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tv   Impeachment Inquiry House Hearings Impeachment Hearing With Fiona Hill ...  CSPAN  November 21, 2019 8:00pm-10:02pm EST

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make up your own mind. 979.ted by cable in 1 c-span, your unfiltered view of government. ♪ today, the house intelligence committee held its seventh open hearing into presidential. lawmakers heard testimony from fiona hill, a former national security council senior director, and david holmes, an diplomat intop u.s. ukraine. we will show you that hearing in its entirety.
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[chatter] >> the meeting will come to order. good morning, everyone. this is the seventh in a series of public hearings as part
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of the impeachment inquiry. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recessed at any time. there is a quorum present. we will proceed in the same fashion as our other hearings. i will make an opening statement, then ranking member newness will make a statement. we will turn to our members, then questions. we ask for the audience's respect in today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. the chairman will take the necessary steps to make sure the committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 660. i recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump. yesterday morning, the committee heard from ambassador gordon sondland, the ambassador to the european union, the de facto leader of the three amigos, who
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had access to president trump and pressed ukrainian president zelensky. the first investigation was of a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine, and not russia, was responsible for interfering in our 2016 election. the second allegation was into the trunk rival -- rival trump apparently feared most, joe biden. been helpedtion had by russian president vladimir putin. undermining military and diplomatic support for a key ally and sent back he was anticorruption efforts in ukraine. in conditioning a meeting with president zelensky and securing an investigation of his rival, trump put his personal interests
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above the united states. as ambassador sunland -- ambassador david holmes -- ambassador sondland told david holmes, trump did not give an expletive about ukraine. he cares about stuff that benefits him, like the ukraine investigation giuliani was pushing. david holmes is with us today, currently serving as political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kiev. also with us is dr. fiona hill, whose job as a national security senior director encompassed the coordination of u.s. policy toward ukraine. dr. hill left the nfc after two years in a position. both provide a unique perspective on issues relating to ukraine. andhill from washington dc, mr. holmes from on the ground in kiev. in early 2019, dr. hill became concerned about rudy giuliani,
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the president's personal lawyer, asserting quite frequently on television that he had been given some authority over matters related ukraine. hill was not alone in her concerns. was also john bolton, paying attention, as were other state department officials, including holmes at the u.s. embassy in kiev. bolton called giuliani a hand grenade that would blow everybody up and was powerless fromevent the former mayor carrying out marie yovanovitch's firing. holmes was stunned by the consistency on the tax on yovanovitch and the scope of attacks against her. yovanovitch's dismissal as a result of giuliani's smear campaign was one of a series of
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things that unsettled dr. hill. another was the role of gordon sondland, who emerged as a key player in ukraine policy in may, when he was named as part of the u.s. delegation to president zelensky's inauguration. lt. col. alexander vindman also attended the inauguration. took the recalls, opportunity to advise the leader to stay out of u.s. domestic politics. another concern that arose for dr. hill was her discovery of the potential nfc factional on ukraine. an nfc staff member who did not work on ukraine, and for her, they have been providing ukraine related information to president trump that dr. hill was not made aware of. according to holmes following the zelensky inauguration, sondland and perry took an unconventional role in forming
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our priorities for the zelensky administration and personally reaching out to his senior team. sondland's newfound assertiveness also concerned dr. hill, who enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the ambassador. in june 2019, hill had a blowup with sondland when he told her he was in charge of ukraine policy. who has put you in charge of it? he said, the president. on july 10, dr. hill was part of a meeting at the white house with u.s. and ukrainian officials, including bolton, sondland, and energy secretary perry. the meeting was intended, among other things, to give the ukrainians an opportunity to convey they were and just to set up first meeting -- were anxious to set up a first meeting. sondland informed the group that , according to white house chief of staff mick mulvaney, meetings
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solved by the ukrainians with president trump would happen only if ukraine undertook certain investigations. hearing this, bolton abruptly ended the meeting. undeterred, sondland brought the nfc director for ukraine, lieutenant colonel alexander mcminn downstairs -- lt. col. alexander jim demint downstairs. -- vindman downstairs. sondland was more explicit. ukraine's needed to conduct investigations if they were to get a meeting at all. bolton reported this to nfc official john eisenberg, you tell eisenberg i am not part of whatever drug deal's homeland and mulvaney -- deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up. col.ill did so, as did lt. vindman. on july 18, the day before dr. hill left her post at nfc, holmes participated in a secure
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interagency videoconference on ukraine. towards the end of the meeting, a representative from the office of management and budget announced aid for ukraine was being held up. the order had come from the by mickt and conveyed mulvaney without explanation. holmes was shocked. he thought the suspension of aid was significant, undermining what he stood to be long-standing u.s. national security goals in ukraine. one week later on july 25, president trump spoke with president zelensky by phone. when president zelensky product u.s. military support and noted ukraine would like to buy more antitank missiles from the united states, trump responded by saying i would like you to do us a favor, though. trump requested zelensky
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investigate the discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. trump asked zelensky to look into the bidens. neither request had been enclosed in the official talking points by official nfc staff, but both were in donald trump's personal interests. president knew about both in advance, in part because of efforts by ambassador volker to make him aware of presidential's demand. in kiev, holmes served as a notetaker 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 "three times raised sensitive issues that he would
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have to follow-up on when they met in person." although he did not realize it at the time, holmes came to understand that the sensitive issues were the investigations that president trump demanded on the july 25,. following the meeting with zelensky, holmes accompanied sondland to a meeting with the ukrainian president's top advisers. holmes was not allowed into the meeting and waited for 30 minutes while sondland and the ukrainian met alone without any notetakers. after the meeting, state department staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. at some point during the meal, sondland called 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 clear the president's voice clearly. holmes recalled the president's
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voice was loud and recognizable, and ambassador sondland held the phone away from his ear, presumably because of the loud volume. sondland said he was calling from kia. he told the president that president zelensky loves your ass. holmes heard president trump ask, so he will do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied, he is going to do it, adding 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 president trump does not give a expletive about ukraine. the president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president, like the biden investigation that mr. giuliani was pushing. a month later, national security
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advisor bolton traveled to kenya. -- to kiev. taylorheard ambassador express his frustration. bolton made clear there was nothing he could do about it. bolton further stated 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 impressed president trump. trump canceled his trip to warsaw, but sondland and others continued to press for a public announcement of the opening of an investigation by zelensky. on september 8, taylor told holmes "now they are insisting zelensky commit to the investigation in interview with cnn." holmes was surprised the requirement was so specific and concrete, since it amounted to nothing less than a "demand president zelensky personally commit to a specific investigation of president
