tv ABC7 News 600AM ABC November 21, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PST
hearing toda fiona hill and david holmes. hill is president trump's former russia adviser. we expect to hear a lot during the testimony today. we'll have a full recap but it starts right now. stephanopoulos. good morning, and welcome to our special coverage of the impeachment of president donald trump. 1100 house longworth building is where they have been holding these hearings. this is what could be the fifth and final public hearing in the house intelligence committee in the committee on capitol hill. today two witnesses, dr. fiona hill and david holmes. hill, the chief russia expert, and holmes, you overheard
sondland talking to the president about these investigations. mary bruce is up on capitol hill this morning, and dr. fiona hill expected to deliver a blistering -- a blistering attack on those who question whether it was russia who interfered in our 2016 elections. instead suggesting it's ukraine. >> reporter: george, straight off the bat, fiona hill is going to be chastising the republicans on this committee. it's a bold and rare move. she has this warning that seems aimed directly at the top republican on the committee, devin nunes. fiona hill will say that partisan politics is driving a dangerous and fictional narrative about ukraine, and she will accuse members of the committee of falsely believing and perpetuating this theory that ukraine, not russia, meddled in the u.s. election. she will warn that is a false theory perpetuated by russia, and only helps russia, and she'll ep courage the committee on focus on what really matters here, which is the question of
whether or not the president tried to boost his own gain. she'll be pressed about john bolton, the former national security adviser. she says he's the one who voiced concerns. she described rudy giuliani. he described this pressure campaign against ukraine as a drug deal being acted by the white house chief of staff, mick mulvaney and gordon sondland who of course, we heard from yesterday. she will be able to shed some light on bolton's role here because of course, the white house and the president won't let the committee talk to john bolton. >> he's still not coming forward, although we had that intriguing detail from sondland, talking about where bolton asked for rudy giuliani's phone number. let's go to jon karl. a real hawk on russia. >> reporter: she's a fascinating witness, george. on one hand, the white house will point out she was gone, and
she left a week before the famous phone call between the president and president zelensky, but she was the top official for the national security council for russia. she wrote a book on vladimir putin and she had clear and strong views on the threat russia posed and she was there directing the top person on russia at the time which the president repeatedly seemed to show an affinity towards vladimir putin and an affinity for what she calls those russian narratives like the idea that it was ukraine that interfered with the u.s. elections in 2016, and not russia. >> we see the president up and tweeting again this morning, running counter to the idea that his team has that this could be a boom for him. >> reporter: this is a revealing tweet. he said, i never in my wildest dreams thought my name would be in any way associated with the ugly word impeachment. you know, sometimes you have heard from people close to him
that impeachment could actually help the president because people will rebel against what they're seeing as democratic overreach, but i have been told consistently by people close to the president that this really bothers him, that the idea that he would go down in history as one of just three presidents impeached really bothers him. >> you can understand why. david muir here. the second witness, david holmes, we heard a lot about him yesterday. >> we did, and he was the one who works at the embassy in kyiv, and he overheard that phone call between ambassador sondland and president trump. he said he could hear president trump through the phone. it was an unsecure line, and it was sondland's actual cell phone, and he said, he could hear the president asking him, are they going to move forward with the investigation or investigations? sondland said that meant looking closer at burisma, and he said, he loves your -- we won't use that word on television.
he says he uses colorful language. >> the witnesses are at the table. both chairman schiff and devin nunes are at the table right now. we'll be hearing opening statements as we have from both the chairman and congressman nunes, and then the two witnesses followed by those rounds of lawyer q they're taking their seats now. let's go inte ro as we're waiting for the swearing in to begin, we also heard from vladimir putin yesterday for the first time. thank god no one is accusing us of interfering in the u.s. elections anymore. now they're accusing ukraine. >> on point? >> exactly on point, and we have to remember what this is all about, russia. the u.s. wanted to help ukraine stop that russian aggression. ukraine needed those weapons, needed that lethal aid that was
held up, and we also know that rudy giuliani had an outside influence on president trump and the ukraine policy saying this ukraine was trying to take him down, and that moved the emphas emphasis. >> one of the things we have heard consistently in this testimony is that this crowdstrike conspiracy theory that the president continues to refer to began with russia. >> exactly, and fiona hill will say that was completely debunked, but president trump as we know from the very beginning of his presidency, doubted the intelligence community, doubted his own senior officials on what they were saying about russia, and russian involvement in the 2016 election. >> let's go back to the room now. as we said, chairman schiff seems about ready to gavel it in. >> the committee will come to order. good morning, everyone. this is the seventh in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as the house of representatives impeachment inquiry. the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time.
