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tv   Impeachment Inquiry House Hearings Impeachment Hearing With Fiona Hill ...  CSPAN  November 22, 2019 1:29am-3:31am EST

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if they ever get to a vote in the next two weeks, we'll see. if they go to the judiciary, we don't even know what the articles are going to be. when it plays out, we will see what the final vote is. the real vote is the vote that will happen in 11.5 months. that's the vote that matters. we have to go. thank you all. >> [inaudible] will there be other open hearings? friday, then council on foreign relations holds a discussion on the upcoming 2019 supreme court term. watch live at 12:30 p.m. eastern,nline at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. announcer: on friday, 2020 democratic presidential candidate senator amy klobuchar holds a town hall at new england college in henniker, new hampshire. watch live at 2:00 p.m. eastern
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on c-span, online at, or listen live on the free c-span radio app. today, the house intelligence committee held its seventh open hearing of the impeachment inquiry into trump.nt lawmakers heard testimony from fiona hill, he former national security council senior director for europe and russia, and david holmes, aid to the top u.s. diplomat in ukraine. we will show you that hearing now in its entirety.
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the committee will come to order. good morning, everyone. this is the seventh in a series of public hearings the committee
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will be holding as part of the house of representatives impeachment inquiry. without objection the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. we will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. i'll make an opening statement, and then ranking member nunes will have an opportunity to make a statement and we will turn to our witnesses for their opening statements and to questions. for audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. i'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules. i recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump the 45th president of the united states. yesterday morning the committee heard from ambassador gordon sondland. the american ambassador to the european union, the de facto leader of the three amigos, who
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had regular access to president donald trump and pressed the new ukrainian president for two investigations trump believed would help his re-election campaign. the first investigation was of a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine and not russia was responsible for interfering in our 2016 election. the second investigation was into the political rival trump apparently feared most, joe biden. trump sought to weaken biden and refute the fact that his own election had been helped by a russian hacking and dumping initiative. trump screheme's stood in and s back anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. in conditioning a meeting with zelensky and military aid and securing an investigation of his rival, trump put his personal
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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 an expletive about ukraine. he cares about big stuff that benefits him like the biden investigation that giuliani was pushing. david holmes is here with us today. he is a foreign service officer currently serving as the political counselor at the u.s. ambassador in kiev. also with us is fiona hill. dr. hill left the ns clrks in july after more than two years in that position. dr. hill and mr. holmes provide a unique perspective on issues relating to ukraine. dr. hill from washington, d.c., and mr. holmes from on the ground in kyiv.
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dr. hill became concerned about the presence of giuliani who was asserting quite frankly in public appearance that he had been given some authority over matters in ukraine. her boss joe bidhn bolton was p attention as well as holmes at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. bolton viewed giuliani has a hand grenade that is going to below everybo blow everybody else and was powerless to marie yovanovitch's firing. yovanovitch's dismissal as a
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result of giuliani's smear campaign was one of the things that concerned hill. lieutenant colonel alex vindman also was at the meeting. and they advised the leader to stay out of domestic politics. another concern that arose for dr. hill around this time was the discovery of a back channel on ukraine. hill learned that a staff member who did not work on ukraine and for her may have been providing ukraine related information to president trump that dr. hill was not made aware of. according to holmes, following the zelensky inauguration, sondland and perry took an active and unconventional role in formulating our priorities
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for the new zelensky administration and personally reaching out to president zelensky and his senior team. sondland's newfound assertiveness concerned dr. hill who had enjoyed a cordal working relationship with the ambassador. hill had a blowup with sondland when he told her he was in charge of ukraine policy. dr. hill testified that sondland got testy with me and i said who has put you in charge of it. he said the president. on july 10th dr. hill was part of a meeting at the white house with officials including bolton, sondland, and energy secretary perry. the meeting was intended among other things to give the ukrainians to convey that they were anxious to set up a new meeting. sondland informed the group that according to mick mulvaney, the
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white house meeting would happen if ukraine undertook certain investigations. hearing this bolton abruptly ended the meeting. undeterred, sondland brought the delegation and lieutenant colonel 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 legal adviser john eisenberg, telling her that you tell eisenberg that i am not part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up on this and you tell him what i've heard and what i said. dr. hill did so as did lieutenant colonel vindman who approached the lawyers with his same concerns. on july 18th, the day before dr. hill left her post at the nsc, holmes participated in a
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secure video conference on ukraine. towards the end of the meeting, a represent from the office of management and budget aannounced that the flow of nearly $400 billion in security assistance for ukraine was being held up. the order had come from the president and has been conveyed to omb without further explanation. holmes unaware of the hold prior to the call was shocked. he thought this suspension of aid was extremely significant, undermining what he had understood to be long-standing 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 anti-tank missiles from the united states, trump responded by saying, i would like you to do us a favor, though. trump then requested that zelensky investigate the
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discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. trump asked zelensky to look into the bidens. neither request has been included in the official talking points for the call but both were in donald trump's personal interests and the interests 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 notetaker during a meeting between bill taylor, volker and sondland with president zelensky and other senior ukrainian officials. zelensky said on the previous day's call, said on the previous day's call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues that he
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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 ukrainian president's top advisers. 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 staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the white house and asked to be connect today the president. when trump came on the line holmes could hear the
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president's voice clearly. holmes call that had 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 heard president trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied, he's going to do it, adding that president zelensky will do anything you ask him. after the call ended, holmes took the opportunity to ask sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on ukraine. it was at this point that sondland revealed that president trump doesn't give a expletive about ukraine. the president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president like the biden investigation and mr. giuliani was pushing.