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trump's political rival on a cable news channel." on september 9, this committee, along with the foreign affairs and oversight committees, launched our investigation. president trump released the hold on 82 days later. as cnn has revealed, the ukrainians canceled the cnn interview shortly thereafter. two weeks later, on september 25, the transcript of the july 25 call was released by the white house and details of the president's scheme came into view. in the coming days, covers will determine what response is appropriate. if president of used his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he thought to -- sought to brian an -- bybe an ally and did so withholding millions of dollars of needed military aid, it will be for us to decide whether
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those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency. i now recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks he would like to make. >> throughout these bizarre hearings, the democrats have struggled to make the case 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 the extraction of justice, -- obstruction of justice, then back to quid pro quo. it is clear why the democrats have been forced onto this carousel 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 did not even know aid to ukraine had been paused at the time of the
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call, repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with the conversation. the aid was resumed without ukrainians taking the actions they were supposedly the infowars into doing. -- supposedly being coerced into doing. aid under president trump has been much more robust than it was under president obama thanks to the provision of javelin antitank weapons. as numerous witnesses have testified, temporary homes on foreign aid occur frequently for many different reasons, so how do we have an impeachable offense when there is no actual misdeed and no one claiming to be a victim? the democrats have tried to solve this dilemma with a simple slogan -- he got caught. presidential, we are to believe, was just about to do something wrong, and getting caught was the only reason he backed down
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from whatever nefarious thought crime the democrats are accusing him of almost committing. thege americans to consider credibility of the democrats on this committee, who are hurling these charges for the last three years. that is not president trump who got caught, it is the democrats who got caught. claimingcaught falsely they had more than circumstantial evidence that trump colluded with russians to hack the 2016 election. orchestratingt this entire farce the whistleblower, and lying about their secret meetings with him. caught defending the false allegations of the dossier
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for by -- paid for by them. they got caught breaking the promise that impeachment would only go forward with bipartisan support because of how damaging it is to the american people. shamgot caught running a 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 alexander to the book, a democratic national committee operative who colluded with ukrainian officials to smear the jump campaign by improperly redacting her name from
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deposition transcripts and refusing to let americans hear her testimony as a witness in these proceedings. legacy the democrat's in recent years. they got caught. meanwhile, their supposed star witness testified he was guessing that president trump was tying ukrainian 82 investigations, despite no one aid tog ai -- investigations. unless the democrats once again scramble their kangaroo court rules, today's hearing marks the merciful end of the spectacle in the impeachment committee, formally known as the intelligence committee. theher the democrats reap political benefit they want from
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this impeachment remains to be seen, but the damage they have done to this country will be long-lasting. with this attempt to overthrow the president, they have pitted americans against one another and poisoned the mind of the next who actually -- mind of fanatics who actually believe the accusations they have leveled against the president since the date the american people elected him. i sincerely hope the democrats end this affair as quickly as possible so our nation can heal the many wounds it has inflicted on us. the people government and their belief that their vote counts for something has been shaken. from the russia hoax to this shoddy ukrainian sequel, the democrats got caught. let's hope they finally learn a lesson, give the conspiracy
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theories a rest, and focus on governing for a change. in addition, mr. chairman, pursuant to house rule 11, clause 2j1, republican members transmit our request to a minority day of hearings. you have blocked key witnesses from testifying in this person impeachment inquiry. this rule was not displaced by 1a,s 660, and under clause it applies to the democrat's impeachment inquiry. we look forward to the chair promptly scheduling an agreed-upon time for nonminority day of hearings -- for the minority day of hearings so we can hear from the witnesses you blocked from testifying. i'd like to take a quick moment made insertion ms. hill a statement she made to this committee, in which she claimed
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some committee members deny that russia meddled in the 2016 election. my openingin statement on wednesday, that in march 2018, intelligence committee republicans published the results of a year-long investigation into russian meddling. report analyzed 2016 russian meddling campaign, the u.s. government reaction to it, russian campaigns in other countries, and provided specific recommendations to improve american election security. i would ask my staff to families reports to our two witnesses today, just so they can have a recollection of their memory.
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now,erica may or may not democrats refuse to sign on to the republican report. decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. entirelyto say, it is possible for two separate nations to engage in meddling at the same time. republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries, regardless of which campaign is the target. i like to submit for the record a copy of our report, titled "report on russian active measures." i yield back. schiff: today we are joined by dr. fiona hill and david holmes. fiona hill is a former deputy assistant to the president and senior director for europe and russia on the national security council.
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before returning to government, she was a senior fellow at the brookings institution, where she directed the center on united states and europe. she previously worked on the national intelligence council and john f. kennedy school of government. david holmes is the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kiev, where he serves as the senior political adviser to ambassador taylor, who testified earlier. he is a career foreign service officer. he has previously served in moscow, new delhi, bogota. he served on the staff of the national security council, as has -- as special assistant to the u.s. secretary of state. two final points before our witnesses are sworn. witnessed accusations -- depositions are unclassified in nature. any information that may touch unclassified information will be
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addressed separately. congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal, or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official testified before congress, including you or any of your colleagues. if you would please rise, i will begin by swearing in. do you swear or affirm 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 the witnesses entered in the affirmative. -- answered in the affirmative. you may be seated. the microsomes -- microphones are sensitive. your written statements will be made for the record. mr. holmes, you are recognized for your opening statement. dr. hill, you will be immediately recognized thereafter for your opening statement. : good morning, mr.
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chairman, members of the committee. my name is david holmes. i and a career foreign service officer the department of state. since august 2017, i have been a political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kiev. while it is an honor to appear before you, i want to make clear i did not seek this opportunity to testify today. since you determined i may have something of value to these proceedings and issued a subpoena, it is my obligation to tell you what i know. as secretary pompeo stated, i hope everyone does so truthfully and accurately. when they do, the oversight role will have been performed. i think america will see what took place here. that is my only goal, to testify truthfully to enable you to perform that role. i put together this statement to lay out as best i can my recollection of events relevant to this matter.
