security threat to ignore russia's role and to engage in that kind of conspiracy theory. so we get her arrival here. we're waiting on david holmes. going to be on today together this morning. let's get up to the white house. cnn white house correspondent kaitlan collins. the president is also up and exercised this morning. the president who in his initial address to the country said that american carnage would end seems to be continuing as much bloodsport as possible referring to the democrats in the impeachment inquiry as human scum this morning. >> yeah, and repeating that same argument that we've seen from the president saying essentially that he's frustrated because they do not have white house attorneys present in the room as these witnesses are coming forward to testify about what was happening inside the white house to talk about this pressure campaign happening with this military aid in ukraine. and the president is very clearly frustrated with the coverage. he says essentially that he feels like what happened
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yesterday is very different than what he's seeing reported. and a lot has to do with gordon sondland himself. what the president has been pointing to as his defenses for gordon sondland and what's being said about sondland is exposing testimony that we saw yesterday as the republicans tried to push back on that. and, chris, this comes as sources are telling us that the president is trying this interesting tactic over the last 24 hours of trying to convince people that he didn't really know his hand-picked european union ambassador all that well. now that's confusing aides and allies who the president is speaking with because they think the best line of attack is pointing to where gordon sondland couldn't say the president had explicitly or personally told him he was withholding that military aid or white house meeting in exchange for the investigations that he wanted. but that is the attack and that is the tactic that the president is trying this morning. this comes as people inside the white house are looking forward to fiona hill's testimony because essentially they view her about as close to john bolton as house democrats are getting right now. they're curious what she'll say
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not only about what happened with ukraine but give insight into the president's mind-set on russia because you saw what manu said about her opening statement where she said she wasn't going to be a party to this conspiracy theory that it was ukraine that interfered in the election and not russia. the main person pushing that is the president himself who says he believes ukraine tried to take him down in the election. >> it is an interesting set of defenses that the president doesn't know better than to think ukraine was involved with the 2016 election. he doesn't know better than to discuss foreign policy with someone that he barely knows. it's interesting. kaitlan, thanks very much. back with me, cnn global affairs analyst susan glasser and cnn legal analyst ross garber. he teaches impeachment law at tulane law school. i mean, ross, that's essentially how they are trying to get him out of the necessary mind-set here for being party to a bribe
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which is, yeah, he's not smart enough to get that this is a conspiracy theory about ukraine. and, yeah, he'll talk to a guy who doesn't even know gordon sondland asking him for directive. so ignorance is bliss. >> i think it's one of the reasons today is going to be interesting. fiona hill is going to sort of lay out why ukraine did not meddle in the 2016 election, but it's not -- it's not going to go. i think the republicans are going to say to the ultimate issue which is the president's mind-set and why he thought, because of press articles, honestly because of rudy giuliani, why he actually thought that ukraine did actually meddle in 2016. >> how does litigating a conspiracy help the cause here? if you are the democrats and you get into a back and forth litigating nonsense, aren't you empowering the nonsense? >> i think that's going to be one of the issues. in a way, it doesn't really matter. >> as we talk, just so you know, there's david holmes. he's coming in this morning to
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join fiona hill. how does he fit into the picture? he is one of the staffers who heard gordon sondland, the guy the president doesn't really know, although he gifted him with an ambassadorship, on the phone with the president. so i guess he knew him that day. and they were having a very loud discussion about how the president wanted the investigations before anything else would flow ukraine's way. sondland then got off that phone call, according to mr. holmes, and explained to him that the president doesn't care about ukraine. just about the parts that matter to him, like investigating the bidens. okay? so we'll see how they can take him down today. continue, ross. >> yeah, so, you know, ultimately it will be interesting to see how the republicans handle hill today. will they push back on the notion of ukraine actually interfering in 2016? >> we know the answer. but we know this answer. they are going to say to him, to her, the black book. we don't really know it was
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authentic. they say it was authentic. they do. but aren't they corrupt? and manafort. and these people named chalupa, not the taco bell, but the other one. she went in and tried to get help for clinton. how do you deal with that when these are things you've dismissed. >> fiona is a key fact witness in addition to making the point the entire u.s. government has already made over and over again that it was russia responsible for the intervention. in the deposition, the republicans went down the road of arguing about conspiracy theories with her and that was a very sharp moment. you can read that transcript and she challenged them. i'm not sure they will pursue an extended debate about the facts of the matter because i think, frankly, she'd annihilate them on the facts. she is a key witness because john bolton, her former boss, the former national security adviser, because he has refused to testify so far, she's the one who produced, i think, the
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really eye-popping disclosure in her early deposition that he was -- that national security adviser was so alarmed about what the president and his advisers were doing. he told her to go to the lawyers. he said i don't want to be a part of any drug deal that they're cooking up. he called rudy giuliani a hand grenade. so fiona is a very important witness when it comes to the alarm inside the white house with the president's own advisers as far as what was going on here. and so i wouldn't discount that. you know, if you're going to have a philosophical argument -- >> you're counting on it. it's still an abuse of power, even if you believe something like this because it was so ignorant to believe it that it actually makes you a national security threat. i'm out of time, though, unless what you're going to say is going to change the whole disposition. >> i think the republicans are going to point out that it's unclear if these concerns of bolton made their way to the president. >> okay. thank you very much. susan glasser, ross garber.
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always a plus. let's tell you this. still to come -- impeachment is going to make its way on to the democratic presidential debate stage. and we're going to bring you the highlights of how it played out. what points were made? how did they land? plus, we'll be set to hear in just minutes from two key witnesses. we've been showing you them arrive. it's always good to see. what is that disposition? you can tell in sondland yesterday, he was ready to get after it. he had a smile on his face and a pep in his step. the president is up this morning and attacking it every way he can so stay with cnn. you wouldn't do only half of your daily routine so why treat your mouth any differently? listerine® completes the job by preventing plaque, early gum disease, and killing up to 99.9% of germs. try listerine®. need stocking stuffers? try listerine® ready! tabs™.
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right now, all eyes are on washington as we gear up for yet another day of powerful testimony in the impeachment inquiry into president trump. you are looking at live pictures from the hearing room. we're about to hear from two more witnesses who have offered very compelling details behind closed doors. but today it will all be televised. while the focus, of course, remains on washington, the 2020 democratic presidential candidates, they are making their case why voters should choose them to replace president trump. the candidates now hoping to build momentum after their fifth presidential debate this election cycle. correspondent jessica dean is joining us from atlanta where the debate took place last night. so what's the latest, jessica? what are you seeing? what are you hearing? >> wolf, this is such a unique situation, of course, because she's candidates are in the middle of this primary with this impeachment inquiry playing out.
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a bombshell and so pivotal. so then to come to this debate, it's just a very, very interesting situation. remember, a handful of these candidates would be part of a senate trial. but they're all in agreement this is impeachable conduct. take a listen. >> i learned something about these impeachment trials. i learned, number one, that donald trump doesn't want me to be the nominee. >> just to be clear, the president's already confessed to it on television. >> we have a criminal living in the white house. what this impeachment proceeding about is really our democracy at stake. >> how did ambassador sondland get there? this is not a man who had any qualifications exception. he wrote a check for a million dollars. >> we cannot simply be consumed by donald trump. because if we are, you know what? we're going to lose the election. >> and bernie sanders there with an interesting point because all of these candidates trying to walk that fine line between engaging in this impeachment conversation, making the case they are the best person to
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defeat donald trump but also engaging with voters on issues like health care, climate change, things they are asking about out here on the campaign trail. >> it was interesting, mayor pete buttigieg has seen a recent boost in iowa polling but spent part of the week apologizing after his campaign used a stock image of a kenyan woman to represent black america. so what did we hear from him? >> well, a lot of people expected pete buttigieg to take on a lot of incoming last night for that very reason that we've seen him rising in the polls, especially in iowa, where he's had some very strong poll numbers there. but he has really struggled to gain traction with african-american voters who make up a huge portion of democratic primary voters. here's what he had to say about that. take a listen. >> i welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in america who don't yet know me. while i do not have the experience of ever having been
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discriminated against because of the color of my skin, i do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country. turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate. >> so that's really going to be the challenge for buttigieg moving forward is being able to make some inroads with the african-american primary voter. wolf? >> jessica dean reporting from atlanta for us. thank you very much. we're only moments away from the start of this hearing. this is going to be potentially very, very explosive. david hale, a u.s. embassy official who overheard the conversation between the president of the united states and the president -- and the u.s. ambassador to the eu. he will be testifying as will dr. fiona hill, president trump's former top russia adviser on the national security council. we're standing by for their arrivals in the hearing room. much more of our special coverage right after this.
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moments from now, david holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the u.s. embassy in ukraine, fiona hill,
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the former top russia expert at the national security council under president trump will be walking into the senate intelligence committee hearing room. they'll be answering a lot of questions, making opening statements. we'll stand by for live coverage. at the same tirges it's very interesting. we just got word the president is inviting republican senators over to the white house. he's lobbying them to make sure they'll be on board if he's impeached in the house it goes to a trial in the senate. he's going to want their support. including mitt romney is coming over. susan collins. he's got some work to do. >> particularly the ones he's worried about. i think some of this lobbying has been going on for weeks. but what we've been seeing from a lot of these senators is they say i'm not going to comment because i'm going to be a juror. he's making sure his jurors are feel i feeling some love from the white house. i was just texting with a former
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senior administration official who worked very closely with fiona hill. and the official said many thought sondland would be the bombshell, and in some ways he was, but it is fiona hill who is the bomb. unlike all the rest of the witnesses, she's actually a senior policymaker. she has had many interactions with the president. she saw firsthand the contravention of normal channels. she heard the president clinging to conspiracy theories and pushing personal political agendas, and the source ends, she's incredibly smart and has no fear. >> that could be explosive. >> does she provide that link directly to the president? was she in the room when he said pursue these investigations and perhaps made a connection to the aid or short of that, just saying, i was in the room when
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repeatedly he prioritized this stuff, conspiracy theory, biden, over what should have been the focus of the policy. maybe fiona hill is what some expected sondland to be today. short of that, as well, you'll have her statement, the bigger picture issue here which is what happened to u.s. policy priorities there? and it's interesting. we know that u.s. national security was subjugated to the president's personal interests which, at the same time, helped russia's interest. how do we know that? because yesterday vladimir putin was celebrating what he heard in the impeachment hearings. he was speaking to people in moscow. thank god, in his words, people are now pointing the finger at ukraine and not russia for interfering in the election. it's remarkable how many times trump talking points and arguments mimic russia's. whether it's intentional, we don't know. but what is a fact is that they are often in line. >> and the totality of this evidence from people at different levels who took notes,
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who noticed what was happening, who had key conversations that could be validated by others. and now you have people in a position who dealt directly with the president who knew exactly where his mind was, what his priorities were. and i think the larger point talking about republican senators who will be jurors. the fact that the president pursued a conspiracy theory tht directly helped russia. so if they believe that there was an abuse of power, who benefited because a really damning part of that. >> the president's allies keep saying there couldn't be any quid pro quo because the ukrainians didn't even know there was a suspension, a withholding of the u.s. military assistance until much, much later. yesterday we heard laura cooper, deputy secretary of defense say on july 25th, shortly after the president's phone conversation with president zelensky, they got a call from the ukrainian
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embassy in washington saying, what's up with the aid? >> one of the lessons, one of the things we've learned from these two weeks of hearings is we've seen the republican talking points disintegreat one by one. laur cooper, one of the talking points was the ukrainians department even know the aid was being withheld so it couldn't be an exchange. here on the very same day as the notorious phone call between the two presidents we know the ukrainians were saying, where is the money that congress appropriated? where is the money that is going to save the lives of ukrainian soldiers on the front line against the russian separatists? so that talking point falls apart, just like the no firsthand testimony talking point falls apart. just like the talking point that, well, the ukrainians got the money anyway so what's the
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big deal talking point fell apart because the only reason the ukrainians wound up getting the money is because the president got caught in this process and the whistle-blower came forward and they released the money at that point. >> everybody hold on for a moment. i want to go back to chris. you're watching this from capitol hill. the members are beginning to arrive in that hearing room. this is about to begin. >> yep, we're just moments away. we'll be waiting for them to get situated so we can bring everybody the testimony here. let's get a quick take of what we'll expect right out of the box. cnn global affairs analyst susan glasser and ross garber. you know dr. hill. what should we anticipate in terms of how she'll handle the questioning to upset her premise in her opening. >> look, fiona hill isn't going to take any guff from any member of congress. she knows her material. she's going to think -- i think frame this in an important way
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as about the geopolitical consequences of this. this is not just something that doesn't matter. an inconsequential political debate in the united states. >> a never trumper. >> that's an interesting argument. she was advised by everyone, literally everyone who knew her more or less not to take this job. she did it because she felt it was important for the united states to maintain a consistent, and by the way, bipartisan policy toward russia. this has underscored the extent to which everyone in washington agreed with this support of supporting ukraine except for the president himself. >> here's the box that she can put the president in today. and i want your take on how they get them out of that. if you didn't really believe this and were just trying to spread stink on clinton and the bidens. if you did believe it, then you're ignorant beyond belief to the point of incompetence and where it is impeachable because of the abuse of power that goes
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into believing this nonsense. how do they get out of the box? >> fiona hill may be able to stand up to that sort of questioning. but she may not. i would expect republicans, including jim jordan to lay out the reasons why it was legitimate for the president to believe -- >> but her argument is, if it was legitimate for him to believe it, in your mind, then you're as dumb as he is and you're a threat to national security. >> she may be able to pull that off, but i wouldn't be too sure that she is. i think jim jordan and others are going to be able to point out the press articles, the evidence that suggested even if it's -- even if it's been debunked by this point, the reasons why, at that point, it was legitimate for president trump to -- >> ross garber it's -- although i think tulane would have a problem with you. the president of the united states under counsel from your intelligence community, it's not okay there's some alex jones articles about him. >> well, by the way, it wasn't just alex jones articles.