we'll proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. i'll make an opening statement, and ranking member nunes will have the opportunity to make an opening statement, and we'll turn to the witnesses for opening statements and then to questions. for audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. in turn, we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. as chairman, i'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 616. i now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry of donald j. trump, the 45th president of the united states. yesterday, we heard from gordon sondland, the american ambassador to the european union, who had regular access to president donald trump, and pressed the new ukrainian president volodymyr zelensky, for two investigations trump
believed would help his re-election campaign. first investigation was of a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine and not russia was responsible for interfering in our 2016 election. the second investigation was into the political rival trump apparently feared most, joe biden. trump sought to weaken biden and to refute the fact that his own election had been helped by a russian hacking and dumping operation, and russian social media campaign directed by vladimir putin. trump's scheme took in contrast to the long standing foreign policy of the united states by undermining military and diplomatic support for a key ally, and set back u.s. anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. in conditioning a meeting with zelensky and then military aid on securing an investigation of his rival, trump put his personal and political interests above the united states. as ambassador sondland would later tell, david holmes
immediately after speaking to the president, trump did not give a expletive about ukraine. he cares about big stuff that benefits him like the biden investigation that giuliani was pushing. david holmes is here with us today. he is a foreign service officer currently serving as the political counselor in kyiv. also with us is dr. fiona hill whose job as a national security council senior director, and foreign affairs in coordination of u.s. policy towards ukraine. dr. hill left the embassy after two years in that position. they have unique perspectives on ukraine. dr. hill from washington, d.c., and mr. holmes from on the ground in kyiv. in early 2019, dr. hill became concerned by the increasing prominence of rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer who was as she has testified, asserting quite frequently on
television and public appearances he had been given some authority over matters in ukraine. hill was not alone in her concerns. her boss, national security adviser john bolton was also paying attention, as were other nsc and state department officials including holmes at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. bolton viewed giuliani as a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up, and was powerless to prevent if former mayor from engineering marie yovanovitch's firing in late april or her recall. holmes was stunned by the intensity and consistency of media attacks on yovanovitch by name as a u.s. ambassador and the scope of allegations that were leveled against her. yovanovitch's dismissal as a result of giuliani's smear campaign was one of several things that unsettled dr. hill. another was the role of gordon sondland who emerged as a key player in ukraine policy in may
when he was named as part of the u.s. delegation led by secretary rick perry, to president zelensky's inauguration. lieutenant colonel alexander vindman also attended the inauguration, and also recalls a meeting with president zelensky, took the opportunity to advise the ukraine leader to stay out of u.s. domestic politics. another concern that rose for dr. hill at this time was her discovery of an nsc back channel on ukraine. hill learned that a staff member that did not work on ukraine, for her may 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 active and unconventional role in formulating priorities and reaching out to president zelensky and his senior team.
sondland's newfound asserti assertiveness also concerned dr. hill who had a cordial working relationship with the ambassador. hill had a blowup with sondland when he told her he was in charge of ukraine. hill says sondland got testy with me, and said, who thhas pu you in charge? he responded, the president. bolton, sondland and energy secretary perry, another of the three amigos. the meeting was intended to give ukraine the opportunity to convey they were anxious to set up a first meeting between their new president and president trump. sondland interjected to inform the group that according to white house chief of staff mick mulvaney, the white house meeting sought by the ukrainian president with trump would happen if ukraine undertook certain investigations. hearing this, bolton abruptly
ended the meeting. undeterred, sondland brought the ukrainian delegation and nsc director, lieutenant colonel alexander vindman downstairs, to another part of the white house where they were later joined by dr. hill. in this second meeting, sondland was more explicit. ukraine needed to conduct investigations if they were to get a meeting at all. bolton directed dr. hill to report this to nsc legal adviser john eisenberg telling her, you go and tell eisenberg, i'm not part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go ahead and tell him what i heard and what i have said. dr. hill did so, as did lieutenant colonel vindman who separately approached the same lawyers with his concerns. on july 18, the day before dr. hill left her post at the nsc, holmes participated in a secure inner agency video conference on ukraine. towards the end of the meeting, a representative from the office of management and budget
announced that the flow of nearly $400 million in security assistance for ukraine was being held up. the order had come from the president, and had been conveyed to omb by acting white house chief of staff mick mulvaney without further explanation. holmes unaware of the hold prior to the call was shocked. he thought the suspension of aid was extremely significant, undermining what he had understood to be longstanding u.s. national security goals in ukraine. one week later, on july 25th, president trump spoke with president zelensky by phone. when president zelensky brought up u.s. military support and noted that ukraine would like to buy more javelin anti-tank missiles from the united states, president trump responded by saying, i would like you to do us a favor, though. trump then requested that zelensky investigate the conspiracy theory that ukraine interfered in the to 16 elect20