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i spent my entire professional career as a foreign service officer. like many of the dedicated public servants who have testified in these proceedings, my entire career has been in the service of my country. in a graduate of college claremont, california. i joined the foreign service in politicalg a merit-based process under the george w. bush administration. i proudly served administrations of both parties and worked for their appointeess. prior to my current post in kiev, i served in the political and economic sections at the u.s. embassy in moscow, russia. in washington, i served on national security staff and special assistant to the under secretary of state. my prior overseas assignments
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include new delhi, bogota, colombia, and kosovo. as the political counsel in kiev, i cover ukraine's internal politics, foreign relations, and security policies. i serve as the political advisor to the ambassador. the job of ann 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 policy development and implementation. i am a senior member of the embassy's country team and continually involved in addressing issues as they arrive. i am called upon to take notes in meetings involving ambassador s or visiting u.s. officials with ukrainian counterparts. i have been present in any of the meetings with president zelensky's administration, some
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of which may be germane to this inquiry. while i am a political counselor at the embassy, it is important to note i am not a political employee or engage in u.s. politics in any way. it is not my job to advise on u.s. politics. i am an apolitical foreign policy professional. my job is to focus on the politics of the country in which i serve, that we can better understand the local landscape and better advance u.s. national interests. during the period we will cover today, my colleagues followed direct guidance by ambassador yovanovitch and ambassador taylor to do our jobs and to stay clear of washington politics. i arrived in kiev to take up my assignment in august, 2017, a year after ambassador yovanovitch received her appointment. i was ambassador yovanovitch's
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chief policy advisor and developed a deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency, and professionalism. during this time, we worked together closely, speaking multiple times per day. i accompanied ambassador yovanovitch to meetings with ukrainian counterparts. our work in ukraine focused on security, and economic growth and reform, and anticorruption 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, responsible economic policies that deliver european standards of growth and opportunity, and effective and impartial rule of law institutions that for justice in cases of high-level official corruption. our efforts on his third policy
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this thirdmerit -- policy priority merit special attention. we fought for the passage of a law to try anticorruption cases. please efforts strained ambassador yovanovitch's relationship with former president poroshenko, including an official who resisted empowering truly independent anticorruption institutions that would ensure that no ukrainians were above the law. resistance, ambassador pushed more anticorruption policies to ukraine. march 2019, the situation at the embassy and ukraine changed dramatically, specifically the three priorities of security, .conomy, and justice
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by rudycal agenda giuliani and a cadre of officials. that change begin with the emergence of press reports and machinations by then-prosecutor general to discredit her. in mid-march 2019, an embassy colleagues learned from a ukrainian contact of a complaint ambassador yovanovitch "destroyed him" until he followed through with his reform commitments and cease using his position for personal gain. in retaliation, he made a series of unsupported allegations against ambassador yovanovitch, mostly suggesting ambassador yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to events the political interests of the democratic party. among the allegations were that the embassy ordered the investigation of a former ukrainian official, solely because the former official was the main ukrainian contract of
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the republican party. and that the embassy pressured his predecessor to close the case against a different former ukrainian official so we got -- solely because of a connection between burisma and vice president biden's son. claimed there was a tape of the ukrainian official saying he was trying to help hillary clinton win the 2016 election. he publicly claimed ambassador yovanovitch given him a do not prosecute list containing the of allies that he later retracted. mr. lutsenko said ambassador yovanovitch would face serious problems in the united states. poll showeds the ukrainian
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public did not believe mr. lutsenko's allegations. president poroshenko issued a state of support in favor of ambassador yovanovitch. mr. giuliani and others made public statements critical of ambassador yovanovitch, questioning her integrity and calling for her removal from office. mr. giuliani was making frequent public statements pushing for ukraine to investigate the 2016 election and issues related to and the theand -- bidens. the new york times reported mr. giuliani "discussed the burisma investigation and its intersection with the bidens." on may 9, the new york times reported mr. giuliani said he planned to travel to ukraine to pursue investigations into the 2016 election interference and involvement of former vice president biden's son. over the next few months, mr.
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giuliani issued a series of why biden should not be investigated, criticizing president zelensky for being silent, and complaining about the new york times attacking him for "exposing the biden family of making millions from ukrainian criminals." around this time, the ukrainian president joe election was approaching. president zelensky was surging in the polls, ahead of lutsenko 's ally poroshenko. i was present for ambassador yovanovitch's final meeting with candidate zelensky. as in her two prior meetings i also attended, they had a cordial, pleasant conversation and signaled mutual desire to work together. however, negative narratives had
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gained currency in segments of the u.s. press. learnedor yovanovitch she would be recalled early. the barrage of allegations directed at ambassador yovanovitch is unlike what i have seen in my professional career. following president-elect zelensky's victory, our attention in the embassy became getting to know the zelensky administration and preparations for an inauguration the same day ambassador yovanovitch departed the post prominently. it quickly became clear the white house was not prepared to show the level of support for the zelensky demonstration we had for -- shortly thereafter, we learned vice president pence no longer plant to lead the residential
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delegation. the white house whittled down a proposed list for the presiden five.elegation to just volker,y perry, kurt representing the state department, national security counselor alex bregman -- vindmand, joseph pennington, representing the embassy, and ambassador to the european union, gordon sondland. 's mandate did not cover individual member states, he made clear he had direct and frequent access to president trump and chief of staff mick mulvaney and portrayed himself as the conduit for this group. secretary perry, ambassador sondland and ambassador volker styled themselves the three amigos and coordinated policy
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engagement with the zelensky administration. at the same time, i became aware that mr. giuliani was taking a direct role in ukrainian diplomacy. on april 25, mr. zelensky's childhood friend and campaign chair was ultimately appointed to that of security services in ukraine indicated to me privately he had been contacted by "someone named giuliani who said he was an advisor to the vice president." i reported his message to the deputy secretary of state, george kent. it became apparent mr. giuliani was having influence on the foreign-policy agenda executed on the ground in ukraine. during a preliminary meeting of the inaugural delegation, someone wondered aloud why mr. giuliani was so active in the media with respect to ukraine. ambassador sondland stated, "every time rudy gets involved,
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he f's everything up. the inauguration" took place may 20. during the meeting, secretary perry passed president zelensky trusts.f people he secretary perry says he can pursue energy reform, the subsequent meetings between secretary perry. by personnel were excluded these meetings by secretary perry's staff. on may 23, ambassador sondland and senator ron johnson, who also attended the inauguration, returned to the united states and president trump. on may 29, president trump signed a congratulatory letter to president zelensky, asking him to visit the white house at an unspecified date.
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to understand a white house visit was critical to president zelensky. president zelensky needed to show u.s. support at the highest levels in order to demonstrate to president clinton he -- putin he had u.s. backing. beganent zelensky's team visit.g a date to set a requested a call with president trump as soon as possible. we at the embassy also believe a meeting was critical to success of president zelensky's administration, and we worked hard to get it arranged. when president zelensky's team did not receive a confirmed date for a white house visit, they made alternative plans for president zelensky's trip to the
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overseas to brussels to attend an independence day event. ambassador sondland hosted a dinner in president zelensky's honor, which included president zelensky, jared kushner, secretary pompeo's counselor, comedian jay leno, among others. ambassador bill taylor arrived in kiev on june 17. for the next month, the focus of our activities was to coordinate a white house visit. to that end, we were working with the ukrainian to deliver things we thought president trump would care about, such as commercial deals that would benefit the united states that would convince president trump to agree to a meeting with president zelensky. it was unanimous in recognizing the supporting the meeting. ambassador taylor reported
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secretary pompeo told him to his arrival, "we need to work on turning the president around in ukraine." ambassador voelker told us the next five years could hang on what could be a compost -- be published in the next three months. within a week or two, it became apparent the commercial deals and anticorruption efforts by which we were making progress in termsmaking a dent of persuading the white house. on june 27, ambassador sondland told ambassador taylor that president zelensky needed to make clear that zelensky was not standing in the way of investigations. i understood that this meant the investigations mr.