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we're talking about legitimate publications, including politico. i think let's see how it plays out. this started off as the most sort of partisan impeachment process in history. i'm going to be looking to see if any republicans get moved by any of the testimony, including today's. >> that's going to be an interesting measure. ross, susan, thank you so much. let's take a quick break. we're right there. they are getting situated. they're going to sit down. we know how the process works by now. but today is going to have consequences so stay with cnn.
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be brilliant. be powerful. be the diamond you are. find dazzling deals on diamonds and more. the zales black friday sale. get 30-50% off everything, including this stunning 7-carat diamond bracelet. exclusively at zales, the diamond store. good morning. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world.
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in minutes, a warning to the gop from the president's former top russia adviser. you are buying the fiction that russia is selling. in her impeachment testimony, dr. fiona hill will reject the white house narrative that ukraine tried to influence the 2016 presidential election here in the united states pointing out that it's exactly what the russians want to hear ahead of 2020. david holmes is also testifying today. he said he overheard that july phone call between ambassador gordon sondland and president trump from a restaurant where they were having lunch in ukraine. let's begin our special coverage right now as we await the start of this important hearing. our senior congression aal correspondent manu raju is joining us. what do we know about dr. hill's testimony? >> some explosive words from her right from the top pushing back on the notion that ukraine may have interfered in the 2016
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elections to help hillary clinton. this is something pushed by the republicans on the committee as well as the president himself and rudy giuliani. the president, of course,eration the notion that ukraine may have interfered and that also being placed as a condition for roughly $400 million in military aid and a key meeting with -- between president trump and president zelensky in ukraine. asked for those investigations. several witnesses have testified it's all been part of this discussion about moving forward. but fiona hill is going to make some very serious concerns raised about the -- any suggestion that ukraine interfered and saying you can take the eye off the ball of russia. she's going to say this 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, you crane did. this is a fictional narrative that's been perpetrated and propagated by the russian
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security services themselves and expect them to raise serious concerns about rudy giuliani, the role he played, even about whether or not he was legal, his push to get ukraine to announce those investigations that could help the president politically. >> and when do we expect to hear from david holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the u.s. embassy in ukraine? >> we expect him to recount a conversation on july 26th at a restaurant in kiev in which gordon sondland, the ambassador to the european union, discussed with president trump investigations into the bidens that could, of course, help the president politically. something he asked the ukrainians to launch that could ultimately impact his re-election campaign. according to holmes' account he heard this conversation and sondland later said that the president only cared about the investigation into the bidens. nothing else. not the war ukraine was mounting with russia. sondland had disputed part of that testimony but we'll hear holmes' account of what he heard the president say and how
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fixated the president was on investigating his political rivals. >> you see several members already there. adam schiff the chairman of the committee is in his seat. he's getting ready. we'll expect the witnesses to show up momentarily as well. carrie, what, specifically, are you looking for in the first minutes of this hearing? because once they start presenting their testimony. >> well, we're going to hear from phiona hill who, again, is an expert in this area. she is someone who reluctantly went into this administration but did so out of duty. and i think we're going to see that sense of duty. she is going to be completely open. she had wide access and so i'm looking for an incredibly -- a very credible voice, both from a national security perspective to be able to provide insights into why thee corruption that was going on with respect to those
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around the president and how she saw that as a threat to u.s. national security interests and how she is concerned between now and the 2020 election and the fact that our country seems to be, and our politicians seem to be consumed by conspiracy theories and how she views that as such a threat to our national security interest. >> there you see some of the members, the lawyers for the republicans and the democrats. they're there as well. andrew mccabe, i am specifically interested in david holmes, the counselor for political affairs who overheard that phone conversation between the president and the u.s. ambassador to the eu. very sensitive. it was a cell phone basically, and i'm sure he's going to be asked a lot of questions about security, whether that was violated. >> i'm sure with each of these witnesses you want to think about, what is the direct evidence they can contribute to this story. they all have incredible experience and access in their
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impressions of the bigger picture are interesting as well. but the direct evidence is where the rubber meets the road. for holmes, it's going to be his interaction with sondland in that restaurant in kiev, how the call took place. how mr. sondland was reacting to the statements that holmes could actually hear the president making during the call. the other corroborative details around the call as well. for dr. hill, if you recall, dr. hill was involved in both of the pivotal meetings on june 10th, first with ambassador bolton and the delegation from ukraine and then the kind of after meeting in the ward room at the white house with just mr. sondland. that is the meeting where we know sondland explicitly laid out for the ukrainians that there would be no white house meeting with zelensky unless they delivered on the investigations of ---y in announcement of the investigations. so i'm really interested to hear what she has to say, the details she can give us.
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>> in one of the lines in her opening statement, she writes -- she says this. i believe that those who have information that the congress deems relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it. that seems like a slight against john bolton, her former boss, the national security adviser who they want to come and testify. so far he has not done so. >> what we know of john bolton's position -- >> by the way, they're arriving. there you see david holmes. he's getting ready to walk into the hearing room. dr. fiona hill will follow. the photographers will take a lot of pictures. and there she is. and then this hearing will start. but go ahead. >> we know that bolton shared the concern about this shadow foreign policy. and it was bolton's description of a drug deal here. kind of encapsulating this idea that this was extorts iion, thi was not proper u.s. policy. it was dirty and he didn't want
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to be involved. she's taking a shot saying, i'm here. i'm taking a risk. why aren't you and others? >> he's not a political appointee like gordon sondland. gave a million dollars to the inaugural committee and became ambassador to the eu. these are career officials who i don't think you can simply say they're never trumpers or anything along those lines. >> no, and to jeffrey's point before about where is john bolton? fiona hill is no longer in the administration. john bolton is no longer in the administration. and we have seen career official after career official come, despite the fact that they were directed not to by the white house, by the state department, and then go back to work. lieutenant colonel vindman goes back to the white house every day to work. >> awkward. >> is there a reason why -- do you have a good reason, jeff,
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why john bolton, the former national security adviser has rejected these subpoenas? >> because he's rather make money than do his civic duty. i don't know. maybe someone else has a better explanation. that's all it seems to me. >> i think we may see him at some point. he is certainly hovering over these hearings and will again today. fiona hill, too, is going to do something that is going to be really damaging for the white house. to puncture this idea that ukraine meddled in 2016. that motivated the president to such a degree and really set in motion this policy. >> adam schiff will open with a statement. devin nunes, the ranking member will then follow. the two witnesses will be sworn in. they will have opening statements, and then the question and answer session will begin. >> good morning, everyone. this is the seventh in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as part of the house of representatives' impeachment inquiry. without objection, the schair authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time.
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there is a quorum present. we will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. i'll make an opening statement, then ranking member nunes will have an opportunity to make a statement and we will turn to our witnesses for their opening statements and then to questions. for audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. in turn we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. i'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 660. with that, i now recognize myself to give an opening statement on the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump, the 45th president of the united states. yesterday morning, the committee heard from ambassador gordon sondland. the american ambassador to the european union, the de facto leader of the three amigos who had regular access to president donald trump and pressed the new ukrainian president zelensky for two investigations trump
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believed would help his re-election campaign. the first investigation was of a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine and not russia was responsible for interfering in our 2016 election. the second investigation was into the political rival trump apparently feared most, joe biden. trump sought to weaken biden and to refute the fact that his own election had been helped by a russian hacking and dumping operation and russian social media campaign directed by vladimir putin. trump's scheme stood in contrast to the longstanding bipartisan foreign policy of the united states, by undermining military and diplomatic support for a key ally and set back u.s. anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. in conditioning a meeting with zelensky and then military aid on securing an investigation of his rival, trump put his personal and political interests above the united states. as ambassador sondland would later tell career foreign service officer david holmes
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immediately after speaking to the president, trump did not give an expletive about ukraine. he cares about big stuff that benefits him like the biden investigation that giuliani was pushing. david holmes is here with us today. he is a foreign service officer currently serving as the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. also with us is dr. fiona hill whose job as the national security counsel senior director for european and russian affairs encompassed the coordination of u.s. policy toward ukraine. dr. hill left the nsc in july after more than two years in that position. dr. hill and mr. holmes each provide unique perspective on issues relating to ukraine. dr. hill from washington, d.c., and mr. holmes from on the ground in kyiv. in early 2019, dr. hill became concerned by an increasing prominence of rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, who was, as she has testified, asserting quite frequently on
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television in public appearances that he had been given some authority over matters related to ukraine. hill was not alone in her concerns. her boss, national security adviser john bolton, was also paying attention as were other nsc and state department officials, including holmes at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. bolton viewed giuliani as a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. and was powerless to prevent the former mayor from engineering former u.s. ambassador to ukraine marie yovanovitch's firing in late april or her recall. holmes was stunned by the intensity and consistency of media attacks on yovanovitch by name as a u.s. ambassador and the scope of the allegations that were leveled against her. yovanovitch's dismissal as a result of giuliani's smear campaign was one of several things that unsettled dr. hill. another was the role of gordon sondland, who emerged as a key player in ukraine policy in may
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when he was named as part of the u.s. delegation led by secretary rick perry to president zelensky's inauguration. lieutenant colonel alexander vindman also attended the inauguration and as holmes recalls, during a meeting with president zelensky, took the opportunity to advise the new ukrainian leader to stay out of u.s. domestic politics. another concern that arose for dr. hill around this time was her discovery of a potential nsc back channel on ukraine. hill learned an nsc staff member who did not work on ukraine and for her may have been providing ukraine-related information to president trump that dr. hill was not made aware of. according to holmes, following this zelensky inauguration, sondland and perry took a very active and unconventional role in formulating our priorities for the new zelensky administration and personally reaching out to president zelensky and his senior team.
