Two key impeachment witnesses testify
David Holmes said he became aware in the spring that President Trump's personal lawyer "was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy."
Holmes said Ivan Bakanov, who was Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's childhood friend and campaign chair, told him “someone named Giuliani who said he was an adviser to the Vice President" had contacted him.
Holmes said Giuliani's activities were brought up during a meeting about Zelensky's inauguration:
Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, “Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f---s everything up.”
Watch the moment:
A former senior administration official explained the significance of former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill's testimony ahead of her remarks this morning.
“Many thought Sondland would be the bombshell. In some ways he was. Holmes can help corroborate a key conversation. But it’s Hill who is the bomb," the official said.
The official went on: "Unlike all the rest of the witnesses, she’s actually a senior policy maker. She has had many interactions with the president. She saw firsthand the contravention of normal channels. She heard the president clinging to conspiracy theories and pushing personal political agendas. She’s incredibly smart and has no fear!”
Additionally, former undersecretary of defense and former ambassador Eric Edelman also weighed in on Hill’s character this morning, saying, “She is incredibly knowledgeable, clear thinking, and brooks no nonsense. She may be the only person I know who talks as fast as Jim Jordan.”
David Holmes, the diplomat who overheard the US ambassador to Ukraine's July phone call with President Trump, said he once asked Ambassador Gordon Sondland if Trump cared about Ukraine.
Sondland responded that Trump only cares about "'big stuff' that benefits the President, like the 'Biden investigation.'"
Here's what Holmes will say according to his opening statement:
"In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not “give a s--t about Ukraine.”
Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not “give a s--t about Ukraine.” I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about “big stuff.”
I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the President, like the “Biden investigation” that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. The conversation then moved on to other topics."
David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, is reading his opening statement to lawmakers right now.
His statement is 12 pages long. It details a July 26 cellphone conversation in which he heard President Trump ask Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, about the status of "investigations."
You can read his entire opening remarks here.
President Trump seemingly tweeted about David Holmes' testimony.
Without naming Holmes, Trump claimed that though his hearing is "great," "Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!"
Some context: Holmes previously testified, behind closed doors, that while at a restaurant with US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, he overheard a phone call between Sondland and the President.
Former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill and David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, were just sworn in.
They are now giving their opening statements.
Watch the moment:
Today’s public hearing — the fifth — is likely to be the last for a while.
Americans will begin their Thanksgiving holidays and lawmakers aren’t expected to convene these type of public sessions until at least December.
For that reason, the Democrats and Republicans appear intent on using their opening statements to sustain whatever momentum they think they have heading into the quieter period.
Chairman Adam Schiff used his to recap essentially the entire impeachment saga, from the ouster of the US ambassador to the irregular diplomatic channel to President Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, similarly ticked through all his grievances with the proceedings and every area that could possible exonerate the President.
The question is whether the attention paid to the hearings this week — fueled by rare broadcast television coverage and daily headlines — can last.
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes claimed Democrats' impeachment argument centers on the idea that Trump "almost" committed a crime — but he stopped because he got caught.
"As numerous witnesses have testified, temporary holds on foreign aid occur fairly frequently for many different reasons. So how do we have an impeachable offense here when there's no actual misdeed and no one even claiming to be a victim?" he asked.
"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."
Nunes said he urges Americans "to continue to consider the credibility of the Democrats on this committee."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gave a preview of what lawmakers will be looking at in the coming days following this week's hearings.
They will be examining whether President Trump abused his power or if he sought to bribe "a vulnerable ally," he said.
"In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate. If the President abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the Presidency," Schiff said in the conclusion of his opening remarks.