election. even more ominously, he wanted him to investigate the bidens. neither included official talking points for the call prepared by the nsc staff, but both were in donald trump's personal interest and the interest of his 2020 re-election campaign. and the ukrainian president knew about both in advance, in part, because of efforts by ambassadors sondland and volker to make him aware of president trump's demands. the next day, july 26th in kyiv, holmes served as a note taker during a meeting between acting ambassador bill taylor, volker and sondland with president zelensky and other senior ukrainian officials. zelensky said on the previous day's call, said that on the previous day's call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues that he would have to follow up on those issues when they met in person. although he did not realize it
at the time, holmes came to understand that the sensitive issues were the investigations that president trump demanded on the july 25th call. following the meeting with zelensky, holmes accompanied sondland to a separate meeting with one of the ukrainian president's top advisers, andriy yermak, but holmes was not allowed into the meeting and waited for 30 minutes while sondland and the ukrainian met alone without any note takers to record what they said. after the meeting, sondland, holmes and two other state department staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. at some point during the meal, sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the white house and asked to be connected to the president. when trump came on the line, holmes could hear the president's voice clearly. holmes called that, quote, the president's voice was very loud and recognizable, and ambassador sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of
time presumably because of the loud volume. sondland said he was calling from kyiv. he told the president that president zelensky loves your ass. holmes then heard president trump say, so he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied, he's going to do it, adding that president zelensky will do anything you ask him. after the call ended, holmes took the opportunity to ask sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on ukraine. it was at this point that sondland revealed that the president -- that president trump doesn't give a expletive about ukraine. the president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president like the biden investigation that mr. giuliani was pushing. a month later, national security adviser bolton traveled to kyiv. between meetings with ukrainian government officials, bolton
expressed to ambassador bill taylor his frustration about mr. giuliani's influence with the president. bolton made clear, however, there was nothing he could do about it. bolton further stated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the upcoming meeting between president trump and zelensky in warsaw. it would hang on whether zelensky was able to favorably impress president trump. trump canceled his trip to warsaw, but sondland, volker and others continued to press for a public announcement of the opening of investigations by zelensky. on september 8, taylor told holmes that, quote, now they're committing to an investigation and interview with cnn. holmes was surprised the requirement was so specific and concrete since it amounted to nothing less than, quote, they commit to a specific investigation of president trump's political rival on a cable news channel, unquote.
on september 9, this committee along with the foreign affairs and oversight committees launched our investigation of this corrupt scheme. president trump released the hold on aid two days later, and cnn's fareed zakaria said they canceled the cnn interview shortly thereafter. two weeks later, the transcript of the july 25th call was released by the white house, and the details of the president's scheme started coming into view. in the coming days, congress will determine what response is appropriate. if the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, cocer coceres, extort or bribe a vulnerable ally to aid his re-election campaign, and did so by withholding official acts, a white house meeting, or millions of dollars in military aid, it will be up for us to decide whether those facts are
compatible with the office of the presidency. i now recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks he would like to make. >> thank you. throughout these bizarre hearings, the democrats have struggled to make the case that president trump committed some impeachable offense on his phone call with president zelensky. the offense itself changes depending on the day, ranging from quid pro quo to extortion to bribery, to obstruction of justice, and then back to quid pro quo. it's clear why the democrats have been forced onto this carousel of accusations. president trump had good reason to be wary of ukrainian election meddling against his campaign, and have widespread corruption in that country. president zelensky who didn't even know aid to ukraine had been paused at the time of the call has repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with the conversation. the aid was resumed without the
ukrainians taking the actions they were supposedly being coerced into doing. aid to ukraine under president trump has been much more robust than it was under president obama. thanks to the provision of javelin anti-tank weapons. as numerous witnesses have testified, temporary holds on v frequently for different reasons. so how do we have an impeachable offense here when there is no misdeed and no one even claiming to be a victim? the democrats have tried to solve this dilemma with a simple slogan. he got caught. president trump, we are to believe, was just about to do something wrong and getting caught was the only reason he backed down from whatever nefarious thought crime the democrats are accusing him of
almost committing. i once again urge americans to continue to consider the credibility of the democrats on this committee who are now hurling these charges. for the last three years, it's not president trump who got caught. it's the democrats who got caught. they got caught falsely claiming they had more than circumstantial evidence that trump colluded with russians to hack the 2016 election. they got caught orchestrating this entire farce with the whistle-blower and lying about their secret meetings with him. they got caught defending the false allegations of the steele dossier which was paid for by them. they got caught breaking their
promise that impeachment would only go forward with bipartisan support because of how damaging it is to the american people. they got caught running a sham impeachment process featuring secret depositions, hidden transcripts and an unending flood of democrat leaks to the media. they got caught trying to obtain nude photos of president trump from russian pranksters, pretending to be ukrainians. and they got caught covering up for alexander chalupa, a democratic national committee operative who colluded with ukrainian officials to smear the trump campaign by improperly redacting her name from transcripts and refusing to let americans hear her testimony as a witness in these proceedings.