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sondland's newfound assertiveness concerned dr. hill who previously enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the ambassador. on june 18, 2019, hill had a blow-up with sondland when he told her that he was in charge of ukraine policy. dr. hill testified that sondland got testy with me and i said who has put you in charge of it? he said, the president. on july 10th, dr. hill was part of a meeting at the white house with a group of u.s. and ukrainian officials, includng bolton, sondland and energy secretary perry, another of the three amigos. the meeting was intended among other things to give the ukrainians an opportunity to convey that the were anxious to set up a first meeting between their new president and president trump. sondland interjected to inform the group that, according to white house chief of staff mick mulvaney, white house meeting sought by the, kore ukrainian president would happen if ukraine undertook certain investigations.
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hearing this, bolton abruptly ended the meeting. undeterred, sondland brought the ukrainian delegation and alexander vindman downstairs to another part of the white house where they were joined by dr. hill. in this second meeting, sondland was more explicit. ukraine needed to conduct investigations if they were to get a meeting at all. bolton directed dr. hill to report this to nsc legal adviser john eisenberg telling her, you go and tell eisenberg that i am not part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up on this. and you go ahead and tell him what you heard and what i've said. dr. hill did so, as did lieutenant colonel vindman, who separately approached the same lawyers with his concerns. on july 18, the day before dr. hill left her post at the nsc, holmes participated in a secure interagency video conference on ukraine. towards the end of the meeting, a representative from the office
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of management and budget announced the flow of nearly $400 million in security assistance for ukraine was being held up. the order had come from the president and had been conveyed to omb by acting white house chief of staff mick mulvaney without further explanation. holmes, unaware of the hold prior to the call, was shocked. he thought the suspension of aid was extremely significant, undermining what he had understood to be longstanding u.s. national security goals in ukraine. one week later, on july 25th, president trump spoke with president zelensky by phone. when president zelensky brought up u.s. military support and noted ukraine would like to buy more javelin anti-tank missiles from the united states, trump responded by saying, i would like you to do us a favor, though. trump then requested that zelensky investigate the discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. even more ominously, trump asked
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zelensky to look into the bidens. neither request had been included in the official talking points for the call prepared by the nsc staff. but both were in donald trump's personal interest and the interest of his 2020 re-election campaign. and the ukrainian president knew about both in advance, in part because of efforts by ambassadors sondland and volker to make him aware of president trump's demands. the next day, july 26th, in kyiv, holmes served as a note-taker during a meeting between acting ambassador bill taylor, volker and sondland with president zelensky and other senior ukrainian officials. zelensky said on the previous day's call, said that on the previous day's call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues that he would have to follow up on those issues when they met in person. although he did not realize it
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at the time, holmes came to understand that the sensitive issues were the investigations that president trump demanded on the july 25th call. following the meeting with zelensky, holmes accompanied sondland to a separate meeting with one of the ukrainian president's top advisers, andriy yermak. was holmes was not allowed in the meeting and waited 30 minutes while sondland and the ukrainian met alone without any note-takers to record what they said. after the meeting, sondland, holmes and two other state department staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. at some point during the meal, sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the white house and asked to be connected to the president. when trump came on the line, holmes could hear the president's voice clearly. holmes recalled that, quote, the president's voice was very loud and recognizable and ambassador sondland held the phone away
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from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. sondland said he was calling from kyiv. he told the president that president zelensky loves your ass. holmes then heard president trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied, he's going to do it. adding that president zelensky will do anything you ask him. after the call ended, holmes took the opportunity to ask sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on ukraine. it was at this point that sondland revealed that president trump doesn't give a expletive about ukraine. the president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president, like the biden investigation and mr. giuliani was pushing. a month later, national security adviser bolton travelled to kyiv. between meetings with ukrainian government officials, holmes
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heard bolton express to ambassador bill taylor his frustration about mr. giuliani's influence with the president. bolton made clear, however, there was nothing he could do about it. bolton further stated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the upcoming meeting between president trump and zelensky in warsaw. it would hang on whether zelensky was able to favorably impress president trump. trump canceled his trip to warsaw that sondland, volker and others continued to press for a public announcement of the opening of investigations by zelensky. on september 8th, taylor told holmes that, quote, now they are insisting zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with cnn. holmes was surprised the requirement was so specific and concrete since it amounted to nothing less than a, quote, demand that president zelensky personally commit to a specific investigation of president trump's political rival on a cable news channel, unquote.
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on september 9, this committee, along with the foreign affairs and oversight committees launched our investigation of this corrupt scheme. president trump released the hold on aid two days later. as cnn's fareed zakaria has revealed, the ukrainians canceled the cnn interview shortly thereafter. two weeks later, on september 25th, the transcript of the jul white house and the details of the president's scheme started coming into view. in the coming days, congress will determine what response is appropriate. if the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, a white house meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, he will be -- it will be for us to decide whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.
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i now recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks he'd like to make. >> thank you. throughout these bizarre hearings, the democrats have struggled to make the case that president trump committed some impeachable offense on his phone call with ukrainian president zelensky. the offense itself changes depending on the day ranging from quid pro quo to extortion to bribery, to obstruction of justice, then back to quid pro q quo. it's clear why the democrats have been forced onto this carousel of accusations. president trump had good reason to be worried of ukrainian election meddling against his campaign and of widespread corruption in that country. president zelensky, who didn't even know aid to ukraine had been paused at the time of the call, has repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with the conversation. the aid was resumed without the
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ukrainians taking the actions they were supposedly being coerced into doing. aid to ukraine under president trump has been much more robust than it was under president obama. thanks to the provision of javelin anti-tank weapons. as numerous witnesses have testified, temporary holds on foreign aid occur fairly frequently for many different reasons, so how do we have an impeachable offense here when there's no actual misdeed and no one even claiming to be a victim. the democrats have tried to solve this dilemma with a simple slogan. he got caught. president trump, we are to believe, was just about to do something wrong and getting caught was the only reason he backed down from whatever nefarious thought crime the democrats are accusing him of
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almost committing. i once again urge americans to continue to consider the credibility of the democrats on this committee who are now hurling these charges. for the last three years, it's not president trump who got caught, it's the democrats who got caught. they got caught falsely claiming they had more than circumstantial evidence that trump colluded with russians to hack the 2016 election. they got caught orchestrating this entire farce with the whistle-blower and lying about their secret meetings with him. they got caught defending the false allegations of the steele dossier which was paid for by them.
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they got caught breaking their promise that impeachment would only go forward with bipartisan support because of how damaging it is to the american people. they got caught running a sham impeachment process featuring secret depositions, hidden transcripts and an unending flood of democrat leaks to the media. they got caught trying to obtain nude photos of president trump from russian pranksters pretending to be ukrainians. and they got caught covering up for alexandra chalupa, a democratic national committee operative who colluded with russians to try to smear the campaign by redacting her name from deposition transcripts and refusing to let americans hear her testimony as a witness in
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these proceedings. that is the democrats' pitiful legacy in recent years. they got caught. meanwhile, their supposed star witness testified that he was guessing that president trump was trying -- tying ukrainian aid to investigations despite no one telling him that was true. and the president himself explicutly telling him the opposite that he wanted nothing from ukraine. ladies and gentlemen, unless the democrats once again scramble their kangaroo court rules, today's hearing marks the merciful end of this spectacle in the impeachment committee. formally known as the intelligence committee. whether the democrats reap the political benefit they want from this impeachment remains to be seen, but the damage they have done to this country will be long lasting.
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with this wrenching attempt to overthrow the president, they have pitted americans against one another and poisoned the mind of fanatics who actually believe the entire galaxy of bizarre accusations they have leveled against the president since the day the american people elected him. i sincerely hope the democrats end this affair as quickly as possible so our nation can begin to heal the many wounds it has inflicted on us. the people's faith in government and their belief that their vote counts for something has been shaken. from the russia hoax to the shoddy ukrainian sequel, the democrats got caught. let's hope they finally learn a lesson, give their conspiracy theories a rest and focus on governing for a change.
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in addition, mr. chairman, pursuant to house rule 11, clause 2-j1, the republican members transmit our request to convene a minority day of hearings. to date you have blocked key witnesses that we have requested from testifying in this partisan impeachment inquiry. this rule was not displaced by hres 660 and, therefore, under house rule 11, clause 1a, it applies to the democrats' impeachment inquiry. we look forward to the chair promptly scheduling an agreed upon time for the minority day of hearings so that we can hear from key witnesses that you have continually blocked from testifying. i'd also like to take a quick moment on an assertion ms. hill made in the statement that she submitted to this committee. in which she claimed that some committee members deny that russia meddled in the 2016
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election. as i noted in my opening statement, on wednesday, in march 2018, intelligence committee republicans published the results of a year-long investigation into russian meddling. the 240-page report analyzed 2016 russian meddling campaign, the u.s. reaction to it, russian campaigns and other countries and provided specific recommendations to improve american election security. i would ask my staff to hand these reports to our two witnesses today just so they can have a recollection of their memory. as america may or may not know, democrats refuse to sign on to
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the republican report. instead, they decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. needless to say, it's entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries. regardless of which campaign is the target. i'd like to submit for the record a copy of our report titled "report on russian active measures." i yield back. >> today we are joined by dr. fiona hill and david holmes. dr. fiona hill is a former deputy assistant to the president and senior director for europe and russia on the national security council. before returning to government, she was a senior fellow at the brookings institution where she directed the center on the
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united states and europe. she previously worked at the national intelligence council, the eurasia foundation and john f. kennedy school of government. david holmes is the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv where he's the senior policy and political adviser to ambassador taylor who testified earlier in these hearings. he is a career foreign service officer. he has previously served in moscow, new delhi, kabul, bogota and pristina. he's also served on the staff of the national security council as his special assistant -- as special assistant to the united states secretary of state. two final points before our witnesses are sworn. first, witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature. and all open hearings will also be held at the unclassified level. any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat rev prizal or attempt to
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retaliate against any u.s. government official who are testifying before congress, including you or any of your colleagues. if you would please rise, raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? let the record show that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. thank you, and you may be seated. the microphones are sensitive. so you'll need to speak directly into them. without objection, your written statements will be made part of the record. with that, mr. holmes, you are now recognized for your opening statement. and when you conclude, dr. hill, you'll be immediately recognized thereafter for your opening statement. >> thank you. good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member nunes and members of the committee. my name is david holmes and i'm
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a career foreign service officer with the department of state. since august 2017, i have been the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv, ukraine. while it is an honor to appear before you today, i want to make clear that i did not seek this opportunity to testify today. since you determined that i may have something of value to these proceedings and issued a subpoena, it is my obligation to appear and to tell you what i know. indeed, as secretary pompeo has stated, i hope everyone who testifies will do so truthfully and accurately. when they do, the oversight role will have been performed, and i think america will come to see what took place here. that is my only goal, to testify truthfully and accurately to enable you to perform that role. and to that end, i put together this statement to lay out as best i can my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter. by way of background, i've spent my entire professional career as a foreign service officer.