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giuliani had been speaking about. while ambassador taylor did not brief me on every detail of his communications, he did tell me that on a june 28 call with president zelensky, ambassador taylor and the three amigos, it was made clear some action on the burisma biden investigation was a precondition for an oval office visit. on june 28, while president trump was not moving forward on a meeting with zelensky, he met with russian president putin at the g20 summit in osaka, japan, signaling further lack of support to ukraine. we concerned that even if a meeting between presidents trump and zelensky could occur, it would not go well. i started asking embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting altogether. avisit that failed to send clear and strong signal of
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support likely would be worse for president zelensky than no visit at all. $1.5ess has appropriated billion in security assistance for ukraine since 2014. this assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to ukraine in i defensive war with russiast. -- in its defensive war with russia. it has become the most suitable battle hardened land force in europe. i have read the honor of visiting the training facility in western ukraine with members of this very committee. we witnessed firsthand u.s. national guard troops conducting training for ukrainian soldiers. since 2014, national guard units from california, oklahoma, new wisconsinessee, and have trained with ukrainian counterparts.
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given the history of u.s. security assistance to ukraine and the bipartisan recognition of its importance, i was shocked when, on july 18, a office of budget management staff member announced a hold on security ukraine assistance. it came at the end of a two-hour secure conference call, which i participated from the embassy conference room. the official said the order had come from the president and conveyed by mr. mulvaney with no further explanation. this began a week of various agencies to decide the rationale for the freeze, to conduct a review of the assistance, and to reaffirm the unanimous view of the ukraine policy committee of its importance. nfc counterparts confirmed there was no change in ukrainian policy, but could not confirm how to lift it. on july 25, president trump made
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a congratulatory phone call to president zelensky after his party won a commanding majority in the election. the embassy received no readout of the call and was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript was released september 25. upon reading the transcript, i was deeply disappointed to see the president raised none of what i understood to be our interagency agreed-upon andign-policy priorities instead referred to burisma and the 2016 election. july 26, 2019, i attended meetings at the residential administration building in kiev with ambassador sondland and took notes. our first meeting with zelensky 's chief of staff was brief, as he was summoned for a
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subsequent, broader meeting. he expressed president trump expressed interest in zelensky's personal decisions related to the prosecutor general's office. the delegation met with president zelensky. during the meeting, president zelensky stated during the july 25 call, president trump "three times raised sensitive issues." that, 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 25 call, i do not know what does sensitive issues were. after the meeting with president zelensky, ambassador volker and taylor left the meeting for a trip to the front lines. ambassador sondland stayed behind to have a meeting with a top aide to president zelensky. as i left the meeting, i was told to join the meeting with ambassador sondland and yermak
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to take notes. i was a flight of stairs behind ambassador sondland when he met mr. yermak. ambassador sondland had already gone into the meeting. i explained i was supposed to join the meeting as the embassy's representative. she told me ambassador sondland and mr. yermak the meeting be one on one with no notetaker. i waited until the meeting ended, along with a number of ambassador sondland's staff and kiev's staff. when the meeting ended, the staffers and i accompanied ambassador sondland. 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 on his meeting and other issues. ambassador sondland said i should join. the four of us sat on an outside
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terrace. two staffers sat off to our sides. at first the lunch was social. ambassador sondland selected a bottle of wine and we discussed marketing strategies for his hotel business. during the lunch, ambassador sondland said he will call president trump to give him an update. ambassador sondland placed a call on his mobile phone and i heard him announce several times, gordon sondland holding for the president. it appears he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards. i heard ambassador sondland's demeanor change. he had been connected to president trump. while ambassador sondland's phone was not on speaker, i could hear the president's voice through the ear pierced -- ea rpiece. ambassador sondland held the phone away from his ear, presumably the goals of the loud volume. i heard ambassador sondland great the president and
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explained he was calling from kiev. yes,sador sondland replied he was in ukraine, and went on to state "president zelensky loves your ass." i heard president trump asked, so he will do the investigation? m sondland replied he will do it, adding president zelensky will do anything you ask him to do. i have a clear recollection these statements were made. i believe my colleagues sitting at the table also knew ambassador sondland was speaking with the president. the conversation shifted to ambassador sondland's efforts 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 the rapper was "kind of f'ed and guilty."
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he said he should wait until sentencing and added the president should let him get sentenced to play the racism card and give him a tickertape when he comes home. the ambassador further told the president sweden "should have released him on your work, but you can tell the kardashians you tried." after the call ended, ambassador sondland remarked the president was in a bad mood. i took the opportunity to ask ambassador sondland for his candid impression of his views on ukraine. i asked ambassador sondland if it was true that the president did not give an expletive about ukraine. ambassador sondland agreed the president did not give an expletive about ukraine. i asked, why not? ambassador sondland stated the president only cares about big stuff. i noted there was big stuff going on in ukraine, like a war with russia. ambassador sondland mentioned
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big stuff that benefits the president, like the biden investigation mr. giuliani was pushing. the conversation moved to other topics. upon returning to the embassy, i immediately briefed my supervisor about ambassador sondland's call with president trump and my subsequent observation -- authorization with ambassador sondland. i also met an embassy official in sweden regarding the rapper involved on the call. july 26 was my last day in the office ahead of a planned vacation. referred to the call with ambassador sondland in meetings and conversations with the issue of the president's interest in ukraine was relevant.
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we would have to find a way to explain ukraine's importance to president trump in ways he found compelling. we continued to identify ways to frame the importance of ukraine in ways that would appeal to the president to determine how to lift a hold on security assistance. day,nian independence august 24, presented another opportunity to show support through ukraine. secretary pompeo considered attending. national security advisor bolton attended and secretary mattis attended in 2017. no one senior to ambassador volker attended. on august 27, ambassador bolton visited ukraine and brought welcome news that president trump agreed to meet president zelensky in warsaw.
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zelensky on september 1st in warsaw. ambassador bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the warsaw meeting, where it would hang on whether president zelensky was able to, quote, favorably impress president trump. i took notes and ambassador bolton's meetings that day with president zelensky and his chief of staff. ambassador bolton told the chief of staff that the meeting would be crucial to cementing their relationship. however, president trump ultimately pulled out of the warsaw trip and 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 national security director morrison his frustration, making clear there was nothing he could do about it. he recommended that mr.
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lieutena lutsenko's replacement. ambassador bolton expressed frustration about ambassador sondland's expansive interpretation about his mandate. after president trump canceled his visit to warsaw, we finned to try to appeal to the president and 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 of the security assistance. and ambassador taylor's direction, i drafted and transmated the cable on ambassador taylor's behalf on august 29th, which further attempted to explain the importance of ukraine and the security assistance to u.s. national security. by this point, however, my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the ukrainians, who had not yet agreed to the burisma biden investigation, or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.