that is the democrats' pitiful legacy in recent years. they got caught. meanwhile, their supposed star witness testified that he was guessing that president trump was tying ukrainian aid to investigations despite no one telling him that was true. and the president himself explicitly telling him the opposite, that he wanted nothing from ukraine. ladies and gentlemen, unless the democrats once again scramble their court rules, today's hearing marks the merciful end of this spectacle in the impeachment committee. formally known as the intelligence committee. whether the democrats reap the political benefit remains to be seen, but the damage they have done to this country will be
long lasting. with this wrenching attempt to overthrow the president, they have pitted americans against one another and poisoned the mind of fanatics who actually believe the entire galaxy of bizarre accusations they have leveled against the president since the day the american people elected him. i sincerely hope the democrats end this affair as quickly as possible so our nation can begin to heal the many wounds it has inflicted on us. the people's faith in government and their belief that their vote counts for something has been shaken. from the russia hoax to this shoddy ukrainian sequel, the democrats got caught. let's hope they finally learn a lesson, give their conspiracy theories a rest and focus on governing for a change.
in addition, mr. chairman, to house rule 11, republican members transmit our request to convene an ordinary day of hearing. to date you have blocked key witnesses we have wanted to testify, and therefore under house rule 11 clause 1a, it applies to the democrats' impeachment inquiry. we look forward to the chair promptly scheduling an agreed upon time for the minority day of hearings so that we can hear from key witnesses that you have continually blocked from testifying. i would also like to take a quick moment on an assertion miss hill made in the statement she submitted to this committee in which she claimed that some committee members deny that russia meddled in the 2016
election. as i noted in my opening statement on wednesday that in march, 2018, intelligence committee republicans published the results of a year long investigation into russian meddling. the 240-page report analyzed 2016 russian meddling campaign. the u.s. government reaction to it, russian campaigns in other countries and provided specific recommendations to improve american election security. i would ask my staff to hand these reports to our two witnesses today just so they can have a recollection of their memory. as america may or may not know, democrats refuse to sign onto
the republican report. instead, they decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. needless to say, it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries regardless of which campaign is the target. i would like to submit for the record, on russian active measures. i yield back. >> today we are joined by dr. fiona hill and david holmes. dr. hill is a former senior director for europe and russia on the national security council. she was a senior fellow at the brookings institution where she
directed the center on the united states and europe. she previously worked at the national intelligence council and the john f. kennedy school of government. david holmes is the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv where he serves as the senior policy and political adviser to ambassador taylor who testified earlier in these hearings. he is a career foreign service officer. he has previously served in moscow, new dehli, kabul. he has served as a special assistant to the united states secretary of state. two final points before our witnesses are sworn. first, witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature, and all open hearings will also be held at the unclassified level. any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of
reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official for testifying before congress including you or any of your colleagues. will you please rise? raise your right hand. i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> yes. >> let the record show that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. thank you and you may be seated. the microphones are sensitive, so you'll need to speak directly into them. without objection, your written statements will be made part of the record. with that, mr. holmes, you are now recognized for your opening statement, and when you conclude, dr. hill, you will be immediately recognized thereafter for your opening statement. >> thank you. good morning, mr. chairman. ranking member nunes, and members of the committee. my name is david holmes and i'm a career foreign service officer
with the department of state. since august, 2017, i have been a political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv, ukraine. while it is an honor to appear before you today, i want to make clear that we did not seek this opportunity to testify today. since you determined that i may have something of value to these proceedings and issued a subpoena, it is my obligation to appear and tell you what i know. indeed as secretary pompeo has stated, i hope everyone who testifies will do so truthfully and accurately. when they do, the oversight role will have been performed and i think america will come to see what took place here. that is my only goal, to testify truthfully and accurately to enable you to perform that role. and to that end, i have put together this statement to lay out as best i can, my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter. my way of background, i have 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. i'm a graduate in clairmont, california, and from princeton university's public and international affairs. i joined the foreign service in 2002 during a political, merit-based process under the george w. bush administration, and i have proudly served administrations of both parties and worked for their appointees both political and career. prior to my current post in kyiv, ukraine, i served in the political and economic sections at the u.s. embassy in moscow, russia. in washington, i served on the national security council's staff as director for afghanistan, and as a special assistant under secretary of state. my prior overseas assignments including new dehli, india,