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like many of the dedicated public servants who have testified in these providinge g proceedings my entire career has been for this country. i received degrees in international affairs from the university of st. andrews in scotland and princeton universities woodrow wilson school of public and international affairs. i joined the foreign service in 2002 through an apolitical mo merit-based process and i proudly served administrations of both parties and worked for their appointees both political and career. prior to my current post in kyiv, ukraine, i served in the political and economic sections at the u.s. embassy in moscow, russia. in washington, i served on the national security council staff as director for afghanistan and special assistant to the under secretary of state. my prior overseas assignments include new delhi, kabul, afghanistan, bogota, colombia
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and kosovo. as the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv, i lead the political section covering ukraine's internal politics, foreign relations and security policies. and i serve as the senior policy and political ambassador to the -- adviser to the ambassador. the job of an embassy political counselor is to gather information about the host country's political landscape, to report back to washington, to represent u.s. policies to foreign contacts and to advise the ambassador on policy development and implementation. in this role, i am a senior member of the embassy's country team and continually involved in addressing issues as they arise. i am also often called upon to take notes in meetings involving the ambassador or visiting senior u.s. officials with ukrainian counterparts. for this reason, i have been present in many of the meetings with president zelensky and his administration, some of which may be jermaine to this inquiry. while i am a political counselor at the emgaerks is important to
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note that i'm not a political appointee nor engaged in u.s. politics in any way. it is not my job to cover or advise on u.s. politics. on the contrary, i am an apolitical foreign policy professional and my job is to focus on the politics of the country in which i serve, so that we can better understand the local landscape and better advance u.s. national interests there. in fact, during the period that we'll cover today, my colleagues and i followed direct guidance from sdof yovanovitch and ambassador taylor to focus on doing our jobs as foreign policy professionals and to stay clear of washington politics. i arrived in kyiv to take up my assignment as political counselor in august 2017, a year after ambassador yovanovitch received her appointment. from august 2017 until her removal from post in may 2019, i was ambassador yovanovitch's chief policy adviser and developed a deep respect for her dedication, determination,
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decency and professionalism. during this time, we worked together closely speaking multiple times per day and i accompanied ambassador yovanovitch to many of her meetings with senior ukrainian counterparts. our work in ukraine focused on three policy priorities. peace and security, economic growth and reform, and anti-corruption and rule of law. these policies match the three consistent priorities of the ukrainian people since 2014 as measured in public opinion polling. namely an end to the conflict with russia that restores national unity and integrity, responsible economic policies that deliver european standards of growth and opportunity, and effective and impartial rule of law institutions that deliver justice in cases of high-level official corruption. our efforts on this third policy priority merit special mention because it was during ambassador yovanovitch's tenure we achieved
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the hard-fought passage of a law establishing an independent court to try corruption cases. these efforts strained ambassador yovanovitch's relationship with former president poroshenko and some of his allies, including prosecutor general yuriy lutsenko who resisted fully empowering truly independent eents-corruption institutions that would help ensure no ukrainians, however powerful, were above the law. despite this resistance, the ambassador in the embassy kept pushing anti-corruption and other priorities of our policy towards ukraine. beginning in march 2019, the situation at the embassy and in ukraine changed dramatically. specifically, the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for ukrainian democratic resistance to russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former new york city mayor rudy giuliani and a cadre of officials operate
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with a drcirect channel to the white house. that change began with the emorni emergence of press reports critical of yovanovitch and lutsenko and others to discredit her. in mid-march 2019, an embassy colleague learned that mr. lutsenko had complained that ambassador yovanovitch had, quote, destroyed him with her refusal to support him until he followed through with his reform commitments and ceased using his position for personal gain. in retaliation, mr. lutsenko made a series of unreported allegations, mostly suggesting that ambassador yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to advance the political interests of the democratic party. among mr. lutsenko's allegations were the embassy had ordered the investigation of a former ukrainian official solely because that former official was allegedly the main ukrainian contact of the republican party and of president trump personally. and that the embassy allegedly
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pressured his predecessor to close a case against another official because of an alleged connection between that official's connection with burisma and former vice president biden's son. mr. lutsenko claimed he never received $4.4 million in funds intended for his office and there was a tape of a ukrainian official saug he was trying to help hillary clinton win the 2016 election. finally, mr. lutsenko publicly claimed that ambassador yovanovitch had given him a do not prosecute list, containing the nameses of her supposed allies and allegation the state department called a fabrication and mr. lutsenko later retracted. he said as a result of these allegations, ambassador yovanovitch would face serious problems in the united states. public opinion polls indicated ukrainians generally did not believe mr. lutsenko's allegations. on march 22nd, president poroshenko issued a statement in support of ambassador
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yovanovitch. following mr. lutsenko's allegations, mr. giuliani and othered made a ns made a series statements calling for yovanovitch's removal from office. mr. giuliani was making frequent public statements pushing for ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related to burisma and the bidens. for example, on may 1st, 2019, "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani had, quote, discussed the burisma investigation and its intersection with the bidens with the ousted ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. on may 9th, "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani said he planned to travel to ukraine to pursue investigations into the 2016 election interference and into the involvement of former vice president biden's son in a ukrainian gas company. over the next few months, mr. giuliani also issued a series of tweets asking, quote, why biden shouldn't be investigated,
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attacking, quote, the new president of ukraine zelensky for being silent on the 2016 election and biden investigations. and complaining about "the new york times" attacking him for, quote, exposing the biden family history of making millions from ukrainian criminals. around this time, the ukrainian presidential election was approaching and political newcomer and entertainer zelensky who had played a president on television, was surging in the polls. ahead of mr. lutsenko's political ally, poroshenko. i was present for the third and final meeting with then candidate zelensky ahead of his landslide victory in the run-off election the next day. as in her two prior meetings that i also attended they had an entirely cordial, pleasant conversation and signaled their mutual desire to work together. however, the negative narratives about ambassador yovanovitch had gained currency in certain sections of the united states press. on april 26th, ambassador yovanovitch departed for
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washington, d.c., where she learned that she would be recall early. the barrage of allegations drect directed at yovanovitch, a career ambassador, is unlike anything i've seen in my professional career. following president-elect zelensky's victory our attention in the embassy focused on getting to know the zelensky administration and preparations for the inauguration scheduled for may 20th, the same day that ambassador yovanovitch departed post permanently. it quickly became clear that the white house was not prepared to show the level of support for the zelensky administration that we had originally anticipated. in early may, mr. giuliani publicly alleged that mr. zelensky was, quote, surrounded by enemies of the u.s. president and canceled a visit to ukraine. shortly thereafter, we learned that vice president pence no longer planned to lead the presidential delegation to the inauguration. the white house then whittled down an initial list for the official presidential delegation
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to the inauguration from over a dozen individuals to just five. secretary perry as its head, special representative for ukraine negotiations kurt volker, representing the state department, national security council director alex vindman, representing the white house, temporary acting charge d'affaires joseph pennington representing the embassy and ambassador to the eu, gordon sondland. ambassador sondland's mandate as the accredited ambassador to the european union did not cover individual member states, let alone nonmember countries like ukraine, he made clear that he had direct and frequent access to president trump and chief of staff mick mulvaney and portrayed himself as the conduit to the president and mr. mulvaney for this group. secretary perry, ambassador sondland, ambassador volker later styled themselves the three amigos and made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the zelensky administration. around the same time, i became aware that mr. giuliani, a
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private lawyer, was taking a direct role in ukrainian diplomacy. on april 25th, mr. zelensky's childhood friend and campaign chair was appointed the head of the security services of ukraine. indicated he had been contacted by, quote, someone names giuliani who said he was an adviser to the vice president. i reported mr. bacano's message. over the follow months it became apparent 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 inaugural delegation, someone wondered aloud why mr. giuliani was so active in the media with respect to ukraine. my recollection is that ambassador sondland stated, quote, dammit rudy, every time rudy gets involved he goes and fs everything up. the inauguration took place on may 20th and i took notes in the
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delegations meeting with president zelensky. during the meeting, secretary perry passed president zelensky a list that perry described as, quote, people he trusts. secretary perry told president zelensky that he could seek advice from the people on this list on issues of energy associate reform which was the topic of subsequent meetings between secretary perry and key ukrainian energy sector contacts. embassy personnel were excluded from in of these later meetings by secretary perry's staff. on may 23rd, ambassador volker, ambassador sondland and secretary perry and senator ron johnson, who had also attended the inauguration, though not on the official delegation, returned to the united states and briefed president trump. on may 29th, president trump signed a congratulatory letter to president zelensky which included an invitation to visit the white house at an unspecified date. it is important to understand that a white house visit was critical to president zelensky.
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president zelensky needed to show u.s. support at the highest levels in order to demonstrate to russian president putin that he had u.s. backing as well as to advance his ambitious anti-corruption reform agenda at home. president zelensky's team immediately began pressing to set a date for that visit. president zelensky and senior members of his team made clear that they wanted president zelensky's first overseas trip to be to washington to send a strong signal of american support and requested a call with president trump as soon as possible. we at the embassy also believe that a meeting was critical to the success of president zelensky's administration and its reform agenda, and we worked hard to get it arranged. when president zelensky's team did not receive the confirmed date for a white house visit, they made alternative plans for president zelensky's first overseas trip to be to brussels instead, in part to attend an american independence day event ambassador sondland hosted june
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4th. ambassador sondland hosted a dinner in president zelensky's honor following the reception which included president zelensky, jared kushner, secretary pompeo's counselor, ulrich brechbuhl and comedian jay leno among others. he arrived as charge deaffairs on june 17th. for the next month, the focus of our activities, along with those of the three amigos was to coordinate a white house visit. to that end, we were working with ukrainians to deliver things we thought president trump might care about, such as commercial deals that would benefit the united states. which might convince president trump to agree to a meeting with president zelensky. ukrainian policy community was unanimous in its recommendation -- in recognizing the importance of securing the meeting and president trump's support. ambassador taylor reported that secretary pompeo had told him prior to his arrival in kyiv, quote, we need to work on turning the president around on
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ukraine. ambassador volker told us the first -- that the next five years could hang on what could be accomplished in the next three months. i took that to mean that if we did not earn president trump's support in the next three months we could lose the opportunity to make progress during president zelensky's term. within a week or two it became apparent the energy sector reforms, the commercial deals and the anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the white house to schedule a meeting between the presidents. on june 27th, ambassador sondland told ambassador taylor in a phone conversation the gist of which ambassador taylor shared with me that president zelensky needed to make clear to president trump that president zelensky was not standing in the way of, quote, investigations. i understood that this meant the biden/burisma investigations that mr. giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since march. while ambassador taylor did not
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brief me on every detail of his communication with the three amigos, he told me on a june 28th call with president zelensky, ambassador taylor and the three amigos it was made clear that some action on burisma/biden investigation was preconditioned for an oval office visit. also on june 28th, while president trump was still not moving forward on a meeting with president zelensky, we met with -- he met with russian president putin at the g20 summit in osaka, japan. sending a further signal of lack of support to ukraine. we became concerned that even if a meeting between presidents trump and zelensky could occur, it would not go well. and i discussed with embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting altogether. the white house visit was critical to the zelensky administration, a visit that failed to send a clear and strong signal of support likely would be worse for president zelensky than no visit at all.