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on september 5th, i took notes at senator johnson and senator chris murphy's meetings where president zelensky asked about the security assistance. although both senators stressed strong bipartisan congressional support for ukraine, senator johnson cautioned president zelensky that president trump has a negative view of ukraine and that president zelensky would have a difficult time overcoming it. senator johnson further explained that 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 president trump meet president zelensky and show support for ukraine. on september 8th, ambassador taylor told me, quote, now they're insisting zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with cnn, which i took to refer to the three amigos. i was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete, while we had advised our ukrainian counterparts to voice a commitment to following the
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rule of law and generally investigating 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. on september 11th, the hold was finally lifted, after significant press coverage and bipartisan congressional expressions of 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 the request to cnn interview. we had several indications that the interview would occur. first, the conference in kyiv was held from september 12th to 14th and fareed zakaria was one of the monitors. second, en september 13th, a colleague received a phone call, from another colleague, who worked for ambassador sondland, my colleague texted me regarding that call that, quote, sondland and zelensky interview -- sondland said the zelensky
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interview is supposed to be today or monday, and they plan to announce an certain investigation on hold would progress. sondland's aid did not know if this was decided or if he was advocating for it. apaurparently he he's been discussing this with yermak. on 13th, ambassador taylor and i ran into mr. yermak. ambassador taylor stressed the importance of staying out of u.s. politics and said he hoped no interview was planned. mr. yermak did not answer, but shrugged in resignation as if to indicate that he had no choice. in short, everybody thought there was going to be an interview and that 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 to mr. morrison to brief president trump 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. transcript of the july 25th call
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was released the same day. as of today i still not seen a readout of the 25th meeting. as the impeachment inquiry has progressed, i have followed press reports and reviewed the statements of ambassadors taylor and yovanovitch. based on my experiences in ukraine, my election 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 weeks i read press reports expressing for 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 that the only evidence being illicited at hearings was hearsay. i came to realize that i had firsthand knowledge regarding certain events on july 26th that had not otherwise been reported. and that those events
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potentially bore on the question of whether the president did in fact have knowledge that those senior officials were using levers of diplomatic power to influence the new ukrainian president to announce the opening of a criminal investigation against president trump's political opponent. it is at that point that i made the observation to ambassador taylor that the incident i had witnessed on july 26th had acquired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony last week and is what led to the subpoena for me appear here today. in conclusion, i'd like to take a moment to turn back to ukraine. today, this very day, marks exactly six years since throngs of pro western ukrainians spontaneously gathered on kyiv's independence square to launch the revolution of dignity. while the protests began in opposition to a turn towards russia and away from the west, they expanded over three months
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to reject the entire corrupt repressive system that had been sustained by russian influence in the country. those events were followed by russia's occupation and ensuing war that to date has caused almost 14,000 lives. despite the russian aggression over the past five years, ukrainians built a shattered economy, adhered to a peace process and moved closer to the west, toward our way of life. earlier this year, large majorities of ukrainians again chose a fresh start by voting for a political newcomer as president. replacing 80% of the parliament, and endorsing a platform consistent with our democratic values, our reform priorities and our strategic interests. this year's revolution at the
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ballot box underscores that despite its imperfections, ukraine is a genuine and vibrant democracy and an example to other post soviet countries and 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 leadership role in the world. ukrainians want to hear a clear and unambiguous reaffirmation that our long-standing bipartisan policy of strong support for ukraine remains unchanged, and that we fully back it at the highest levels. now is not the time to re-create from our relationship with ukraine. but rather to double down on it. as we sit here, 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
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ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured by russian led forces in eastern ukraine despite a declared cease-fire. i learned overnight that seven 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 cherish their bipartisan american support and sustained their euro atlantic 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 dignified people who are standing up against russian authoritarianism and aggression. they deserve better.
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we're now at a point in ukraine and it is critical to our national security that we stand in strong support of our ukrainian partners. ukrainians and freedom-loving people everywhere are watching the example we set here of democracy and the rule of law. thank you. >> thank you, mr. holmes. dr. hill. >> thank you, mr. chairman. do i need to adjust the microphone? >> is the microphone on? >> i believe it is now. is that -- >> 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'm appearing today as a fact witness. as i did during my deposition on october 14th. to answer your questions about what i saw, what i did, what i knew, and what i know with
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regard to the subject of your inquiry. i believe that those who have information that the congress deems relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it. i take great pride in the fact that i'm a nonpartisan foreign policy expert who served under three republican and democratic presidents. i have no interest in advancing outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction except toward the truth. i will not provide a long statement because i believe 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'd like to communicate two things. first, i'd like to show a little bit who i am, i'm an american by choice, and i've become a citizen in 2002. i was born in northeast of england and the same region that
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george washington's ancestors came from. 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 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 soldier, sailers and airmen. the men in my father's family were coal miners whose family always struggled with poverty. when my father was 14, he joined his father, brothers, brother, uncles and cousins in the coal mine to help put food on the table. on 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 west virginia and pennsylvania. but his mother, my grandfather, was crippled from hard labor and my father couldn't leave. so he stayed in northern england until he died in 2012. my mother still lives in my
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hometown today. while his dream of emigrating to america was thwarted, my father loved america, its culture, history, its role as a beacon of hope for the world. he always wanted someone in the family to make it to the united states. i began my university studies in 1984 when i just learned i went to the same university as my colleague here, mr. holmes. just thought i would add that. and in 1987, i won a place on an academic exchange to the soviet union. i was there for the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty and when president ronald reagan met mikail 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 and the very next year thanks to his advice i arrived in america to start my advanced studies at harvard. years later, i can say with confidence that this country offered me opportunities i never would have had in england. i grew up poor, with a very distinctive working class
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accent. in england, in the 1980s and 1990s this would have impeded my professional advancement. this background never set me back in america. for best part of three decades i've built a career as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional focuses on europe and irasia and the former soviet union. i served our country under three presidents and my most recent capacity under president trump as well as in my former position under national intelligence officer for russia and irasia and presidents george w. bush and barack obama. and that role i was the intelligence community senior expert on russia and the former soviet republics including ukraine. it was because of my background and experience that i was asked to join the national security council in 2017. at the nsc, russia was part of my portfolio, but i was also responsible for coordinating u.s. policy for all of western europe, all of eastern europe, including ukraine, and o and thn
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union. i was hired by general michael flynn, katie mcfarland and general keith kellogg but i started working april 2017 when general mcmaster was the national security adviser. i and they thought i could help them with president trump's stated goal of improving relations with russia, while still implementing policies designed 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 have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that russia and its security services did not conduct campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason ukraine did. this is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the russian security services themselves. the unfortunate truth is that russia was the foreign power
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that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. this is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports. it is beyond dispute. even if some of the underlying details must remain classified. the impact of the successful 2016 russian campaign remains evident today. our nation is being torn apart, truth is questioned, our highly professional expert career foreign service is being undermined. u.s. support for ukraine, which continues to face aggression is being politicized. 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 interests. president putin and the russian security services aim to counter u.s. foreign in ukraine where moscow wishes to reassert political dominance. i say this as a realist. i do not think long-term conflict with russia is
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desirable or inevitable. i continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with moscow even as we counter their efforts to harm us. right now russia security service under proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. we're running out of time to stop them. and the course of this investigation, i ask that you please not promote falsehoods that clearly advance russian interests. as republicans and democrats agree toward decades, ukraine is a valued partner of the united states and plays an important role in our national security. as i told the committee last month, i refuse to be port of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the ukrainian government is an adversary and ukraine, not russia, attacked us in 2016. these fictions are harmful even if for purely domestic political purposes. president putin acts look a super pac. they deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political
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opposition research and false narratives. when we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other to degrade our institutions and destroy the american people and 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 interest, that's more than worthy of your attention. but we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against a foreign powers who truly wishes 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 provided to the committee members, 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman or majority councilfuled by 45 minutes for
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the ranking member or minority council. following that, unless i specify additional equal time for questioning we'll proceed under the five minute rule. i recognize myself for 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. few immigrant stories we heard just in the course of these hearingings are amo ins are amo powerful i heard. you and dr. -- 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
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be forgiven if they have the same impression, listening to some of the statements of my colleagues during this hearing that russia didn't intervene in our election, it was all the ukrainians. there has been an effort to take a tweet here and op-ed there and 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 a hacking and dumping operation. indeed, the report my colleagues gave you that they produced during the investigation calls into question the accuracy of intelligence committee's finding that russia intervened to help one side, to help donald trump at the expense of hillary clinton. no one in intelligence community questions that finding. nor does the fbi, nor does the senate, bipartisan, intelligence committee report, the minority committee report of this committee, the house republican report is an outlier. but let me ask you, dr. hill,
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about your concern with that russian narrative that wasn't the russians that engaged in interfering in the election in 2016, and, of course, this was given a boost when president trump helsinki and the president questioned his own intelligence agencies, but why are the russians pushing that narrative? >> the russians interests to delegitimize our entire presidency. one yissue i do want to raise ad i think this would resonate with our colleagues on the committee from the republican party is that the goal of the russians was to put whoever became the president by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale under a cloud. so if 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.