kabul, afghanistan. as the political counselor in kyiv, i lead the political section covering ukraine's internal politics, foreign relations and security policies. i serve as the senior policy and political adviser to the ambassador. the job of political counselor is to gather information about the host country's political landscape, to report back to washington, to represent u.s. policies to foreign contacts and to advise the ambassador on policy development and implementation. in this role, i'm a senior member of the embassy's country team, and continually involved in addressing issues as they arise. i'm also often called upon to take notes in meetings involving the ambassador or visiting senior u.s. officials with ukrainian counterparts. for this reason, i have been present in many of the meetings with president zelensky and his administration, some of which may be major to this inquiry. while i'm a political counselor, it's important to note i'm not a
political appointee or engaged in u.s. politics in any way. it is not my job to cover or advise on u.s. politics. on the contrary, i'm an apolitical foreign policy professional, and my job -- my job is to focus on the politics of the country in which i serve so that we can better understand the local landscape and better advance u.s. national interest there. in fact, during the period that we'll cover today, my colleagues and i followed direct guidance from ambassador yovanovitch and ambassador taylor, to focus on doing our jobs as foreign policy professionals and to stay clear of washington politics. i arrived in kyiv to take up my assignment as political counselor in august, 2017, a year after ambassador yovanovitch received her appointment. from august, 2017 until her removal from post in may, 2019, i was her chief policy adviser and developed a deep respect her
dedication, determination, decency and professionalism. during this time, we worked together closely, speaking multiple times per day, and i accompanied her to many of her meetings with ukrainian counterparts. our work in ukraine focused on three policy priorities. peace and security, economic growth and reform and anti-corruption and rule of law. these policies match the three consistent priorities of the ukrainian people since 2014 as measured in public opinion polling. namely at end the conflict with russia that restores national unity and territorial integrity, responsible economic policies that deliver european standards of growth and opportunity, and effective and impartial rule of law institutions that deliver justice in cases of high level official corruption. our efforts on this third policy priority merit special mention because it was during ambassador yovanovitch's tenure that we achieved the hard-fought passage
of a law establishing an in independent court to try corruption cases. these efforts strained ambassador yovanovitch's relationship with former president poroshenko, and other prosecutors including lutsenko who existed fully empowering truly independent anti-corruption institutions that would help ensure that no ukrainians, however powerful, were above the law. despite this resistance, the ambassador to the embassy kept pushing anti-corruption and other priorities of our policies toward ukraine. beginning in march, 2019, the situation at the embassy and ukraine changed dramatically. specifically the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for ukrainian democratic resistance to russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former new york city mayor rudy giuliani and officials operating with a direct channel to the white
house. that change began with the emergence of press reports critical of ambassador yovanovitch, lutsen yovanovitch, by lutsenko and others to discredit her. an embassy colleague learned from a ukrainian colleague that lutsenko complained that ambassador yovanovitch had, quote, destroyed him with her refusal to support him until he followed through with her reform commitments for personal gain. in retaliation, lutsenko made allegations against ambassador yovanovitch, mostly suggesting that ambassador yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to advance the political interests of the democratic party. among mr. lutsenko's allegations were that the embassy had ordered the investigation of a former ukrainian official solely because that former official was the main ukrainian contact of the republican party, and president trump personally, and that the embassy allegedly
pressured lutsenko's predecessor to close a case against a different ukrainian official solely because of a connection between the connection of burisma, and joe biden's son. he never received $4.4 million for his office, and was a tape saying he was trying to help hillary clinton win the 2016 election. ambassador yovanovitch had given him a do not prosecute list, according to him, containing the names of her supposed allies and this was an outright fabricat n fabrication, and lutsenko retracted. mr. lutsenko said as a result of these allegations, ambassador yovanovitch would face serious problems in the united states. public opinion polls indicated ukrainians generally did not believe mr. lutsenko's allegations and on march 22nd, president poroshenko issued a