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a month later, bolton traveled to kyiv. between meetings with government officials, holmes heard bolton express 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 and would hang on whether zelensky was able to impress president trump. trump canceled his trip to warsaw, but others continued to press for a public announcement for the opening of investigations by zelensky. on september 8th, taylor told holmes that, quote, now they're insisting zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with cnn. holmes was surprised the requirement was so specific and concrete since it amounted to nothing less than a, quote, demand that president zelensky commit to a specific
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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. the ukrainians canceled the cnn interview shortly thereafter. two weeks later on september 25th, 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, coerce, extort or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations into aid and did so by with holding official acts, a white house meeting or needed military aid, it will be
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for us to decide whether those acts 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 arranging from quid pro quo, to extortion, to bribery, to obstruction of justice, 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 weary of ukrainian election meddling against his campaign and of widespread corruption in that country. president zelensky who didn't even know aid to ukraine has been paused at the time of the
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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 foreign aid occur frequently for many different reasons, so how do we have an impeachable offense here when there's 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. president trump, we are to believe, was just about to do something wrong and getting caught was the only reason he
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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 concluded 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
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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 a democratic national committee operative who colluded with ukrainian officials to smear the trump campaign by improperly redacting her name
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from deposition 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 star witness testified that he was guessing that president trump was trying -- tieing 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 kangaroo court rules, today's hearing marks the end of the spectacle in the impeachment committee, formally known as the intelligence committee. whether the democrats reap the 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 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 hope the democrats end this affair as quickly as possible so our nation can begin to heal the many wounds it has inflicted on us. the people's faith in government and their belief that their vote counts for something has been shaken. from the russia hoax to the ukrainian sequel, the democrats got caught.
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let's hope they finally learn a lesson, give their conspiracy theories a rest, and focus on governing for a change. pursuant to house rule 11, the republican members transmit our request to convene a minority day of hearings. you have blocked key witnesses that we have requested from testifying in this partisan impeachment inquiry. this rule was not displaced by h rez 660 and under house rule 11, clause 1a it applies to the democrats' impeachment inquiry. we look forward to the chair scheduling an agreed upon time so we can hear from witnesses that you have blocked from testifying. i would also like to take a quick moment on assertion ms. hill made in a statement that she submitted to this committee
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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, 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.
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as america may or may not know. democrats refused to sign onto the republican report. instead, they decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. needless to say, it's impossible for two separate nations to enengage in meddling at the same time regardless of which campaign is the target. i would like to submit for the record a copy of our report titled report on russian active measures. i yield back. >> today we are joined by dr. fiona hill and david holmes. dr. fiona hill is a former deputy assistant to the president and senior director for europe and russia.
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before returning to government, she was a senior fellow at the brookings institution where she districted the center on the united states and europe. she previously worked at the national intelligence council, the eurasia foundation and the john f. kennedy school of government. david holmes is the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. he is a career foreign service officer, he has previously served in moscow and kabul. he served as special assistant to the united states secretary of state. two final points before our witnesses are sworn, first witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature and all open hearings will be held at the unclassified level. any information that may touch
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on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal or an attempt to retaliate against any official for testifying in front of congress. if you would please rise, raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? let the record show that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. thank you and you may be seated. the microphones are sensitive, so you'll need to speak directly into them. without objection your written statements will be made part of the record. with that, mr. holmes, you are now recognized for your opening statement and when you conclude, dr. hill, you will be immediately recognized thereafter for your opening
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statement. >> thank you. good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member nunes and members of the committee. my name is david holmes. since august 2017, i have been the political counselor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv, ukraine. while it is an honor to appear before you today, i want to make clear that i did not seek this opportunity to testify today. since you determined that i may have something of value to these proceedings and issued a subpoena, it is my obligation to appear and to tell you what i know. indeed, as secretary pompeo has stated, i hope everyone who testifies will do so truthfully and accurately. when they do, the oversight role will have been performed and i think america will come to see what took place here. that is my only goal, to testify truthfully and accurately to enable you to perform that role. to that end, i put together this statement to lay out as best i
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can my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter. by way of background, i have spent my career as a foreign service officer. like many of the dedicated publicervants who have testified, my entire career has been in the service of my country. i'm received degrees from international affairs from princeton university. i joined the foreign service in 2002, through an apolitical 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 embassies in russia. in washington, i served on the national security council staff and as a special assistant to the undersecretary of state.