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congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in security assistance for ukraine since 2014. this assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to ukraine in its defensive war with russia. it's helped ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably the most capable and battle-hardened land force in europe. i have had the honor of visiting the main training facility in western ukraine with members of congress and members of this very committee, ms. stefanik, where we witnessed firsthand u.s. national guard troops along with allies conducting training for ukrainian soldiers. since 2014, national guard units from california, oklahoma, new york, tennessee and wisconsin have trained shoulder to shoulder with ukrainian counterparts. given the history of u.s. security assistance to ukraine and the bipartisan recognition
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of its importance, i was shocked when on july 18th an office of management and budget staff member announced the hold on ukrainian security assistance. the announcement came toward the end of a nearly two-hour security council secure video conference call which i the official said that the order had come from the president and had been conveyed to omb by mr. mulvaney with no further explanation. this began a week or so of efforts by various agencies to identify the rationale for the freeze, to conduct a review of the assistance and to reaffirm the unanimous view of the ukraine policy of its importance. usc counterparts confirmed to us there had been no change in our ukraine policy but could not determine the cause of the hold or how to lift it. on july 25th, president trump made a congratulatory phone call to president zelensky after his
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party won a commanding majority in parliament election. the embassy received no readout of that call and i was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript was released on september 25th. upon reading the transcript, i was deeply disappointed to see that the president raised none of what i understood to be our interagency agreed-upon foreign policy priorities in ukraine and instead raised the biden/burisma investigation and referred to the theory by crowdstrike and supposed connection to ukraine in the 2016 election. the next day, july 26th, 2019, i attended meetings the presidential administration building in kyiv with ambassador volker and sondland and took notes. president zelensky's chief of staff was the first meeting. it was brief. he had already been summoned by president zelensky to prepare for a subsequent broader meeting. he did say that president
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zelensky's personnel decisions related to the prosecutor general's office. the delegation then met with president zelensky and several other senior officials. during the meeting, president zelensky stated that during the july 25th call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive ooh issues and that he would have to follow up -- he, zelensky, would have to follow up on those issues when he and president trump met in person. not having received a readout of the july 25th call, i did not know at the time what those sensitive issues were. after the meeting with president zelensky, ambassador volker and ambassador taylor quickly left the presidential administration building for a trip to the front lines. ambassador sondland, who was to fly out that afternoon, stayed behind to have a meeting with a top aide to president zelensky. as i was leaving the meeting with president zelensky, i was told to join the meeting with ambassador sondland and mr. yermak to take notes. i was a flight of stairs behind
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ambassador sondland as he headed to meet mr. yermak. when i reached his office, ambassador sondland had already gone into the meeting. i explained to the assistant i was supposed to join the meeting as the embassy's representative and strongly urged her to let me in but she said that ambassador sondland and yermak insisted that it be one on one with no note taker. i then waited in the room. we accompanied ambassador sondland out of the presidential administration building. ambassador sondland said he wanted to go to lunch. i told ambassador sondland i would be happy to join him if he wanted to brief me out on his meeting or other issues. ambassador sondland said i should join. the four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outside terrace. i sat directly across from
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ambassador sondland and the two staffers off to our sides. ambassador sondland selected a bottle of wine we shared among the four of us and we discussed marketing strategies for his hotel business. during the lunch, ambassador sondland said he was going to call president trump to give him an update. ambassador sondland placed a call on his mobile phone. i heard him announce himself several time along the line of ambassador sondland holding for the president. i then noticed ambassador sondland's demeanor change and understood he had been connected to president trump. while ambassador sondland's phone was not on speaker phone, i could hear the president's voice through the ear piece of the phone. the president's voice was loud and recognizable, and ambassador sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. i heard ambassador sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from kyiv. i heard president trump then
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clarify that ambassador sondland was in ukraine. ambassador sondland replied yes and then went on to say president zelensky, quote, loves your ass. i heard the president say then he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland said he will do it. adding president zelensky will do anything you ask him to do. even though i did not take notes of these statements i had a clear recollection that these statements were made. i believe my colleagues sitting at the table also knew that ambassador sondland was also speaking with the president. the conversation then shifted to ambassador sondland's efforts on behalf of the president to assist a rapper who was jailed in sweden. i could only hear ambassador sondland's side of the conversation. ambassador sondland told the president that the rapper was kind of f'd there and should have pled guilty. he recommended that the president, quote, wait until after the sentencing, or it will only make it worse, and he added that the president should let
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him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker tape when he comes home. president trump said, quote, you should have released him on your word but you can tell the kardashians you tried. ambassador sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood, as he stated is often the case in the morning. i then asked about the president's views on ukraine. in particular, i asked ambassador sondland if it was true that the president did not give an expletive about ukraine. ambassador sondland agreed that the president did not give an expletive about ukraine i asked why not? ambassador sondland stated that the president only cares about big stuff. i noted there was big stuff going on in ukraine, like a war with russia. and ambassador sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the
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bi biden investigation that mr. giuliani was pushing. the conversation then moved on to other topics. upon returning to the embassy, i immediately brief mied supervisor about ambassador sondland's call with president trump and my subsequent conversation with ambassador sondland i told others at the embassy about the call as well. i also emailed an embassy official in sweden with regard to the u.s. rapper that was discussed on the call. july 26th was my last day in the office ahead of a long planned vacation that ended august 6th. after returning to the embassy, i told ambassador taylor about the july 26th call. i also repeatedly referred to the call in conversation with ambassador sondland, in meetings and conversations where the issue of the president's interest in ukraine was potentially relevant. at that time, ambassador son sondland's statement to the president -- statement of the president's lack of interest in ukraine was of particular focus. we understood that in order to secure a meeting between president trump and president zelensky, we would have to work
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hard to find a way to explain ukraine's importance to president trump in terms that he found compelling. over the ensuing weeks, we tried to identify ways to frame the importance of ukraine in ways that would appeal to the president, to determine how to lift the hold on security assistance and to move forward on the scheduling of a white house visit by president zelensky. ukrainian independence day, august 24th, presented another good opportunity to show support for ukraine. secretary pompeo had considered attending as national security adviser had attended in 2018 and defense secretary mattis had attended in 2017, but in the end, nobody senior to ambassador volu volker attended. ambassador bolton visited ukraine and brought welcomed news that president trump agreed to meet with president zelensky. he then further ind indicated that the hold on assistance
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would not be lifted before the warsaw meeting where it would hang on whether he would be favorably able to impress president trump. i took notes with president zelensky and his chief of staff. ambassador bolton told the chief of staff that the meeting between presidents and warsaw would be crucial to cementing their relationship. president trump pulled out of the warsaw trip. the hold remained in place with no clear means to get it lifted. between the meetings on august 27th i heard ambassador bolton express to ambassador taylor and tim morrison his frustration with the president, making clear there was nothing you could do about it. he recommended that mr. lutsenko's replacement prosecutor general with attorney general barr as informal channel between yermak and giuliani. expansive interpretation of his
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mandate. after president trump canceled his visit to warsaw, we continued to try to appeal to the president in foreign policy and national security terms. to that end, ambassador taylor told me that ambassador bolton recommended that he and ambassador taylor send a first-person cable to secretary pompeo, articulating the importance. i drafted and transmitted the cable on ambassador taylor's behalf thursday night which further attempted to explain the importance of ukraine and assistance for national security. my clear impression was that the hold was intended as either dissatisfaction with the ukrainians who had not agreed yet to the biden/burisma investigation or as pressure for them to do so. i took notes as senator johnson and chris murphy's meetings in
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kyiv where president zelensky asked about the security assistance. although both senators stressed strong bipartisan support for ukraine, senator johnson cautioned president zelensky that president trump has a negative view of ukraine and president zelensky would have a difficult time overcoming it. senator johnson further explained he had been, quote, shocked by president trump's negative reaction during an oval office meeting on may 23rd when he and the three amigos proposed that the president meet with president zelensky and show support for ukraine. ambassador taylor told me, quote, now they're existing zelensky commit to an investigation in an interview with cnn, which i took to refer to this three amigos. i was shocked that the requirement was so specific and concrete. we advised our ukrainian counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law and generally investigate incredible corruption allegations, this was a demand that president zelensky personally commit on a cable news channel to a specific
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investigation of president trump's political rival. on september 11th, the hold was finally lifted. after significant press coverage and bipartisan concern about the withholding of security assistance. although we knew the hold was lifted, we were still concerned that president zelensky had committed, in exchange for the lifting, to give cnn a requested interview. we had several indications that interview would occur. first the conference in kyiv september 12th to 14th and fareed zakaria was one of the moderators. another colleague who work for the record ambassador sondland received a phone call. my colleague texted me regarding that call, quote, sondland said the zelensky interview is supposed to be today or monday and they plan to announce that a certain investigation that was on hold will progress. sondland's aide did not know if
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this was decided or if sondland was advocating for it. apparently he has been discussing this with yermak. ambassador taylor and i ran into mr. yermak on a way out of the meeting with president zelensky in his private office. ambassador taylor again expressed his concern about staying out of u.s. politics and hoped no interview was planned. he shrugged as an indication that he had no choice. in short, everybody thought there was going to be an interview and the ukrainians believed they had to do it. the interview ultimately did not occur. on september 21st, ambassador taylor and i collaborated on input he sent on mr. morrison ahead of a september 25th meeting that had been scheduled with president zelensky in new york on the margins of the u.n. general assembly. the transcript of the july 25th call was released the same day. as of today, i still have not seen a readout of the september 25th meeting. as the impeachment inquiry has
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progressed, i followed press reports and reviewed the statements of ambassador's taylor and yovanovitch. my recollection is generally consistent with their testimony and i believe that the relevant facts were, therefore, being laid out for the american people. however, in the last couple of weeks, i read press reports expressing for the first time that certain senior officials may have been acting without the president's knowledge or freelancing in their dealings with ukraine. at the same time, i also read reports noting the lack of firsthand evidence in the investigation, and suggesting the only evidence being illicited at the hearings was hearsay. i came to realize i had firsthand knowledge on july 26th that had not otherwise been reported and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did, in fact, have knowledge that those senior officials were using levers of power to pressure the
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president uf crane to open an investigation against president trump's political opponent. it was at that point i made the observation to ambassador taylor that the incident i witnessed on july 26th had requira quired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony last week and which is what led to the subpoena for me to appear here today. in conclusion, i would like to take a moment to turn back to ukraine. today, this very day, is exactly six years since throngs of ukrainians appeared on kiev square to launch what's become known as the revolution of dignity. they expanded over three months to reject the entire corrupt, repressive system that had been sustained by russian influence in the country. those events were followed by
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russia's occupation of ukraine's crimean peninsula and an ensuing war that, to date, has cost almost 14,000 lives. despite the russian aggression over the past five years, ukrainians have rebuilt a shattered economy, adhered to a peace process and moved economically and socially closer to the west, toward our way of life. earlier this year, large majorities uf cranians again chose a fresh start by voting for a political newcomer as president, replacing 80% of their parliament and endorsing a platform consistent with our democratic values, our reform priorities and our strategic interests. this year's revolution at the ballot box underscores that, despite its imperfections, ukraine is a genuine and vibrant democracy, an example to other post-soviet countries and