statement in support of ambassador yovanovitch. mr. giuliani and others made a number of public statements critical of ambassador yovanovitch questioning her integrity, and calling for her removal from office. mr. giuliani was also making frequent public statements pushing for ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election, and issues related to burisma and the bidens. for example, on may 1, 2019, "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani had, quote, discussed the burisma investigation and its intersection with the bidens with the ousted ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. on may 9th, "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani planned to travel to ukraine to pursue investigations into the 2016 election interference, and into the involvement of former vice president biden's son in a ukrainian gas company. over the next few months, mr. giuliani also issued a series of tweets asking, quote, why biden shouldn't be investigated. attacking, quote, the new
president of ukraine, zelensky for being silent on the 2016 election, and biden investigations, and complaining about "the new york times" attacking him for, quote, exposing the biden family history of making millions from ukrainian criminals. around this time, the ukrainian presidential election was approaching and political newcomer and entertainer volodymyr zelensky who had played a presi surgi polls. ahead of mr. lutsenko's political ally, president poroshenko. on may 20th, i was present for ambassador yovanovitch's third and final meeting with candidate zelensky, after the landslide victory the next day. as in her two prior meetings i atte attended, they had a cordial, pleasant conversation and signaled their mutual desire to work together. however, the negative narratives about ambassador yovanovitch had gained currency in the united states press, and on april 26th, ambassador yovanovitch departed
for washington, d.c. where she learned she would be recalled early. the barrage of allegations directed at a career ambassador is unlike anything i have seen in my professional career. following president-elect zelensky's victory, our attention in the embassy focused on getting to know the incoming zelensky administration, and preparations for the inauguration scheduled for may 20th, the same day that ambassador yovanovitch departed post permanently. it quickly became clear that the white house was not prepared to show the level of support for the zelensky administration that we had originally anticipated. in early may, mr. giuliani publicly alleged that mr. zelensky was, quote, surrounded by enemies of the u.s. president and canceled a visit to ukraine. shortly thereafter, we learned that vice president pence no longer planned to lead the presidential dedication, and the white house whittled down to a proposed list for delegation
from over a dozen individuals to just five. secretary perry as its head, special representative for ukraine negotiations, kurt volkvol volker representing the state department. national security council alex vindman, joseph pennington representing the embassy, and ambassador sondland. while he was the credited ambassador to the european union, he did not cover individual member states, let alone nonmember countries like ukraine. he made clear he had direct and frequent access to president trump and chief of staff mick mulvaney and portrayed himself as the conduit to the president and mick mulvaney in this group. volker, sondland and perry established themselves as the three amigos in this administration. around the same time, i became aware that mr. giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a
direct role in ukrainian diplomacy. on april 25th, mr. zelensky's childhood friend and chain chair was ultimately appointed the head of the security services of ukraine, and indicated to me that he had been contacted by, quote, someone named giuliani who said he was an adviser to the vice president. i reported the message to deputy assistant secretary of state george kent. over the following months, it became apparent that mr. giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy je agenda that the three amigos were on the ground in ukraine. someone wandered aloud why giuliani was so active in ukraine. my recollection was that sondland stated, quote, damn it, rudy. every time rudy gets involved, he goes and effs everything up. the inauguration took place on may 20th and i took notes in the
delegations meeting with president zelensky. during the meeting, secretary perry passed the president a list as, quote, people he trusts. perry told zelensky he could seek people on this list for energy sector reform, which was the topic of perry and key ukrainian contacts. they were excluded from later meetings. on may 23rd, ambassador volker, ambassador sondland, perry and ron johnson who had attended the inauguration, although not on official delegatiodelegation, ro the united states, and informed president trump. he sent a letter to zelensky, and it contained a specified date to meet at the white house. a white house visit was critical to president zelensky. president zelensky needed to
show u.s. support at the highest levels in order to demonstration to russian president putin that he had u.s. backing as well as to address his anti-corruption a reform agenda at home. they were pretsing for a date. president zelensky, and senior members of his team made clear they wanted his first overseas trip to be to washington, to send a strong signal of american support, and requested a call with president trump as soon as possible. we at the embassy also believe that a meeting was critical to the success of their administration, and its agenda 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 president zelensky's overseas trip to be in brussels as well.