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my prior overseas assigns including india, afghanistan, and kosovo. as the political counselor at the embassy in kyiv, i lead the internal section. and i serve as the senior policy and political ambassador to -- adviser to the ambassador. the job of an embassy political counselor is to gather information about the host countries 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 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've been president in many of the meetings with president zelensky and his administration, some of
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which may be germane to this inquiry. while i'm a political counselor at the embassy, it is important to note that 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 is to focus on the politics of the country in which i serve so that we can better understand the local landscape and better advance u.s. national interests there. in fact, during the period that will 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. until her removal from post, i
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was ambassador yovanovitch's chief policy adviser and developed a deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency, and professionalism. during this time we worked together closely speaking multiple times her day and i accompanied ambassador yovanovitch to meetings with her counterparts. our work in ukraine focused on 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 polling. 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
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priority merit special mention because it was during ambassador yovanovitch's tenure that we achieved the passage of a law estabinto try corruption cases. this strained ambassador yovanovitch's relationship with president poroshenko. it would help ensure that no ukrainians, however powerful, were above the law. despite this resistant, the ambassador to the embassy kept pushing anti-corruption and other priorities of our policy toward ukraine. beginning in march 2019, the situation at the embassy and in ukraine changed dramatically. specifically, the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for ukrainian democratic resistance to russian aggression became overshadowed by a political
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agenda promoted by former new york city mayor rudy giuliani and a cgroup of officials workig with the white house. that change began with the emergence of press reports critical of ambassador yovanovitch and others to discredit her. in mid-march 2019, a colleague learned that mr. lutsenko complained that ambassador yovanovit yovanovitch destroyed him until he followed through with his commitments. in retaliation, mr. lutsenko made a series of allegations against ambassador yovanovitch suggesting that ambassador yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to advance the political interests of the democratic party. the embassy had ordered the investigation of a former ukrainian official because that
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official was the main ukrainian contact of the republican party and of president trump personally and that the embassy had pressured lutsenko predecessor to close a case because of an alleged connection between burisma and former vice president biden's son. he claimed that he had never received 4 hones received $4.4 million in u.s. funds. finally mr. lutsenko claimed that ambassador yovanovitch had given him a do not prosecute list containing the names of her allies, an allegation the state department call add fabrication and mr. lutsenko later reattracted. mr. lutsenko said that as a result of these allegations, ambassador yovanovitch would face serious problems in the united states. public opinion polls indicated that ukrainians did not believe
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mr. lutsenko allegations and on march 22nd, the president issued a statement in support of ambassador yovanovitch. following mr. lutsenko' allegations. mr. giuliani and others made a number of political statements critical of ambassador yovanovitch, questioning her integrity. 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 1st, 2019, the "new york times" reported that mr. giuliani had discussed the burisma investigation and its intersection with the bidens with the ousted ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. it was reported that mr. giuliani said he planned to travel to ukraine to pursue investigations into the 2016 election interference and into the involvement of former vice president's son in a ukrainian gas company.
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over the next few months, mr. giuliani issued a series of tweets asking why biden shouldn't be investigated attacking the new president of ukraine zelensky for being silent on the 2016 election and biden investigations and containi this time the election was approaching and volodymyr zelensky who had played a president on television was surging in the polls ahead of mr. lutsenko' electrical ally. i was president for ambassador yovanovitch's final meeting with then candidate zelensky. as in her two prior meetings that attended, they had a pleasant conversation and signaled their mutual desire to work together. however, the negative narratives
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about ambassador yovanovitch had gained currency in certain segments. on april 26th. ambassador yovanovitch departed for washington, d.c., where she learned that she would be recalled early. the allegations directed at ambassador yovanovitch, 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 administration and on 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 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 led the
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presidential delegation to the inauguration. the white house whittled down a proposed list for the official delegation from over a dozen individuals to just five. secretary perry, special representative for ukraine negotiations kurt volker, representing the state department, national security council director alex vindman, joseph pennington representing the embassy and gordon sondland. while ambassador sondland's mandate as the accredited ambassador to the european union did not cover individual member states, let alone nonmember countries like ukraine, he made clear that he had direct and frequent access to president trump and chief of staff mick mulvaney and portrayed himself as the conduit to the president and mr. mulvaney for this group. secretary perry, ambassador sondland and ambassador volker styled themselves the three amigos and made clear they would take the lead on coordinating
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our policy and engagement with the zelensky 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 was appointed the head of the security services of ukraine indicated to me privately that he had been contacted by someone named giuliani who said he was an adviser to the vice president. i reported the message to george kent. 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 inaugural delegation, someone wondered why mr. giuliani was so active in the meeting. my reaction was that ambassador sondland stated, every time rudy
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gets involved he goes and "f"s everything up. the inauguration took place and i took notes. during the meeting, there was a list described as people that he trusts. he said he could seek advice for the people on this list which was the topic of subsequent meetings secretary perry and key ukrainian energy sector contacts, embassy personnel were excluded from some of these meetings. on may 23rd, ambassador volker, ambassador sondland, secretary perry and senator ron johnson who had also attended the inauguration returned to the united states and briefed president trump. on may 29th, president trump signed a letter to president zelensky which included an invitation to visit the white house at an unspecified date.