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beyond, from moscow to hong kong. how we respond to this historic opportunity will set the trajectory of our relationship with ukraine and will define our willingness to defend our bedrock international principles and our leadership role in the world. ukrainians want to hear a clear and unambiguous reaffirmation that our longstanding, bipartisan policy that our strong support for ukraine remains unchanged and that we fully back it at the highest levels. now is not the time to retreat from our relationship with ukraine, but rather to double down on it. as we sit here today, ukrainians are fighting a hot war on ukrainian territory against russian aggression. this week alone, since i have been here in washington, two ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured by russian-led forces in eastern ukraine, despite a declared cease fire i learned overnight that seven
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more were injured yesterday. as vice president pence said after his meeting with president zelensky in warsaw, the u.s./ukraine relationship has never been stronger. ukrainians and their new government earnestly want to believe that. ukrainians cherish their bipartisan american support, sustain their european aspirations and recoil at the thought of playing a role in u.s. domestic politics or elections. at a time of shifting allegiances and rising competitors in the world, we have no better friends than ukraine, a scrappy, unbowed, determined and, above all, diagram dignified people who are standing up against russian authoritarianism and aggression. they deserve better. we're now at a deflection point in ukraine and it's critical to our national security we stand in strong support of our
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ukrainian partners. ukraine and freedom-loving people everywhere are watching as we set the rule of law. thank you. >> thank you, mr. holmes. dr. helm? >> thank you, mr. chairman. do i need to adjust the microphone? >> is the microphone on? >> i believe it is now. >> yes, perfect. >> thank you again, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, ranking member nunes and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. i have a short opening statement. i appreciate the importance of congress' impeachment inquiry and i am appearing today as a fact witness, as i did during my deposition on october 14th, in order to answer your questions about what i saw, what i did, what i knew and what i know with regard to the subjects of your inquiry. i believe that those who have information that the congress deems relevant have a legal and a moral obligation to provide
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it. i take great pride in the fact that i'm a nonpartisan foreign policy expert who has served under three republican and democratic presidents. i have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction, except toward the truth. i will not provide a long narrative statement because i believe that the interest of congress and the american people is best served by allowing you to ask me your questions and i'm happy to expand upon my october 14th deposition testimony in response to your questions today. but before i do so, i would like to communicate two things. first, i would like to share a little bit about who i am. i'm an american by choice. i became a citizen in 2002. i was born in northeast of england in the same region that george washington's ancestors came from, both my region and my family have deep ties to the united states. my paternal grandfather fought through world war i in the royal field artillery, surviving being
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shot, shelled and gassed before american troops intervened to end the war in 1918. during the second world war, other members of my family fought to defend the free world from fascism alongside american soldiers. the men in my family were coal miners who always struggled with poverty. my father, alfred, was 14, he joined his father, brother and cousins in the coal mine to help put food on the table. when the last of the local mines closed in the 1960s, my father wanted to emigrate to the united states to work in the coal mines in western pennsylvania but his mother had been crippled and my father couldn't leave. so he stayed there until he died in 2012. my mother still lives in my hometown today. my father loved america, culture, history, as well as a beacon of hope for the world.
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he always wanted someone in the family to make it to the united states. i began my university studies in 1984 and i just learn identity went to the same university as my colleague here, mr. holmes, in scotland. in 1987 i won place on academic exchange to the soviet union. i was there for the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces inf treaty and when president reagan met gorbachev in moscow. this was a turning point for me. an american professor who i met there told me about graduate student scholarships to the united states. the very next year, thanks to his advice, i arrived in america to start my advanced studies at harvard. years later i can state with confidence that this country has offered me opportunities i never would have had in england. i grew up poor with a very distinctive working class accent. in england in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my advancement. this has never set me back in
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america. i built a career as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical career focusing on europe, eurasia and the former soviet union. i served our country under three presidents and my most recent capacity under president trump and as well as my former position of national intelligence officer for russia and eurasia under presidents george wncht bush and barack obama. in that role i was the it was because of my background and experience that i was asked to join the national security council in 2019. nsc, russia was part of my portfolio, but i was also responsible for coordinating u.s. policy for all of western europe, eastern europe, including ukraine and turkey, along with nato and the european union. i was hired initially by general michael flynn, katie mcfarland and general keith kellogg but then i started working april
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2019 when general mcmaster was the national security adviser. i, and they, thought that i could help them with president trump's stated goal of improving relations with russia, while still implementing policies to deter russian conduct that threatened the united states, including the unprecedented and successful russian operation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. this relates to the second thing i want to communicate. based on questions and statements i've 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 is being perpetrated and pr propulgated by russia themselves. the truth is that russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our institutions in 2016. this is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports.
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it is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified. the impacts of the successful 2016 russian campaign remains evident today. our nation is being torn apart, truth is questioned. our highly professional career service is being undermined. the russian government's goal is to weaken our country, to diminish america's global role and to neutralize a perceived u.s. threat to russian interest. president putin and russian security services aim to counter u.s. policy in europe, including ukraine, where moscow wishes to reassert political economic dominance. i say this as not an alarmist but a realist. i continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with moscow, even as we counter their efforts
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to harm us. right now, russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. we are running out of time to stop them. and the course of this investigation, i would ask that you please not promote politically false ukraine is a valued partner of the united states and it plays an important role in our national security. as i told the committee last month i refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the ukrainian government is an adversary and that ukraine, not russia, attacked us in 2016. these are harmful even if for purely political purposes. russian services operate like a super pac, deploy millions of dollars to support false narratives. we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us
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against each other, degrade our institutions and destroy the faith of the american people in our democracy. i respect the work that this congress does in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities, including this inquiry, and i'm here to help you to the best of my ability. 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's 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. i'm ready to answer your questions. thank you. >> thank you, dr. hill. i will now proceed to the first round of questions as detailed in the memo, 45 minutes of questions, conducted by the chairman or majority council, followed by 45 minutes of the ranking member or minority council. following that, unless i specify additional time, we'll proceed under the five-minute rule and every member will have a chance
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to ask questions. i now recognize myself or majority council for the first round of questions. first of all, thank you both for being here. thank you for testifying. dr. hill, your story reminds me a great deal of what we heard from alexander vindman. the few immigrant stories we've heard in the course of these hearings are among the most powerful, i think, i've ever heard. you and colonel vindman and others are the best of this country and you came here by choice, and we are so blessed that you did. so, welcome. my colleagues took some umbrage with your opening statement but i think the american people can be forgiven if they have the same impression listening to my colleagues in this hearing, that
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russia didn't interfere, it's been all the ukrainiaukrainians. there's been an effort to take an op-ed there, newspaper story here and somehow equate it with the systemic intervention that our intelligence agencies found that russia perpetrated in 2016 through an extensive social media campaign and hacking and dumping operation. indeed, the report my colleagues gave you that they produced during an investigation calls into question the accuracy of intelligence committees finding that russia intervened to help one side, to help donald trump at the expense of hillary clinton. no one in the intelligence community questions that finding. nor does the fbi. nor does the senate bipartisan, nor does the minority committee report of this committee. the house republican report is ab outlier. let me ask you, dr. hill, about your concern with that russian narrative, that it wasn't the russians that engaged in interfering in our elections in
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2016 and, of course, this was given a boost when president trump in helsinki and president putin said he questioned his own intelligence agencies. why are the russians pushing that narrative it was ukraine? how does that serve russian interests? >> russian interests to delegitimize our entire presidency. one issue i do want to raise, and i think this would resonate with our colleagues on the committee from the republican party, is that the goal of the russians was really to put whoever became the president by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale under a cloud. so, if secretary, former first lady, former senator clinton had been elected as president, as indeed many expected in the run-up to the election in 2016, she, too, would have had major questions about her legitimacy. and i think that what we're seeing here as a result of all of these narratives, this is exactly what the russian
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government was hoping for. they seed misinformation, they seed doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate, be it president trump or potentially president clinton, that they would pit one side of our electorate against the other, that they would pit one party against the other. that's why i wanted to make such a strong point at the very beginning, because there was certainly individuals in many other countries who had harsh words for both candidates, who had harsh words for many of the candidates during the primaries. we had a lot of people running for president on the republican side. there were many people who were trying themselves to game the outcome. as you know, in the united kingdom, the bookees take bets. you can go to ladbrooks and lay a bet on who you think will be the candidate. russian government were trying to lay their own bets but they wanted to give a spread. they wanted to make sure whoever they bet on, whoever they tried to tip the scales would also experience some discomfort, that
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they would be holden to them in some way, that they would create just the kind of chaos that we've seen in our politics. so i just want to again emphasize that we need to be very careful as we discuss all of these issues, not to give them more fodder that they can use against us in 2020. >> i quite agree. there's an additional benefit. i think you're exactly right, russians are equal opportunity meddlers. they'll not only help one side but also seek to sow discord along ethnic lines, geographic lines but there's also a benefit now, isn't there, for russia to put the blame on ukraine, to cast doubt on whether they intervened at all in our election and blame it on a u.s. ally as a way to drive a wedge between u.s. and ukraine. isn't that true? >> well, that's absolutely the case. you just made the point about u.s. allies. the russians like to put a lot of blame on u.s. allies for incidents that they've perpetrated. we saw that recently with the
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united kingdom in the russian secret services attack on a former spy and his daughter where you may recall that the russians accused of the british government of perpetrating this themselves. this falls into a long pattern of deflection and of the russian government trying to pin the blame on someone else. as my colleague, mr. holmes here, has laid out, the russians have a particular vested interest in putting ukraine, ukrainian leaders in a very bad light. all of the issues that we started to discuss today and that you on the committee have been deeply involved in began with russia's illegal annexation on the peninsula of crimea on ukraine in 2014, in response of 2015 and all the different acts of aggression that russia has engaged in since, starting the war, shooting down russian operatives, a plane over the john bass in a later period.
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there is a great deal of hostility and maligned intent of ukraine and it suits the russian government if we're also looking at ukraine as a perpetrator of maligned acts against us. >> mr. holmes i want to ask you a quick couple of questions. as often is the case for people, you know, i was obviously at your deposition, read your opening testimony, but as you learn more facts, you start to see things in a different light, even though your opening statement is very much consistent with your opening statement during the deposition. i was struck in particular by something you said on page ten. while we have advised our ukrainian counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law and generally investigate credible corruption allegations this was a demand that president zelensky personally commit on a cable news channel to a specific investigation of president trump's political rival. this gets to a point i made at the close of our hearing yesterday about hypocrisy.