ambassador sondland hosted a dinner in president zelensky's honor, which included jared kushner, ulrich brechbuhl, and comedian jay leno among others. ambassador taylor arrived in kyiv on foreign affairs in july 17th. focusing on our activities along with those of the three amigos was to coordinate a white house visit. to that end, we were working with the ukrainians to deliver things that we thought president trump might care about such as commercial deals that would benefit the united states which might convince president trump to agree to a meeting with president zelensky. ukrainian policy community was unanimous in recognizing the importance of securing the meeting and president trump's support. ambassador taylor reported that secretary pompeo had told him prior to his arrival in kyiv, quote, we need to work on turning the president around on
ukraine. ambassador volker told us the -- that the next five years could hang on what could be accomplished in the next three months. i took that to mean if we did not earn president trump's support in the next three months, we could lose the opportunity to make progress during president zelensky's five-year term. within a week or two, it became apparent that the energy sector reforms, the commercial deals and anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of urging the white house to schedule a meeting. on june 27th, ambassador sondland told ambassador taylor in a phone conversation, that president zelensky needed to make clear to president trump that president zelensky was not standing in the way of, quote, investigations. i understood that -- that this meant the biden/burisma investigation that is mr. giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since march. while ambassador taylor did not
brief me on every detail of his communications, he did tell me that on a june 28th 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. also on june 28th while president trump was still moving forward on the meeting with president zelensky, he met with russian president putin at the g20 summit in osaka, japan, sending a further signal of lack of support to ukraine. we became concerned that even if a meeting between presidents trump and zelensky could occur, it would not go well. we discussed with embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting altogether. while a white house visit was critical to the zelensky administration, a visit that failed to send a clear and strong signal of support, likely would be worse for president zelensky, than no visit at all.
congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in assistance for ukraine since 2014. this has provided crucial, material and moral support to ukraine in its defensive war with russia. it has helped ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably the most capable and battle-hardened land force in europe. i have had the honor of visiting the main training facility in western ukraine with members of congress, and members of this very committee. miss stefanik where we witnessed first hand, troops along with allies conducting missions for ukrainian soldiers. national guard units from california, oklahoma, new york, tennessee and wisconsin have trained shoulder to shoulder with ukrainian counterparts. given the history of u.s. security assistance to ukraine and the bipartisan recognition
of its importance, i was shocked when on july 18th an office management budget staffer surprisingly announced the hold on ukraine's security assistance. the announcement came toward the end of a nearly two-hour national security council secure video conference call which i participated in from the embassy conference room. the official said, that the order had come from the president, and had been conveyed to omb by mr. mulvaney with no further explanation. this began a week or so of efforts by various agencies, to conduct a review of the assistance and to reaffirm the unanimous view of ukraine policy community of its importance. nsc counterparts confirmed to us there had been no change in the policy, but could not determine the cause of the hold or how to lift it. on july 25th, president trump made a congratulatory phone call to president zelensky. after his party won a commanding majority in ukraine's
parliamentary election. contrary to standard procedure, the embassy received no tell of that call, and i was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript. upon reading the transcript, i was deeply disappointed to see that the president raised none of what i understood to be the agency agreed upon foreign policy in ukraine, and instead raised the biden/burisma investigation and referred to the theory about crowdstrike and its supposed connection to the 2016 election. july 26, 2019, i attended in kyiv, with sondland, volker and perry, and i took notes. our first meeting was with president zelensky's chief of staff, and it was brief. he was preparing for a substance kwept, broader meeting, but he said president trump expressed interest during the previous day's phone call, and president
zelensky's personnel decisions related to the office. the delegation then met with president zelensky, and several other senior officials. during the meeting, president zelensky stated that during the july 25th call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues, and that he would have to follow up on those issues when he and president trump met in person. not having received a readout of the july 25th call, i did not know at the time what those sensitive issues were. after the meeting with president zelensky, ambassador volker and ambassador taylor quickly left the presidential administration building for a trip to the front lines. ambassador sondland who was to fly out that afternoon stayed behind to have a meeting with andriy yermak, a top aid to president zelensky. as i was leaving the meeting with the president, i was told to join with ambassador sondland and yermak to take notes. i had not expected to join that meeting and i was a flight of stairs behind ambassador sondland as he headed to meet
with mr. geyermak. when i reached the office, ambassador sondland had already gone in, and i explained i was supposed to be there as the representative, and strongly urged her to let me in, but i was told sondland insisted the meeting be one-on-one with no mote no note taker. i waited with sondland's staff, and the u.s. embassy kyiv staff. when the meeting ended, the two staffers and i accompanied ambassador sondland out of the administration building, and ambassador sondland said he wanted to go to lunch, and i said i would be happy to join him, if he wanted to brief me out on the meeting or discuss other issues. ambassador sondland said that i should join. the four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on a terrace. i sat directly across from ambassador sondland, and the two staffers sat off to our sides.