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it is important to understand that 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 russian president putin that he had u.s. backing as well as to advance his anti-corruption reform agenda at home. president zelensky's team began pressing to set a date for that visit. president zelensky and senior members of his team made clear that they wanted president zelensky's first overseas trip to be to washington to send a strong signal of american support and requested a call with president trump as soon as possible. we at the embassy also believed that a meeting was critical to the success of president zelensky's administration and its reform agenda and we worked hard to get it arranged. when president zelensky's team did not receive a confirmed date for a white house visit, they made alternative plans for president zelensky's first overseas trip to be to brussels
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instead. in part to attend an american independence day event that ambassador sondland hosted on june 4th. ambassador sondland hosted a dinner in president zelensky's honor following the reception which included president zelensky, jared kushner, senior european union officials and jay leno. ambassador bill taylor arrived on june 17th. for the next month, the focus of our activities was to coordinate a white house visit. to that end, we were working with 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. the ukrainian policy community was unanimous in recognizing the importance of securing the meeting and president trump's
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support. ambassador taylor reported that secretary pompeo 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 first -- 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, we could lose 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 the anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the white house to schedule a meeting. 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 this meant the
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biden/buris biden/burisma investigations. while ambassador taylor did not brief me on every detail of his communications with the three amigos, he did tell me that on a june 28th call with president zelensky, ambassador taylor and the three amigos, it was made clear that some action on burisma/biden investigation was a precondition for an oval office visit. also on june 28th while president trump was still not moving forward on a meeting with president zelensky, we met with -- he met with russian president putin at the g-20 summit in japan sending a further signal of lack of support to ukraine. we became concerned that even if a meeting between presidents trump and zelensky could occur, it would not go well and i discussed with embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting all together. while a white house visit was critical to the zelensky administration, a visit that failed to send a clear and
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strong signal of support likely would be worse for president zelensky than no visit at all. congress had appropriated $1.5 billion in security assistance for ukraine since 2014. this assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to ukraine in its defensive war with russia. it has helped ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably the most capable land force in europe. i've had the honor of visiting the main training facility in western ukraine with members of congress and members of this very committee where we witnessed firsthand u.s. national guard troops along with allies conducting training for ukrainian soldiers. since 2014 national guard units from california, oklahoma, new york, tennessee and wisconsin have trained shoulder to
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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 a announced the hold on ukraine 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 identify the rational for the freeze, to conduct a review of the assistance, and to reaffirm the unanimous view of ukraine policy community of i nsc counterparts confirmed to us there had been no change in our ukrainian policy, but could not determine the cause of the hold or how to lift it. on july 25th, president trump
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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 readout of that call and i was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript was released on the 25th. upon reading the transcript, i was deeply disappointed to see the president raised none of what i understood to be our interagency agreed upon foreign policy priorities in ukraine, and instead raised the biden burisma investigation and referred to the theory about crowdstrike and its supposed connection to ukraine in the 2016 election. the next day, july 26th, 2019, i attended meetings the presidential administration building in kyiv with ambassador taylor, ambassador volker, ambassador sondland, and i took notes during those meetings. our first meeting was with president zelensky's chief of staff, it was brief, as he had already been sumnd moned by
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president zelensky to prepare for a broader meeting. but he said president zelensky expressed interest in the decisions related to the general prosecutor's office. the delegation then met with president zelensky and several other senior officials. during the meeting, president zelensky stated that during the july 25th call, president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues, and that he would have to follow up, he, zelensky, would have to follow up on the 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. as i was leaving the meeting with president zelensky, i was told to join the meeting with ambassador sondland and mr. yermak to take notes.
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i had not expected to join that meeting and was a flight of stairs behind mr. sondland as he reached mr. yermak. when he reached mr. yermak's office, ambassador sondland had already gone into the meeting, i expressed to mr. yermak's assistant i was to join the meeting as the embassy's representative and strongly urged her to let me in, but she told me ambassador sondland and mr. yermak insisted the meeting be one on one with no note taker. i then waited in the ante room until the meeting ended with a member of ambassador sondland's staff and a member of the kyiv staff. when the meeting ended, the two staffs and i accompanied ambassador sondland out of the building, ambassador sondland said he wanted to go to lunch and i told ambassador sondland i would be happy to join him and the two staffers for lunch if he wanted to brief me out on his meeting with mr. yermak or discuss other issues. ambassador sondland said i should join. the four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. i sat directly across from
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ambassador sondland. the two staffers sat off to our sides. at first the lunch was largely social, ambassador sondland selected a bottle of wine he shared among the four of us and we discussed topics such as marketing strategies for his hotel business. during the lunch, ambassador sondland said he was going to call president trump to give him an update. ambassador sondland placed a call on his mobile phone, i heard him announce himself several times along the lines of gordon sondland holding for the president. it appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switch boards and assistants, and i then noticed ambassador sondland's demeanor changed, and i understood he had been connected to president trump. 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
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he was calling from kyiv, i heard president trump then clarify that ambassador sondland was in ukraine. ambassador sondland replied, yes, he was in ukraine and went en to state president zelensky, quote, loves your ass. i then heard president trump ask so he's going to do the investigation. and ambassador sondland replied he's going to do it. adding that president zelensky will do anything you ask him to do. even though i did not take notes of the statements, i had a clear recollection of these statements were made. i believe my colleagues 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 jailed in sweden and i can only hear ambassador sondland's side of the conversation. ambassador sondland told the president that the rapper was, quote, kind of f'd there and should have pled guilty. he recommended the president, quote, wait until after the sentencing or only make it
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worse, and he added that the president should let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home. ambassador sondland further told the president that sweden, quote, should have released him en your word, but you can tell the kardashians you tried. after the call ended, ambassador sondland remarked the president was in a bad mood, as ambassador sondland stated was often the case early in the morning. i took the opportunity to ask him 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 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 replied he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the biden
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investigation, that mr. giuliani was pushing. the conversation then moved on to other topics. upon returning to the embassy, i immediately briefed my direct supervisor, the deputy chief of mission, about ambassador sondland's call with president trump and my conversation with ambassador sondland. i told others at the embassy about the call as well. i also emailed an embassy official in sweden regarding the issue with u.s. rapper discussed on the call. july 26th was my last day in the office ahead of a long planned vacation that ended on august 6th. after returning to the embassy, i told ambassador taylor about the july 26th call. i also repeatedly ferve ely i also repeatedly ferve el refe the call in meetings and conversations where the issue of the president's interest in ukraine was potentially relevant. at that time, ambassador sondland's statement to the president, statement of the president's lack of interest in ukraine was of particular focus.