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here we are, and we are urging ukrainians to commit to following the rule of law, as you said, and only investigate genuine and credible allegations. and what are we doing? we're asking them to investigate the president's political rival. ukrainians are pretty sophisticated actors, aren't they? they can recognize hypocrisy when they see it. what does that do to our efforts when ukrainians see we're engaging in corruption ourselves? >> yes, sir. our longstanding policy is to encourage them to establish and build rule of law institutions that are capable and independent and that can actually pursue credible allegations. that's our policy. we've been doing that for quite some time with some success. so, focusing on particular cases, including particular cases where there is an interest of the president is just not part of what we've done. it's hard to explain why we
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would do that. >> and harkens back to the conversation ambassador volker testified about, when he urged ukraine not to prosecute poroshenko and the reply was oh, like you want us to do with the bidens and the clintons? they're sophisicated enough actors to recognize when we say do as we say not as we do, are they not? >> yes, sir. >> also in your testimony, and i was struck by this anew today. when even after the aid is lifted, ukraine still felt pressure to make these statements. and you and ambassador taylor were worried that they were going to do it on cnn. and you said that ambassador taylor again stressed the importance of staying out of the u.s. politics and hoped that no interview was planned. mr. yermak did not answer but
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shrugged, as if in resignation that they had no choice. in short, everyone thought there would be an interview and that the ukrainians believed they had to do it. you're acknowledging, i think, mr. holmes, are you not, that ukraine very much felt pressured to undertake these investigations that the president, rudy giuliani and ambassador sondland and others were demanding? >> yes, sir. and although the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted, there were still things they wanted that they weren't getting, including a meeting with the president in the oval office. whether the hold -- security assistance hold continued or not, ukraines understood that was something that the president wanted and they still wanted important things from the president. and i think that continues to this day. i think they're being very careful. they still need us now, going forward. in fact, right now, president zelensky is trying to arrange a summit meeting with president putin in the coming weeks, his first face-to-face meeting to try to advance the peace process. he needs our support.
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he needs president putin to understand that america supports zelensky at the highest levels. this doesn't end with the lifting of the security assistance hold. ukraine still needs us and, as i said, is still fighting this war to this very day. >> i would underscore again, as my colleague did so eloquently, they got caught. that's the reason the aid was finally lifted. mr. goldman? >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning to both of you. yesterday we heard testimony from ambassador gordon sondland from the european union, who testified that president trump wanted ukraine to announce the investigations into biden -- the bidens and burisma and 2016 elections because it would benefit him politically and he used the leverage of that white house meeting and security assistance to pressure president zelensky to do so. drl hill, you testified, i believe, that in mid june, ambassador sondland told you that he was in charge of ukraine policy. is that right? >> that's correct, sir, yes.
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>> who did he tell you had put him in charge of ukraine policy? >> he told me it was the president. >> mr. holmes, did you also understand that ambassador sondland had been given some authority over ukraine policy from the president? >> we understood that he had been told to work with mr. giuliani. >> and did he hold himself out as having direct contact and knowledge of the president's priorities and interests? >> yes, sir. >> now, mr. holmes, i want to go to that july 26th date when you overheard the conversation between ambassador sondland and president trump. and i'm going to ask you a little bit about the lead-up to that conversation. before the lunch that you described, you said that you accompanied ambassador sondland, volker and taylor to a meeting with president zelensky, is that right?
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>> that's correct. >> and you took notes at that meeting? >> yes, sir. >> and you reviewed those notes before you came here to testify today? >> yes. >> and they were helpful to refresh your recollection as to what happened, is that right? >> yes. >> during that meeting, president zelensky said that on his phone call with president trump the previous day that three times president trump had mentioned sensitive issues. did you understand what president zelensky was referring to when he said the sensitive issues? >> i couldn't be sure what he was referring to, until i later read the transcript of the july 25th call, but i was aware of various contacts between the three amigos and his government about this set of issues. >> after you read the call, what did you determine to be the sensitive issues that president zelensky referenced? >> the burisma/biden investigation. >> after this meeting with president zelensky that testified that ambassador sondland had a one-on-one
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meeting with andre yermak and you were prohibited from going into that meeting to take nots,s is that right? >> yes. >> and yesterday ambassador sondland said he probably discussed the investigations with mr. yermak. did ambassador sondland tell you at all what they discussed? >> he did not. >> now after this meeting with mr. yermak, you went to lunch. can you describe where you were sitting at the restaurant? >> yes, sir, the restaurant has glass doors that open on to a terrace. we were at the first tables on the terrace, so immediately outside the interior of the restaurant. the doors were wide open. there were tables, table for four. although i recall it being two tables for two pushed together. in any case, it was quite a wide table.
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i was directly across from ambassador sondland. we were close enough we could share an appetizer between us and the two staffers were off to our right at this next table. >> now, you said that at some point ambassador sondland pulled out his cell phone and called president trump. this was an unsecure cell phone, is that right? >> yes, sir. >> in the middle of a restaurant in kyiv? >> yes. >> you said you were able to hear president trump's voice through the receiver. how were you able to hear if it was not on speaker phone? >> several things. it was quite loud when the president came on, quite distinctive. i believe ambassador sondland also said yesterday he often speaks loudly over the phone. i certainly experienced that. when the president came on, he sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear like this. and he did that for the first
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couple of exchanges. i don't know if he then turned the volume down, if he got used to it, if the president moderated his volume, i don't know. but that's how i was able to hear. >> so, you were able to hear some of what president trump said to president zelensky, is that right? >> the first portion of the conversation, yes. >> what did you hear president trump say to -- i'm sorry, not president zelensky, to ambassador sondland? >> what did i hear? >> the president say to ambassador sondland. >> he clarified whether he was in ukraine or not. he said yes, i'm in ukraine and ambassador sondland said he loves your ass. he'll do anything you want. he's going to do the investigation. >> you heard president trump ask ambassador sondland is he going to do the investigation? >> yes, sir. >> what was ambassador sondland's response? >> he said oh, yeah, he's going to do it. he'll do anything you ask. >> and was that the end of the
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ukraine portion of the conversation? >> yes. >> afterwards, you described a follow-up conversation you had with ambassador sondland where you asked him, i think, generally what did president trump think of ukraine, is that right? >> correct. >> what did ambassador sondland say to you? >> he said he doesn't really care about ukraine. >> did he use slightly more colorful language than that? >> he did. >> what did he say that he does care about? >> he said he cares about big stuff. >> did he explain what he meant by big stuff? >> well, i asked him, what kind of big stuff, we have big stuff going on here, like a war with russia. and he said no, big stuff like the biden investigation that mr. giuliani is pushing. >> now, were you familiar with the biden investigation that he referenced at that point? >> yes, sir.
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>> and how do you have such a clear and specific recollection with your conversation with ambassador sondland? >> this was a very distinctive experience. i've never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cell phone to the president of the united states, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality. we've all seen him on television. very colorful language was used. they were directly addressing something that i had been wondering about, working on for weeks and even months, a topic that had led to the recall of my former boss, the former ambassador. and so here was a person who said he had direct contact with the president, and said that over the course of time. here he is, actually having that contact with the president. hearing the president's voice and then talking about this
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issue of the biden investigation that i had been hearing about. >> so just to summarize, during this, the phone call that you overheard ambassador sondland have with president trump, you heard president trump himself ask the only question that you really heard him ask, i believe, is whether he was going to do the investigation, to which ambassador sondland responded that he would and he would, in fact, do anything that president zelensky wants. is that an accurate recitation of what happened? >> that's correct. >> after that call you had a subsequent conversation with ambassador sondland where he in sum and substance told you that the president doesn't care about ukraine, he only cares about big stuff related to himself and particularly the biden investigation that giuliani was pushing? >> correct. >> now a day before your lunch
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with ambassador sondland, president trump did speak with president zelensky as you referred. the president made it clear that president zelensky that he cared about the biden investigation. now, neither of you did listen to this call, but as you testified, you both read it subsequent to it its publication. dr. hill you, during your time, 2 1/2 years in the white house, listened to a number of presidential phone calls. is that right? >> that's right. >> can you estimate approximately how many? >> i can't, actually. i mean, sometimes there would be multiple calls during a week. i was there for more than two years, so it's a fair number. >> have you ever heard a call like this one that you read? >> i don't want to comment on this call, because this is, in my view, executive privilege. the testimony -- >> i think that as a threshold matter, i think that there are issues of classification regarding head of state communications that we do want
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to be sensitive to in this forum, among other issues. >> understood. i'm really focused on this one call that has been declassified and published and just asking you if you had ever heard any presidential phone call along these lines. >> again, i would like to just focus in this testimony on this particular call and i will just say that i found this particular call subject matter and the way it was conducted surprising. >> you said in your deposition testimony that you were very shocked and very saddened to read it. >> that's correct. >> why was that? >> because of the nature of the discussion, the juxtaposition of the issues in which they were raised and also given the fact that i, myself, had actually opposed, along with ambassador bolton for some period, having a call unless it was very well prepared and we were confident that the issues that ukraine and the united states were most generally together interested in were going to be raised.