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and i think what we're seeing here as a result of all of these narratives as this is exactly what the russian government was hoping for. misinformation, doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate, be it president trump or potentially a president clinton, but they would pit one side of our electorate against the other, they would pit one party against the other. and that's why i wanted to make such a strong point at the very beginning. because there was certainly individuals and many other countries who had harsh words for both of the -- who had harsh words for many other candidates during the primaries, a lot of people who were running for president on the republican side. there were many people trying themselves to game the outcome as you know in the united kingdom, the bookies take bets, you can go to ladbrokes or william hill and lay bets on who you think will be the candidate. the russian government were
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trying to lay their own bets. they want to give a spread, make sure that whoever they had bet on whoever they tried to tip the scales would also experience some discomfort that they would be beholden to them in some way, that they would create just the kind of chaos we have seen in our politics. so i just want to, again, emphasize 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 is an additional benefit, i think you're right, the russians are equal opportunity meddlers. they will not only help one side, but they will also just seek to sew discord in the united states. but there is 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 of driving a wedge between the u.s. and ukraine. isn't that true? >> that's the case.
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and in fact 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 have perpetrated. we saw that recently with the united kingdom. and the russian secret services attack on a former spy, whose daughter in england where you may recall that the russians actually accused the british government of perpetrating this themselves. so this falls into a long pattern of deflection and of the russian government trying to pin the blame on someone else. and as my colleague, mr. holmes here, laid out, the russians have a particular vested interest in putting ukraine and ukrainians and ukrainian leaders in a bad light. all of the yeissues we started discuss today and you on the committee have been deeply involved in began with russia's illegal annexation of the peninsula of crimea from ukraine in 2014. and in response in 2015, and all of the different acts of aggression that russia has engaged in since starting a war
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in the don bass, shooting down russian operatives and the plane over the don bass. it suits the russian government very much if we are also looking at ukraine to somehow perpetrate acts against us. >> mr. holmes, i want to ask you a quick couple of questions, and i think as often is the case for people, you know, i was at your deposition, read your opening testimony. as you learn more facts you 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 10 of your opening statement, while we had advised our ukrainian counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law, and generally investigating credible corruption allegations this was a demand that president zelensky personally commit on a cable
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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. 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 our anti-corruption efforts when they see we're engaging in corruption ourselves? >> yes, sir. so our long-standing policy is to encourage them to establish and build rule of law institutions that are capable and independence and can pursue credible allegations. that's our policy, we have been doing that for quite some time with some success.
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so focusing on particular cases, including particular cases where there is an interest of the president, just not part of what we have done, it is hard to explain why we would do that. >> harkens back to the conversation, ambassador volker testified about when he urged ukraine not to investigate or port poroshenko and the replace from mr. yermak was, oh, look you want us to do with the bidens and the clintons. they're sophisticated enough actors to recognize when we're saying do as we say, not as we do, are they not? >> yes, sir. >> you 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 they were going to do it on cnn. and you said that ambassador
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taylor stressed the importance of staying out of u.s. politics and said he hopes no interview was planned. mr. yermak did not answer, but shrugged in resignation, as if to indicate they had no choice. in short, everyone thought there was going to be an interview and the ukrainians thought they had to do it. you're acknowledging, i think, mr. holmes, are you not, that ukraine felt pressured to undertake the 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 was still things they wanted that they weren't getting including meeting with the president in the oval office. whether the hold -- the security system hold continued or not, ukraine understood that's something the president wanted and wanted important things from the president. so 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
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summit meeting with president putin in the coming weeks to -- his first face to face meeting with him to try to advance the peace process. he needs our support. he needs president putin to understand that america supports zelensky at the highest levels. so this is -- this doesn't end with the lifting of the security assistance hold. ukraine still needs us and as i said still fighting this war to this very day. >> i would underscore as my colleague did so eloquently they got caught. that's the reason why the aid was 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, burisma, and the 2016 elections because they would benefit him politically and he used the leverage of that white house meeting and the security assistance to pressure president zelensky to do so.
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dr. 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, yes. >> 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. giulia giuliani. >> and did he hold himself out as having direct contact and knowledge of the president's priorities and interests? >> yes, sir. >> mr. holmes, i'm going 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 leadup to that conversation.
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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? >> 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 ameegos and his government about this set of issues. >> and after you read the call, what did you determine to be the sensitive issues that president
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zelensky referenced? >> the burisma biden investigation. >> after this meeting with president zelensky, you testified that ambassador sondland had a one on one meeting with andriy yermak and that you were prohibited from going into that meeting to take notes, is that right? >> yes. >> and yesterday ambassador sondland testified 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. and can you just describe where you were sitting at the restaurant? >> yes, sir. the restaurant has sort of glass doors that opened on to a terrace. and we were at the first tables on the terrace so immediately outside of the interior of the restaurant, the doors were all wide open. there were -- there was tables, table for four, i recall it
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being two tables for two pushed together, in any case, quite a wide table. and the table was set, sort of a table runner down the middle. i was directly across from ambassador sondland, and we're close enough that we could share an appetizer between us and the two staffers 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. >> now, you said that you were able to hear president trump's voice through the receiver. how were you able to hear if it was not on speakerphone? >> it was -- several things, it was quite loud when the president came on, quite distinctive, i believe ambassador sondland also said yesterday he often speaks very loudly over the phone and i certainly experienced that.