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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 he found compelling. over the ensuing weeks, we continued to try to identify ways to frame the importance of ukraine in ways that would appeal to the president. to determine how to lift the hold on security assistance and to move forward on the scheduling of a white house visit by president zelensky. ukrainian independence day, august 24th, presented another good opportunity to show support for ukraine. secretary pompeo had considered attending, as national security adviser bolton had attended in 2018 and defense secretary ma mattis in 2017. nobody senior to ambassador volker attended. shortly there after 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
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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. lieutena lutsenko's replacement.
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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. on september 5th, i took notes at senator johnson and senator
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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 rule of law and generally investigating credible corruption allegations, this was
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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 interview is supposed to be today or monday, and they plan to announce an certain
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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 was released the same day. as of today i still not seen a
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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 potentially bore on the question of whether the president did in fact have knowledge that those
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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 to reject the entire corrupt repressive system that had been
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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 ballot box underscores that despite its imperfections, ukraine is a genuine and vibrant
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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 ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured by russian led
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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. we're now at a point in ukraine and it is critical to our national security that we stand
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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 regard to the subject of your inquiry. i believe that those who have
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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 george washington's ancestors came from. my region and my family have deep ties to the united states.
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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 hometown today. while his dream of emigrating to america was thwarted, my father
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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 accent. in england, in the 1980s and 1990s this would have impeded my
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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 union. i was hired by general michael flynn, katie mcfarland and
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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 that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. this is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies,
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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 desirable or inevitable. i continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing
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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 opposition research and false narratives. when we are consumed by partisan
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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 the ranking member or minority council. following that, unless i specify additional equal time for
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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 be forgiven if they have the same impression, listening to some of the statements of my colleagues during this hearing
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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, about your concern with that russian narrative that wasn't
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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. and i think what we're seeing here as a result of all of these
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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 trying to lay their own bets. they want to give a spread, make sure that whoever they had bet
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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. 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
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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 in the don bass, shooting down russian operatives and the plane
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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 news channel to a specific investigation of president trump's political rival.
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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. so focusing on particular cases, including particular cases where there is an interest of the
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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 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
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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 summit meeting with president putin in the coming weeks to -- his first face to face meeting with him to try to advance the
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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. dr. hill, you testified, i believe, that in mid-june ambassador sondland told you
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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. before the lunch that you described, you said that you accompanied ambassador sondland,
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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 zelensky referenced? >> the burisma biden investigation. >> after this meeting with
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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 being two tables for two pushed together, in any case, quite a wide table. and the table was set, sort of a
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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. he -- when the president came on, he sort of winced and held
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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. >> what was ambassador sondland's response? >> he said, oh, yeah, he's going to do it. he'll do anything you ask.
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>> 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, trump think of ukraine. what did ambassador sondland say to you7 mr. holmes: he doesn't really care about ukraine* chairman schiff: did he use more colorful language? mr. holmes: he did. chairman schiff: what did he say he cared about? mr. holmes: i asked what kind of big stuff. we have big stuff going on here like a war with russia, and he said big stuff like the biden investigation mr. giuliani is pushing. were youschiff: now, familiar with the biden investigation he referenced at that point? , sir.lmes: yes chairman schiff: and how do you
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have such a specific and clear recollection of this conversation with the president and your conversation with ambassador sondland? mr. holmes: this is a distinctive experience. i never had this experience of someone at lunch on their cell phone, talking to the president of the united states. very distinctive voice, very colorful language was used. they were directly addressing something that i have been wondering about and working on and aeks and even months, topic that led to the recall of my former boss, the former ambassador. so, here was a person who said he had direct contact with the president, and here he is having that contact with the president, hearing the president's voice and them talking about this
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issue of the biden investigation, that i had been hearing about. chairman schiff: so to summarize, during the phone call you overheard ambassador sondland have with president trump, you heard president trump himself asked the only question you really hurt him ask, i believe, whether he was going to do the investigation, to which ambassador sondland responded that he would, and wooden fact do anything president zelensky is that an accurate recitation of what happened? mr. holmes: that's correct. chairman schiff: and after the call, you had a subsequent conversation with ambassador sondland where he in sum and substance told you the president doesn't care about ukraine, only cares about big stuff related to himself, particularly the biden investigation giuliani was pushing? mr. holmes: correct. chairman schiff: now, a day before your lunch with ambassador sondland, president
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trump did speak with president zelensky as he referred, and certainly the president made it clear to president zelensky that he cared about the biden investigation. now, neither of you listened to the call, but as you testified, you both read it subsequent to its publication. 2.5hill, during your time, years in the white house, you listened to a number of presidential phone calls, is that right? dr. hill: that's right. chairman schiff: can you estimate how many? dr. hill: i cannot, actually. sometimes there would be multiple calls during the week. i was there for over two years. chairman schiff: have you ever heard her call like this one that you read? dr. hill: i don't want to comment on this call, because this is in my view executive privilege. in terms of the testimony, yes. mr. holmes: i think there are issues of classification regarding head of state
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communications we want to be ,ensitive to in this forum among other issues. chairman schiff: i am focused on this one call that has been declassified and published, and asking if you ever heard any presidential phone calls along these lines? dr. hill: again, i would like to focus in this testimony on this particular call, and i will just say that i found this particular call's subject and the way it was conducted surprising. chairman schiff: you said in your deposition testimony that you were very shocked and saddened to read it. dr. hill: that's correct. chairman schiff: why was that? = because of the nature -- dr. hill: because of the nature of the discussion, the juxtaposition of issues, and also given the fact that i myse lf had opposed along with the master bolton for some period having a call. and we were confident the issues ukraine and the united states were generally interested in would be raised.