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and i saw in this call that this was not the case. >> you also testified that you were concerned that this call was turning a white house meeting into some kind of asset. do you recall that testimony? >> i don't think it was specifically about that call but i recall the testimony because this was clearly the discussion preceding the call. remember, i left on july 19th. the call took place the following week. in the months leading up to that, from may onwards, it became very clear that the white house meeting itself was being predicated on other issues, investigations and the questions about the election interference in 2016. >> mr. holmes, you indicate in your opening statement that the chief of staff to president zelensky had indicated to you that in this phone call on july 25th there was a discussion about personnel issues related to the prosecutor general's
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office. after you read the call, did you understand who and what that was referring to? >> yes, sir. in that brief meeting with the chief of staff, it was very confusing to me why in only the few minutes we had, why that would have been the issue he raised. it wasn't until i read the transcript of the call on the 25th that i understood that the president had specifically mentioned prosecutor general lutsenko, who the zelensky administration was in the process of replacing and carving out his underlings who had been collaborating with him on some of the corruption we saw there. >> and, yeah, i believe you also said that president lutsenko was the source of some of mr. giuliani's public views and allegations, is that right? >> about two weeks before the press kind of wave that we saw, talking to ambassador yovanovitch became public, embassy contact reported to us
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privately that mr. lutsenko was sending these messages and had met with an american journalist to try to get those messages out. >> what was the u.s. embassy and ukraine's view of prosecutor general lutsenko? >> he was not a good partner. he had failed to deliver on the promised reforms that he had committed to when he took office, and he was using his office to insulate and protect political allies while presumably enriching himself. >> is another way to describe that corrupt? >> yes. >> i want to take a look at a couple of excerpts of this july 25th call with you. the first one occurs right after president zelensky thanked president trump for the united states support in the area of defense. and president trump immediately then says, i would like you to
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do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and ukraine knows a lot about it. i would like you to find out what happened with with this whole situation with ukraine. they say crowdstrike. i guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server, they say ukraine has it. now, dr. hill, is this a reference to this debunked conspiracy theory about ukraine interference in the 2016 election that you discussed in your opening statement as well as with chairman schiff? >> the reference to crowdstrike and the server, yes, that's correct. >> and it is your understanding that there is no basis for these allegations, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> now, isn't it also true that some of president trump's most senior advisers had informed him that this theory of ukraine interference in the 2016 election was false? >> that's correct. >> so, is it your understanding,
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then, that president trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this theory and instead listened to rudy giuliani's views? >> that appears to be the case, yes. >> and i also then want to just show one other exhibit that goes back to what you were testifying earlier, dr. hill, about russia's interest in promoting this theory. this is an excerpt from a february 2nd, 2017, news conference between president putin and president erdogan. second, as we all know during the presidential campaign in the united states, the ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate. more than that oligarches funded this female candidate, to be more precise. mr. holmes you spent three years as well in the u.s. embassy in russia. putin's advantage to promote
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this theory of ukraine interference? >> first of all, to deflect from the allegations of russian interference. second of all, to drive a wedge between the united states and ukraine, which russia wants to essentially get back into its sphere of influence. thirdly, to besmirch ukraine and its political leadership, to degrade and erode support of ukraine from other key partners in europe and elsewhere. >> dr. hill, by promoting this theory of ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, was president trump adopting vladimir putin's view over his own senior advisers and intelligence officials? >> i think we have to be very careful about the way that we phrase that. this is a view that president putin and the russian security services, and many actors in russia have promoted. but i think that this view has also got some traction, perhaps in parallel and separately here in the united states. and those two things, over time,
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started to fuse together. >> well, back in may of this year, do you recall that president trump had a phone conversation in early may with president putin? >> i do. >> and that he also then met in mid may with president orban who joined president putin at this press conference? >> that's correct. >> that happened in between the time when president zelensky was elected on april 21st and his inauguration on may 20th. is that right? >> correct. >> in fact, isn't it true that president trump had asked vice president pence to attend the inauguration after his phone call with president zelensky on april 21st? >> i'm not sure i can say that president trump had asked vice president pence. i was not in any meeting in which that took place. i can say that i myself, and
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many others of the nsc and the state department, were quite keen, very eager to have vice president pence go to ukraine to represent the united states government and the president. >> and is that also your recollection, mr. holmes, that you wanted vice president pence to attend? >> yes, sir. we understood that that was the plan. >> now, jennifer williams from the office of the vice president testified here that on may 13th, which is the same day that president trump met with prime minister orban that he called off vice president pence's trip for unknown reasons but before the inauguration date had been scheduled. dr. hill, were you aware also that during that period there was a lot of publicity? and mr. holmes you referenced this as well, about rudy
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giuliani's interests in ukraine? >> i was certainly aware, yes e. >> he had expressed some views to you about giuliani's interests in ukraine. do you recall what you said or what he said to you rather? >> i do recall, yes. it was part of a conversation about the things that mr. giuliani was saying quite frequently in public. we saw them often or saw him often on television making these statements and i had also already brought to ambassador bolton's attention, the attacks, smear campaign against ambassador yovanovitch and expressed great regret about how this was unfolding and, in fact, the shameful way in which ambassador yovanovitch was being smeared and attacked and i asked
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if there was anything we could do about it. ambassador bolton looked pained, basically indicated with body language there was nothing we could do about it. in the course of that discussion, he said that rudy giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everybody up. >> did you understand what he meant by that? >> i did actually. >> what did he mean? >> that obviously what mr. giuliani was saying was explosive in any case, he was frequently on television, making quite incinendiary remarks abou everyone and was pushing views that would come back to haunt us. in fact, i think that's where we are today. >> mr. holmes, did the ukrainians understand that rudy giuliani represented the president's views? >> i believe they did. he was reaching out to them directly. he also -- ambassador yovanovitch's removal is
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relevant to this portion of inquiry, because she was removed following this media campaign in which rudy giuliani and his associates were very prominent, and criticizing her for not taking seriously some of the theories and issues that later came up. and so when she was removed, you know, commentators in ukraine believed that lutsenko, working with giuliani, had succeeded in getting her removed. so they were already aware of mr. giuliani and his influence, the issues that he was promoting and ultimately that he was able to get an ambassador removed, partly because of that. so, he was someone to contend with. and then in addition, immediately after the inauguration, he began reaching out to the zelensky administration, key figures in the zelensky administration and continued to do that. >> let's focus on the inauguration for a minute. you escorted, for lack of a better word, the u.s. delegation
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around? >> i joined them in some of their meetings, but not for the entire day. >> and who was the official -- who was on the official delegation? >> yes, sir, five people. so it was the head of the delegation was secretary perry and then it was ambassador volker, representing the state department, ambassador sondland, our temporary charge, pennington and alex vindman represented the white house. >> did the delegation have a meeting with president zelensky that you attended? >> yes. >> and you testified, i think, previously that secretary perry gave a list of some sort to president zelensky at that meeting. do you recall that? >> yes. in the meeting with the president, secretary perry, as the head of the delegation, opened the meeting for the american side and had a number of points he made. and during that period, he handed over a piece of paper. i did not see what was on the paper but secretary perry described what was on the paper as a list of trusted individuals
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that president zelensky could draw from that list for advice on energy sector reform issues. >> do you know who was on that list? >> i didn't see the list. i don't know. other colleagues -- there are other people who have been relying on those issues. secretary perry has mentioned as being people to consult on reform. >> and are they americans? >> yes. >> now do you also recall that colonel vindman spoke to president zelensky in that meeting? >> yes. >> and what did he say to president zelensky in terms of some of the issues that we're addressing here in this investigation? >> yes, sir. he was the last to speak. he made a general point about the importance of ukraine to our national security and he said it's very important that the zelensky administration stay out of u.s. domestic politics.
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>> was it your understanding that president zelensky and the ukrainians were already starting to feel some pressure to conduct these political investigations? >> yes. >> and those were the ones related to biden, burisma and the 2016 election? >> correct. >> dr. hill, you also testified around this same time in may, you learned that president trump was receiving information from someone else at the national security council. that right? >> that is not quite right. i was told in passing that someone else at the national security council that the president may want to speak to them because of some materials related to ukraine. >> and did that person indicate that the president thought that was the director of ukraine? >> that was correct. >> who? >> very brief conversation, just to be clear. >> who is the director of ukraine? >> director for ukraine is alex vindman, colonel vindman. >> and who did the individual in the secretary's office refer to?
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>> the individual just said the name cash. >> did you know who that was? >> initially, when i was thinking about it, i had to search my mind and the only cash that i knew at the national security council was cash patel. >> and cash patel did not work on ukraine matters that you oversaw, is that right? >> not that i oversaw. >> so cash patel provided some information to the president without your knowledge? >> that seemed to be the indication. >> i want to go back to the july 25th call right now where president trump, in another excerpt, asked president zelensky about his potential political opponent, vice president joe biden. in this excerpt, the president said the other thing, there's a lot of talk about biden's son, that biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. so, whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. biden went around, bragging that he stopped the prosecution. so, if you can, look into it.
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it sounds horrible to me. now, dr. hill, this was, of course, one of the allegations that rudy giuliani was pushing, is that right? >> that's correct. >> now confirmed in this july 25th call that the president was also interested in it? >> yes. >> ambassadors volker and sondland have tried to draw a distinction between their understanding of the connection betwe between. it was apparent to you that when president trump, rudy giuliani or anyone else was pushing an investigation into burisma that the reason they wanted was the bi bidens? >> rudy giuliani wanted to convey that burisma was lempged to the bidens and he said this publicly, repeatedly. >> and you understood that burisma was code for bidens? >> yes. >> did you think anyone involved in ukraine matters in the spring
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and summer would understand that as well? >> yes. >> now, are either -- dr. hill are you aware of any evidence to support allegations against vice president biden? >> i'm not, no. >> and, in fact, mr. holmes, the former prosecutor general of ukraine, who vice president biden encouraged to fire, was actually corrupt, is that right? >> correct. >> and was not pursuing corruption investigations and prosecutions, right? >> my understanding is the prosecutor general at the time was not pursuing investigations of burisma or the bidens. >> and, in fact, remosque that corrupt prosecutor general was part of the united states anti-corruption policy. isn't that correct? >> that's correct. and not just us, but all of our allies and institutions involved
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in ukraine at the time. >> now, dr. hill, you indicated earlier that you had understood that a white house meeting was conditioned on the pursuit by ukraine of these investigations. and i want to focus on the july 10th meeting in the white house where that came to light. you indicated that in your testimony that there was a large meeting that ambassador bolton ran where ambassador sondland, volker and secretary perry also attended. is that right? >> that's correct, yes. >> why were they included in that meeting with two ukrainian officials about national security matters? >> well, the initial intent had not been to include them. we had anticipated that the two ukrainian officials would have a number of meetings, as is usually the procedure. there would be meetings at the state department, the energy department. and then there was a request to have ambassadors sondland and volker included, coming directly
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from their offices. and as a result of that, clearly given the important role that secretary perry was playing in the energy sector reform in ukraine and the fact that he had also been in the delegation to the presidential inauguration in ukraine, we decided it would be better to include all three of them. >> now toward the end of this meeting, the ukrainians raised the ongoing desire for an oval office meeting. is that right? >> that's correct. >> and what happened after they did that? >> well, i listened very carefully to ambassador sondland's testimony yesterday so i want to actually point out something where i think it's easy to explain why he had a different interpretation of how this came into being. the meeting initially had been scheduled for about 45, you know, minutes to an hour. and it was definitely in the wrap-up phase of the meeting when this occurred. we've gone through a series of
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discussions, alexander danilyuk really wanted to get into the weeds of how you might reform a national security council. he talked to me about this prior to the meeting. he was hoping and had had this opportunity with the national security adviser to the united states to get his firsthand opinions and thoughts on what might happen. we also wanted to go through discussion about how important it was for ukraine to get its energy sector reform under way and clearly secretary perry had some talking points to this, an issue that ambassador bolton was also interested in. we knew that ukraines would have on the agenda, inevitably acrey question about a meeting. we're going into the wrap-up phrase. ukrainian mr. danilyuk starts to ask about a meeting and ambassador bolton was trying to pair this back. we have input recommending the
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meetings and this goes through a whole process. it's not ambassador bolton's role to start pulling out the schedule and say we'll look and see if this tuesday, this month is going to work with this. he does not, as a matter of course, like to discuss the details of these meetings. he likes to leave them to the appropriate staff for this. so this is already going to be an uncomfortable issue. as ambassador bolton was trying to move that part of the discussion away, i think he was going to try to deflect it on another wrap-up topic, ambassador sondland leaned in basically to say, well, we have an agreement that there will be a meeting if specific investigations are put under way. and that's when i saw ambassador bolton stiffen. i was sitting behind him in the chair. i saw him sit back slightly like this. he had been more moving forward like i am to the table. and for me that was an unmistakable body language and it caught my attention. then he looked up to the clock
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and at his watch, at his wrist in any case. i was sitting behind him and basically said it's been really great to see you. i'm afraid i've got another meeting. >> and did ambassador sondland say who his agreement on this white house meeting was with? >> in that particular juncture, i don't believe so. it was later, which i'm sure you'll want to talk about, which he did say more specifically. >> what did he say later? >> that he had an agreement with chief of staff mulvaney that in return for investigations this meeting would get scheduled. >> and was he specific at that point later about the investigations that he was referring to? >> he said the investigations in burisma. >> did you have discussions with ambassador bolton after this meeting? >> i had a discussion with ambassador bolton both after the meeting in his office, a brief one, and a meeting after the subsequent meeting. >> the subsequent meeting or after both meetings when you


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