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he -- 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 couple exchanges. i don't know if he then turned the volume down, got used to it, if the presidesident moderated volume, i don't know, that's how i was able to hear. >> you were able to hear some of what president trump said to president zelensky, right? >> first portion of the conversation, yes. >> and what did you hear president trump say to -- sorry, not president zelensky, to ambassador sondland. >> what did i -- >> what did you hear the president say to ambassador sondland? >> he clarified whether he was in ukraine or not, and he said yes, ukraine, ambassador sondland said he loves your ass, will do anything you want. he'll do the investigation. >> so you heard president trump ask ambassador sondland, is he going to do the investigation? >> yes, sir.
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>> 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 ukraine portion of the conversation? >> yes. >> afterwards, you described a follow on conversation that you had with ambassador sondland, where you asked him, i think, generally, what did president trump think of ukraine, is that right? >> correct. >> what does 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? >> i asked him, well, what kind of big stuff? we have big stuff going on here, like 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
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referenced at that point? >> yes, sir. >> and how do you have such a specific and clear recollection of this conversation with the president and your conversation with ambassador sondland? >> yeah. so this was a very distinctive experience in my -- i've never seen anything like this in my foreign service kreercareer, so at lunch at 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 have seen 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
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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 talking about this issue of the biden investigation that i had been hearing about. >> so just to summarize, during the phone call that you overheard ambassador sondland had 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. >> and then after that call, you had a subsequent conversation with ambassador sondland where he in sum and substance told you the president doesn't care about ukraine, he only cares about big stuff related to himself and particularly the biden
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investigation that giuliani was pushing? >> correct. >> now, a day before your lunch with ambassador sondland, president trump did speak with president zelensky as you referred, and certainly the president made it clear to 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 its publication. dr. hill, you, during your time, two and a half 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. sometimes there would be multiple calls during the week. i was there for more than two years, so it is a phone 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 an executive privilege. in terms of the testimony --
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yes -- >> i think that as a threshold matter, i think there are issues of classification regarding head of state communications that we do want to be sensitive to in this forum among other issues. >> understood. i'm really just focussed on this one call declassified and published and just asking you whether you had ever heard any presidential phone call along those -- these lines? >> again, i would like to just focus on this testimony on this particular call and i will just say 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 the -- given the fact that i, myself, had actually opposed along with ambassador bolton for some period having a call unlessprep
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were confident that the issues that ukraine and the united states were most generally together interested in were going to be raised. 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. and the months leading up to that, from may onward, it became very clear that the white house meeting itself was being predicated on other issues, namely 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
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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 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 the -- only the few minutes we had why that would have been the issue he raised, so wasn't until i read the transcript of the call on the 25th i understood that the president had specifically mentioned prosecutor general lutsenko and carving out all his sort of underlings who had been, you know, collaborating with him on some of the corruption we saw there. >> and i believe you also said that president lutsenko was the source of some of mr. giuliani's public views and allegations, is that right? >> yes, sir. so about two weeks before the
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press kind of wave we saw targeting ambassador yovanovitch became public it was reported pr privately that mr. lutsenko was sending these messages and met with an american journalist to try to get the messages out. >> what was the u.s. embassy in ukraine's view of prosecutor general lutsenko. >> he was not a good partner. he 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. >> another way to describe that corrupt? >> yes. >> i want to look at a couple of excerpts from this july 25th call with you, the first one occurs after president zelensky
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thanked president trump for the united states support in the area of defense. president trump immediately then says i would like you to 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 the whole situation with ukraine. they say crowdstrike. i guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server, they say you cra say ukraine has it. dr. hill, is this a reference to this debunked conspiracy theory about ukraine interference in the 2016 election that you discussed at the -- in your opening statement as well as with chairman schiff? >> the reference to crowdstrike and the server, that's correct. >> and it is your understanding that there is no basis for these allegations, is that correct in. >> that's correct. >> now, isn't it also true that some of president trump's most senior advisers had informed him
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that this theory of ukraine interference in the 2016 election was false? >> one other exhibit that go backs 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 with president putin and prime minister orban of hungary where putin says 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, surgeon oligarchs certainly with the approval of the political leadership funded this candidate
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or female candidate to be more precise. mr. holmes, you spent three years as well in the u.s. embassy in russia. why would it be to vladimir putin's advantage to promote this theory of ya craukraine interference? >> to deflection 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 for ukraine from key partners and elsewhere. >> and 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
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services and many actors in russia have promoted. but i think this view has also got some traction, perhaps in parallel and separately here in the united states, and those two things have over time 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 prime minister orban who joined president putin at this press conference? >> that's correct. >> now that happened in between the time when president zelensky was elected on april 21st, and his inauguration on may 20th, is that right? >> correct. >> and in fact president -- isn't it true that president trump asked vice president pence to attend the inauguration after his phone call with president zelensky on april 21st?
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>> i'm not sure i can say that president trump had asked the vice president pence. i was not in any meeting in which that took place. i can say that i myself and many others at the nsc and the state department were quite keen and 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. and 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 the president called off vice president pence's trip for unknown reasons, but before the inauguration date had been scheduled. and dr. hill, were you aware also that during that period
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there was a lot of publicity and i think mr. holmes you referenced this in your opening statement as well, about rudy giuliani's interest in these investigations in ukraine? >> i was certainly aware, yes. >> and the -- around this time, dr. hill, you also, i believe, testified that ambassador bolton had expressed some views to you about mr. giuliani's interest in ukraine, do you recall what you said? >> yes. >> what he said to you, rather? >> i do recall, yes. it was part of a conversation about the things that mr. giuliani was saying very frequently in public. we saw them often, saw him often on television making these statements. and i had also brought to ambassador bolton's attention the attacks, the smear campaign against ambassador yovanovitch and expressed great regret about how this was unfolding.
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and in fact the shameful way in which ambassador yovanovitch was being smeared and attacked. and i asked if there was anything we could do about it. and ambassador bolton had looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much we could do about it, and he then, in the course of that discussion said that rudy giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up. >> did you understand what he meant by that? >> i did, actually. >> what did he mean? >> i think he meant that obviously what mr. giuliani was saying was explosive in any case and he was frequently on television making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this, and he was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us and 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.