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i saw in the call that this was not the case. chairman schiff: 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? dr. hill: i don't think it was specifically about the call, but i recall the testimony, because this was clearly the discussions call, july 19 and the call took place the following week. the month leading up to that from may onwards it became clear the white has meeting itself was predicated on other issues -- house meeting itself was predicated on other issues, investigations and questions about election interference in 2016. -mr. holmes -- >> mr. holmes, you indicated in your opening statement that the chief of staff of president zelensky indicated to you in this phone call on july 25, there was a discussion about personnel issues related to the prosecutor
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general's office. after you read the call, did you understand who and what that was referring to? mr. holmes: yes, sir. in that brief meeting with the chief of staff, it was confusing to me why in the few minutes we had that was the issue he raised. it wasn't until i read the transcript of the call on the 25th, that i understood the president mentioned specifically the prosecutor general lutsenko, who was in the process of replacing, carving out his und erlings who had been collaborating with him on some of the corruption we saw. chairman schiff was theou said lutsenko source of some of mr. giuliani's public views and allegations? mr. holmes: about two weeks sawre the press wave we targeting ambassador yovanovitch became public, embassy contact
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said privately mr. lutsenko was sending these messages and met with an american journalist to try to get the messages out. >> what was u.s. embassy in ukraine's view of prosecutor general lutsenko? mr. holmes: he was not a good partner. he had failed to deliver on the promised reforms that he committed to when he took office. to he was using his office insulate and protect political whilece -- allies, presumably enriching himself. >> is another way to describe that corrupt? mr. holmes: yes. >> i want to take a look at excerpts from this july 25 call with you. the first one occurs right after president to lenski thanks president trump -- zelensky thanks president trump for support in the area of defense. president trump immediately says, i would like you to do us
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a favor, 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 this whole situation with ukraine, they say crowdstrike. i guess you have one of your wealthy people. the server, they 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 in your opening statement as well as with chairman schiff? dr. hill: the reference to cloudstrike and the server, that's correct. >> and it is your understanding there is no basis for these allegations, is that correct? dr. hill: that's correct. >> now, isn't it also true that some of president trump's most senior advisors had informed him that this theory of ukraine interference in the 2016 election was false? dr. hill: that's correct. >> so, did your understanding
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then that president trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this theory and instead listen to rudy giuliani? dr. hill: that appears to be the case, yes. >> and i also want to show one other exhibit, that goes back to what you were testifying earlier, dr. hill, about russia's interest in promoting this theory. this is an excerpt from a february 2, 2017 news conference between president putin and prime minister orban of hungary. know,says, as you during the presidential campaign of the united states the ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position for one candidate, and certain oligarchs with the approval of political leadership funded this candidate, 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 putin's
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advantage to promote this theory of ukraine interference? mr. holmes: first of all, to deflect from allegations of russian interference, and second to drive a wedge between the united states and ukraine, which russia wants to get back in its seer of influence. thirdly, to besmirch ukraine and its political leadership, to erode support for ukraine from other key partners in europe and elsewhere. >> dr. hill, by promoting this theory of ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, was president trump adopting vladimir putin's view over his own senior advisors and intelligence officials? dr. hill: i think we have to be very careful about the way we phrase that. this is a view that president putin, the russian security services and many actors in russia have promoted, but i think that this view has also got some traction, in parallel, separately here in the united states.