at first, the lunch was largely social, and ambassador sondland selected a bottle of wine we shared among the four of us, and we discussed marketing strategies for his hotel business. during the lunch, ambassador sondland said he was going to call president trump to give him an update. ambassador sondland placed a call on his mobile phone and i heard him announce himself several times along the lines of gordon sondland holding for the president. it appeared he was being layered through several switch boards, and while ambassador sondland's phone was not on speakerphone, i could hear the president's voice through the ear piece of the phone. the president's voice was loud and recognizable, and ambassador sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time presumably because of the loud volume. i heard ambassador sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from kyiv, and i heard the president say that ambassador sondland was in ukraine.
he said, yes, he was in ukraine and went on to state that president zelensky, quote, loves your ass. i then heard president trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that presidentsk wil do anything you ask him to do. even though i did not take notes of these statements, i had a clear recollection that these statements were made. i believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that ambassador sondland was speaking with the president. the conversation then shifted to ambassador sondland's efforts on behalf of the president to assist a rapper who was jailed in sweden, and i could only hear ambassador sondland's side of the conversation. he said the rapper was, quote, kind of effed there, and should have pled guilty. he recommended that the president, quote, wait until after the sentencing or it will only make it worse, and added that the president should let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a tape
when he comes home. ambassador sondland told the president that sweden, quote, should have released him on your word, but you can tell the kardashians you tried. after the call ended, ambassador sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood, as ambassador sondland stated was often the case early in the morning. i then took the opportunity to ask ambassador sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on ukraine. in particular, i asked ambassador sondland if it was true that the president did not give a expletive about ukraine. ambassador sondland agreed the president did not give an expletive about ukraine. i asked, why not? baetd sondland stated that the president only cares about big stuff pit stuff. i noted that big stuff was going on in ukraine, like a war with russia. the ambassador said, big stuff that benefits the president like the biden investigation that mr. giuliani was pushing. the conversation then moved onto
other topics. upon returning to the embassy, i immediately brief my direct supervisor, the deputy chief about my subsequent conversation with ambassador sondland. i told others at the embassy about the call as well, and i emailed an embassy official in sweden about the rapper. july 26th was my last day in the office ahead of a vacation that ended on august 6th. after returning, i told ambassador taylor about the call, and i brought up the call in meetings in conversations where the meetings were potentially relevant. the president's state of lack of interest in the ukraine was a particular focus. we understood that in order to secure a meeting between president trump and president zelensky, we would have to work hard to find a way to explain
ukraine's importance to president trump in terms that he found compelling. over the ensuing weeks, we continued to try to find ways to frame the importance of ukraine in ways it would appeal to the president, to determine how to lift the hold on security assistance and to move forward on the scheduling of a white house visit by president zelensky. ukrainian independence day, august 24th, presented another good opportunity to show support for ukraine. secretary pompeo considered attending as national security adviser bolton had attended in 2018, and mattis attended in 2017. shortly thereafter on august 27th, ambassador bolton visited ukraine, and brought welcome news that president trump had agreed to meet president 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 presidentsett zelensky quote, able to favorably impress president trump. ambassador bolton told zelensky's chief of staff that the meeting between the presidents in warsaw would be, quote, crucial to cementing their relationship. however, president trump ultimately pulled out, 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 council senior director tim morrison, his frustration about mr. giuliani's influence with the president, making clear there was nothing he could do about it. he recommended that mr. lutsenko's replacement open with his counterpart between mr. yermak and mr. giuliani. ambassador bolton also expressed frustration about ambassador sondla sondland's expansive
interpretation of his mandate. after the canceled visit to warsaw, we continued to try to appeal to the president, in foreign policy and national security terms. to that end, ambassador taylor told me that ambassador bolton recommended that he and ambassador taylor send a first person cable to pompeo about the importance of security assistance, and at ambassador taylor's direction, i transmitted the cable on ambassador taylor's behalf on august 29th which further attempted to explain the importance of ukraine and 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 by expression of dissatisfaction with the ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the investigation, or as an increased pressure to do so. on september 5th, i took notes at senator beyoncena meeting in.