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first he was reaching out to them directly. he also -- ambassador yovanovitch's removal i think is relevant to this inquiry because she was removed following this media campaign in which rudy giuliani and 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, i -- i commentators in ukraine believed that lutsenko with giuliani succeeded in getting her removed. they were aware of mr. giuliani and his influence, the issues that he was promoting, and the -- and ultimately that he was able to get an ambassador removed. partly because of that. so he was someone to contend with, and in addition, immediately after inauguration he began reaching out to the zelensky administration, key figures in the zelensky
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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 around? >> i joined them in some of their meetings, but not for the entire day. >> who was the official -- who was on some meetings but not for the entire day. >> who was on the official delegation? >> it was five people, the head was secretary perry, and then it was ambassador volar, ambassador sondland where our temporary shar jay, and alex vindman representing the white house. >> and did the delegation have a meeting that you attended? >> yes. >> and you testified i think in your 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 is the head of the delegation, opened the meeting of the american side. and had a number of points he
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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 and recommended that president zelensky could draw from that list for advice on energy 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 in the mix for awhile on that set of issues. other people secretary perry has mentioned as being people to consult on reform. >> and are they americans? >> yes. >> now, do you also recall that cone vindman spoke to zelensky in that meeting? >> yes. >> what did he say in terms of some of the issues we're addressing here? >> yes, sir. he was the last to speak, made a
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general point about the importance of ukraine to our national security, and he said it's very important that this zelensky administration stay out of u.s. domestic politics. >> 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 and burisma and the 2016 election? >> correct. >> now, dr. hill, you also testified that around in same time in may, you learned that president trump was receiving information from someone else at the national security council, is 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. it was a very brief conversation, just to be clear.
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>> who is the director of ukraine? >> the director of ukraine is alex vind zan and who did this individual and the executive secretary's office refer to? >> 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 wads cash patel. >> and cash did not work on ukraine matters that you oversaw? >> not that i oversaw, no. >> the indication is cash patel had provided 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. and in excerpt, the president said, the other thing, there's a lot of talk about biden's son, that biden stopped the
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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. 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. >> and now confirmed in this july 25th call that the president was also interested in this? >> yes. >> ambassadors volker and sondland have tried to draw a distinction between their understanding of the connection between burisma and the bidens. but dr. hill, was it apparent to you that when president trump, rudy giuliani or anyone else was pushing for an investigation into burisma, that the reason why they wanted that investigation related to what president trump said here, the bidens? >> it was very apparent to me that that was what rudy julian intended, yes, to convey that
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burisma was linked to the bidens. he said this publicly repeatedly. >> mr. holmes, you understood that burisma was code for bidens? >> yes. >> do you think that anyone involved in ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well? >> yes. >> now, are either -- dr. hill, are you aware of any evidence to support the allegations against vice president biden? >> i am 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, shokin, was not at that time pursuing investigations of burisma or the bidens. >> and in fact removing that
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corrupt prosecutor, general, was part of the u.s.' antiskrupgs policy, isn't that correct? >> that's correct. not just us but all of our allies and others involved in the ukraine. >> dr. hill, you underu indicated that you 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. >> and 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.
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i thought there would be meetings at the state department, potentially at the energy department. and then there was a request to have ambassadors sondland and volker included coming directly 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. >> toward the end of this meeting, the ukrainians raised their ongoing desire for an oval office meeting? >> that's correct. >> what happened after they did that? >> well, i listened very carefully to ambassador sondland's testimony yesterday, so i want to point out something where i think it's easy to explain why he had a different interpretation of how this came other into being. the meeting had initially been scheduled for about 45, you
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know, minutes to an hour. and it was definitely in the wrap-up face of the meeting. we had ghon through a series of discussions. alexander danny luck wanted to get into the weeds of how he might reform a national security council. he had talked to me about this prior to the meeting and he was hoping and had had this opportunity with the national security adviser of the united states to get his firsthand opinions and thoughts on what might happen. we'd also wanted to go through a discussion about how important it was for ukraine to get its energy sector reform underway, and clearly secretary perry had some talking points to this. this is an issue that ambassador bolton was also interested in. we knew the ukrainians would have on their agenda inevitably the question about a meeting. as we get through the main discussion, we're going into that wrap-up phase, the
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ukrainians, mr. danylyuk starts to ask about a white house meeting, and ambassador bolton was trying to parry this back. although he's the national security adviser, he's not in charge of scheduling. we go through a whole process. it's not his role to start pulling out the schedule and saying if this tuesday and 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 appropria appropriate sta of for this. this was already going to be uncomfortable. as ambassador bolton was trying to move that part of the discussion away, i think he was going to try to deflect it on to another topic, ambassador sondland leaned in basically to say, well, we have an agreement that there will be a meeting of specific investigations are put underway. that's when i saw ambassador bolton stiffin. i was sitting behind him and saw
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him sit back slightly like this. he had been moving more forward to the table. for me that was an unmistakable body language and caught my attention. he looked up to the clock and, you know, at his watch or towards his wrist in any case and again i was sitting behind him and basically said, well, it's been 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 all you'll want to talk about that he did say more specifically. >> what did he say later? >> that he had an agreement with chief of staff mull vaipy in return for investigations this meeting would get scheduled. >> was he specific at that point later about the investigations that he was referring to? >> he said the investigations in burisma. >> now, did you have a conversation with ambassador bolton after this subsequent pleating with ambassador sondland? >> i had a discussion with him
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after and then one immediately after the subsequent meeting. >> so the subsequent meeting or after both when you spoke to him and relayed to him what ambassador sondland said, what did ambassador bolton say to you? >> i just want to highlight first of all that ambassador bolton wanted me to hold back in the room, immediately after the meeting. again i was sitting on the sofa with a colleague. >> just in that second meeting? >> he was making a very strong point that he wanted to know exactly what was being said. when i came back and related if to him, he had some very specific instruction for me. i'm presuming that that's the question you're asking. >> what was that? >> i had to go to the lawyers to john eisenberg, senior counsel for the national security counsel to say, you tell eisenberg ambassador bolton told me that i am not part of this whatever drug deal that mulvaney and sondland are cooking up.
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>> what did you understand him to mean by the drug deal that mulvaney and sondland were cooking up? >> i took it to mean investigations for a meeting. >> did you go speak to the lawyers? >> i certainly did. >> you relayed everything that you just told us and more? >> i related precisely and more the details of how the meeting had unfolded as well, which i gave a full decision of this in my october 14 deposition. >> mr. holmes, you have testified that by late august, you had a clear impression that the security assistance hold was somehow connected to the investigations that president trump wanted. how did you conclude that -- how do you make reach that clear conclusion? >> sir, we've been hearing about the investigations since march, months before, and we'd been -- president zelensky had received
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a congratulatory letter from the president saying he'd be pleased to meet him following his inauguration in may. and we hadn't been able to get that meeting. and then the security hold came up. with no explanation. and i'd be surprised if any of the ukrainians you said earlier, we discussed earlier, sficht sophisticated people, when they received no explanation for why that was in place, they wouldn't have drawn that conclusion. >> because the investigations were still being pursued? >> correct. >> and the hold was still replaining without explanation? >> correct. >> so this to you was the only lajcal conclusion you could reach? >> correct. >> sort of like two plus two equals four? >> exactly. >> chairman, i yield. >> that concludes the majority questioning. we are expected to have votes i think fairly soon. this will be appropriate time to break and we'll resume with the minority 45 minutes.
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if people could allow the witnesses to leave first, and if committee members could come back promptly after votes. committee will be in recess.
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