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and those things have overtime started diffuse together -- to fuse together. >> back in may of this year, do you recall that president trump had a phone conversation in early may, with president putin? dr. hill: i do. >> and that he met in mid-may with prime minister orban who had joined president boudin at this press conference? dr. hill: that's correct. >> that happened in between the time when president zelensky was elected on april 21. and his inauguration on may 12. right? dr. hill: correct. >> and isn't it true president trump asked vice president pence to attend the inauguration, after his phone call with president zelensky on april 21? dr. hill: i am not sure i can say that president trump asked vice president pence. i was not in any meeting in which that took place. i can say that i myself and many
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and statethe nsc department were eager to have vice president pence go to ukraine to represent the united states government and the president. >> is that also your recollection, mr. holmes, that you wanted vice president pence to attend? mr. holmes: yes, sir. we understood that was the plan. >> now, jennifer williams, from the office of the vice president, testified here that on may 13, the same day that president trump met with prime minister orban, the president called off vice president pence's trip for unknown reasons but before the inauguration date was scheduled. hill, were you aware that during that period, there was a lot of publicity, and mr. holmes, about rudy giuliani's
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interest in these investigations in ukraine? dr. hill: i was certainly aware, yes. 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 he said to you? dr. hill: i do recall. it was part of a conversation about the things mr. giuliani was saying very frequently in public. saw himthem often, often on -- we saw them often, saw him often on television making the statements. i brought to ambassador bolton's attention the smear campaign anovitchambassador yov and expressed the shameful way
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that ambassador yovanovitch was being smeared. ambassador bolton indicated with his body language, there was nothing we could do about it, and in the course of the discussion said rudy giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up. >> could you understand what he meant by that? dr. hill: i did. >> what did he mean? dr. hill: i think he meant, what mr. giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case, and was frequently on television making incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this and was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would probably come back to haunt us, and in fact that's where we are today. >> mr. holmes, did the ukrainians understand rudy giuliani represented the president's views? mr. holmes: i believe they did. first, he was reaching out to them directly. he also, ambassador yovanovitch 's removal is relevant to this
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portion of the inquiry because she was removed following the media campaign in which giuliani and his associates were prominent, criticizing her for not taking seriously some of the theories and issues that later came up. so when she was removed, commentators in ukraine believed lutsenko working with giuliani had succeeded in getting her removed. so they were already aware of mr. giuliani and his influence he was promoting, and that he was ultimately able to get ambassador removed, partly because of that. he was someone to contend with. he began reaching out to the zelensky administration, key figures in the zelensky administration, and continues to do that. >> let's focus on the inauguration for a minute. you escorted, for lack of a better word, the u.s. delegation
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around? mr. holmes: i joined them in some of their meetings, but not for the entire day. >> and who was on the official delegation? mr. holmes: five people. the head of the delegation was secretary perry, ambassador volcker, ambassador sondland, our temporary charge, and alex vindmanmate -- representing the white house. >> you testified previously, secretary perry gave a list of sorts to president zelensky at the meeting. do you recall that? mr. holmes: yes. in the meeting with the president, secretary perry opened the meeting from the american side, and had a number of points he made. d, heg that perio handed over a piece of paper. i didn't see what was on the paper, but secretary perry described what was on the paper
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as a list of trusted individuals, recommended that president zelensky could draw from that list for advice on energy sector reform issues. >> do you know who was on the list? mr. holmes: i didn't see the list. i don't know. other colleagues, there are other people, secretary perry mentioned as being people to consult on reform. >> americans? mr. holmes: yes. >> do you also recall that colonel vindman spoke to president zelensky in that meeting? mr. holmes: yes. >> what did he say to president zelensky in terms of some of the issues we are addressing in this investigation? mr. holmes: he was the last to speak. he made a general point about the importance of ukraine to our national security and said it was very important that the zelensky administration stay out
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of domestic u.s. politics. >> was it your understanding that zelensky and the ukrainians were already feeling pressure to conduct political investigations? mr. holmes: yes. >> the ones related to biden, burisma and the 2016 election? mr. holmes: correct. >> dr. hill, you testified that in may you learn president trump was receiving information from someone else at the national security council, is that right? dr. hill: that's not quite right. i was told in passing, that someone else at the national security council, 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? dr. hill: correct. a very brief conversation to be clear. >> who is the director of ukraine? dr. hill: alex vindman, colonel vindman. >> and who did this individual refer to, in the office?
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dr. hill: the individual just said the name cash. >> did you know who that was? dr. hill: initially, i had to i rch my mind, the only one knew was kash patel. >> and he did not work on ukraine matters, is that right? dr. hill: not that i ever saw. >> so the indication is that informationrovided to the president without your knowledge? dr. hill: that seemed to be the indication. >> i want to go back to the july trumpl, where president asked about his potential political opponent, vice president joe biden. in this excerpt, the president said, the other thing, there's a lot of talk about biden's son, that biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.
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biden went around bragging he stopped the prosecution, so if you could look into it, it sounds horrible to me. course onehis was of of the allegations rudy giuliani was pushing, is that right? dr. hill: correct. >> and now confirmed in this july 25 call, the president was also interested? dr. hill: yes. >> ambassadors volker and sondland have tried to draw a distinction between their understanding of the connection between burisma and the bidens, but is it apparent to you that when president trump or giuliani or anyone else was pushing for thestigation into burisma, reason they wanted that related to what the president said, the bidens? dr. hill: it was apparent to me that is what giuliani intended, that burisma was linked to the biden's. >> and you also understood burisma was code for bidens? mr. holmes: yes. >> do you think anyone involved
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in ukraine matters would understand that as well? mr. holmes: yes. are you awarell, of any evidence to support the allegations against vice president biden? dr. hill: i am not, no. thend in fact, mr. holmes, former prosecutor general of ukraine, who vice president biden encouraged to fire, was actually corrupt, is that right? mr. holmes: correct. >> and was not pursuing corruption investigations and prosecutions, right? mr. holmes: my understanding, the prosecutor general at the time, shokin, was not at that time pursuing investigations of burisma or the bidens. >> and removing that corrupt prosecutor general's part of the u.s. anticorruption policy, correct? mr. holmes: correct, and not
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just us but all of our allies involved in ukraine at the time. >> dr. hill, you indicated earlier that you understood a white house meeting was conditioned on the pursuit by ukraine of these investigations, and i want to focus on the july 10 leading in the white house where that came to light. you indicated in testimony there was a large meeting that ambassador bolton ran, where lker andors sondland, vo secretary perry attended? dr. hill: correct. >> why were they included in that meeting with yovanovitch ukrainian officials -- two ukrainian officials about national security matters? dr. hill: the initial intent was not to include them. we anticipated the training officials would have a number of meetings, as is usually procedure, and they would be meetings at the state department, potentially also the energy department. and then there was a request to have ambassadors sondland,
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volker included, and as a result of that, given the important role secretary perry was playing in the energy sector reform in ukraine, and the fact he's in the delegation to the presidential inauguration in ukraine, we decided it would be better thao include all three of them. >> towards the end of the meeting, the ukrainians raised ongoing desire for a oval office meeting? dr. hill: that's correct. >> what happened after they did that? dr. hill: i listened carefully to abbasid or sandland's testimony -- ambassador sondland 's testimony, and i wanted to explain why he might have had a different interpretation of how this came into being. the meeting was initially scheduled for about 45 minutes to one hour, and it was rap-uptely in the w phase of the meeting when this occurred.
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we went through a number of discussions. the designated national security adviser of ukraine wanted to get into the weeds of how to form the national security council. he talked about this prior to the meeting, hoping to have this first-hand to et his opinions and thoughts on what wanted toen, but also discuss how important it was for ukraine to get energy sector reforms underway, and clearly secretary perry had talking points on this, an issue ambassador volker is also interested in. we knew they would inevitably have a question about a meeting. so as we got to the main discussions, going into the wrap up phase, they start to ask about a white house meeting. ambassador bolton was trying to arry this back, although he's
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national security advisor, he's not in charge of scheduling the meeting, not ambassador bolton's role to pull out the schedule and see if this tuesday, this month works. he does not as a matter of course like to discuss the details of these meetings, likes to leave them to the appropriate staff. this is already going to be an uncomfortable issue. as ambassador bolton was trying to move that part of the discussion away, trying to deflect it to another backup topic, ambassador sondland leaned in basically to say, well, we have an agreement there if specificeeting, investigations are put underway. that's when i saw ambassador bolton stiffen. sitting behind him in the chair, i saw him sit back like this, moving forward like i am at the table. that unmistakable body language got my attention.
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he looked at his watch, his wrist in any case, and said, really great to see you, i'm afraid i've got another meeting. >> and it ambassador sondland say who his agreement on this meeting was with? dr. hill: at that juncture, i don't think so. it was later, which i am sure you will want to talk about, he spoke specifically. >> what did he say later? dr. hill: that he had an agreement with chief of staff mulvaney, that in return for investigations, the meeting would be scheduled. >> was he specific at that point later about the investigations he was referring to? dr. hill: he said investigations into burisma. >> could you have a conversation with ambassador bolton, after the subsequent meeting with ambassador sondland? dr. hill: i had discussions with investor bolton after the meeting in his office very briefly, and at the subsequent meeting. >> so the subsequent meeting, after both meetings when you spoke to him, relayed what
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ambassador sondland said, what did ambassador bolton say to you? dr. hill: i want to highlight first of all that ambassador bolton wanted me to hold back in the room after the meeting. i was on the sofa with a colleague. >> after that meeting? dr. hill: he was making a strong point, wanting to know exactly what was being said. when i came back and related it to him, he had very specific instructions for me, and i am presuming -- >> what was that? dr. hill: specific instruction was that i had to go to the lawyer, john eisenberg, senior counsel for the national security council, tell eisenberg that ambassador bolton told me i am not part of whatever drug deal mulvaney and sondland are cooking up. >> what did you understand that to mean? dr. hill: i took it to mean investigations for a meeting. >> did you go speak to the
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lawyers? dr. hill: i certainly did. >> and you relate everything that you just told us? dr. hill: i relayed it precisely. the details of how the meeting unfolded, which i gave a full description of in my october 14 deposition. >> mr. holmes, you've 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. reach that conclude, clear conclusion? mr. holmes: we had been hearing about the investigations since march, months before, and president zelensky received a congratulatory letter from the president saying he'd be pleased to meet him following his inauguration in may. we had not been able to get that
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meeting. then the security hold came up with no explanation. and i'd be surprised if any of the ukrainians we discussed with, sophisticated people, when they received no explanation for why the hold was in place, they wouldn't have drawn that conclusion. >> because investigations were still being pursued, and the hold was remaining without investigation? mr. holmes: correct. >> so this for you was the only logical conclusion? mr. holmes: correct. >> sort of like two plus two equals four. mr. holmes: exactly. >> chairman, high-yield. chairman schiff: that concludes -- i yelled. chairman schiff: that concludes majority questioning. this would be an appropriate time to break, and we will resume. if people before they leave could allow the witnesses to leave first, and if committee members could come back promptly after votes.
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chairman schiff: the committee will be in recess.
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