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tv   Today in the Bay  NBC  November 21, 2019 6:00am-6:58am PST

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today. the winds are some nice wea. temperatures inland reaching into the low 70s as we go into the weekend. it will be dry but we will track the rain next week. all right, now we'll take a special report from nbc news on the impeachment hearing. you can also continue to follow our local newscast online, good morning and welcome once again to nbc news live coverage of the impeachment inquiry into president donald trump, the final hearing of an extraordinary week filling in the blanks on the president's dealings with ukraine and whether they constitute an impeachable abuse of power. the witnesses today, b foreign service veterans, fiona hill, former top white house adviser on russia with the national security council. there she is arriving a little while ago. david holmes, the other person to testify, a top staffer at the
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u.s. embassy in ukraine. >> he was a late add last week. his testimony coming to light. nbc news obtained an advance copy of fiona hill's testimony. she sharply said that ukraine, not russia, interfered in the 2016 election. she also says that rudy giuliani's narrative is a politically driven falsehood and she warnings that russia is succeeding in tearing this country apart which she says is its goal. she was the administration's russia expert. >> she'll have inside on that july 10 meeting which there have been various accounts. and expect david holmes to be asked about that phone conversation he overheard in ich whump asks about the politicaal asked ukraine to carry out.
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>> chuck today is d is in washi. andrea mitchell is tireless and we don't know how she got back to new york in such a short period of time. also nbc news analyst neil catchall is here this morning. jeff, set the scene for us for this testimony. >> savannah, good morning. fiona hill is a key witness because in her private testimony she said that she was so disturbed and concerned about what she perceived to be wrongdoing by rudy giuliani, the president's outside attorney, and ambassador gordan sondland as she says the two of them pursued a shadow foreign policy in ukraine. that stands in contrast to what sondland testified to yesterday. he said there was one policy, one channel, there was no secret and everyone knew about it. but hill is integral to the case that democrats are making because she was so intimately involved in russia and ukraine policy and she will in many ways today be a stand-in for john bolton. it is three fiona hill's testimony that we got all of
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john bolton's colorful commentary about the entire ukrainian gambut. it was john bolton who referred to it as rudy giuliani as a hand grenade that was about to blow up. she will be seated next to david holmes who is in many ways an accidental witness after investigators say he overheard this conversation between president trump and gordan sondland where holmes says president trump was checking in about these investigations into the bidens and burisma that he wanted to have open. >> jeff bennett leading us off this morning. >> let's go to hallie jackson at the white house. the president has been tweeting early and often, calling democrats human scum. can you give us a broader characterization of what he's saying this morning. >> reporter: he is fired up and ready to go ahead of this impeachment hearing coming out with one of the bigger tweet
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storms that we've seen from him. the president -- and this is something we've talked about before, lester -- does not want to be impeached and he's making that clear saying i've never in my wildest dreams thought my name would be associated with the ugly word, impeachment. he goes on to disparage what he calls great corruption and dishonestly about adam schiff. the president is not happy with this but our sources say he is acknowledging that he's going to have a fight so he is trying to relish the fight. that said, i get the sense from sources i talked to that they don't believe yesterday's testimony from gordan sondland was necessarily a game changer. nobody thinks it was definitively great for the president, perhaps the president himself to declared a victory lap during and after sondland's testimony yesterday, lester, as the witnesses walk into the room. >> yeah, thank you, hallie. >> fiona hill and david holmes about to testify. it's very interesting because
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some damning aat president but also some language that was fused upon as ex pu exculpatory. more than anything, whether mike pompeo and john bolton need to be called as witness. do democrats need to have that court fight or should they move on? >> i don't think they need to have it, savannah, because the evidence is already so overwhelming, including by sondland himself. sondland came in as the president's witness, as the kind of defense witness against a case that had already been built up by the democrats. if anything, he just made the president look more guilty. i don't think it's necessary. i do think it's inappropriate that we have these sitting federal officials who haven't even bothered to come and tell the truth to congress. >> and the question for andrea next is what happens next?
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after this where do democrats go with what they have gather snd. >> democrats have to decide whether they're going to write articles of impeachment, call more witnesses to back these witnesses up as neil says or go to court and fight for some of these other testimonies. they're even fighting for, as we heard yesterday, from gordan sondland, for any of the e-mails and texts and the other kinds of documents from the state department. not getting mike pompeo and mick mulvaney is a big problem as well. mike pompeo has been really damaged by this in terms of his reputation and political future with the suggestions that he is going to leave the administration and rund f for t senate from kansas. >> quickly, chuck, as i go to you, there's a calendar calendar and the political calendar. we're very much aware of a political calendar -- we better let adam schiff do his things. >> this is the seventh in a set of hearings on the impeachment inquiry. without objection the chair is
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authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. there is a quorum president. we will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. i'll make an opening statement. then ranking member nunes will have the opportunity to make a statement and we will turn to our witnesses for their opening statements and then to questions. for audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. in turn we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruption. as chairman i'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules and resolution 660. i now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump. yesterday morning the committee heard from ambassador gordan sondland. the american ambassador to the european union, the de facto leader of the three amigos who pressed the new ukrainian
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president, volodymyr zelensky 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 iestigation was into the political rival trump apparently feared most, joe biden. trump sought to weaken biden and to refute the fact that his own election had been helped by russian hacking and russian social media campaigns directed by vladimir putin. trump's scheme stood in contrast to the long-standing bipartisan foreign policy of the united states by undermining military and diplomatic support for a key ally and set back u.s. anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. in conditioning a meeting with zelensky and then military aid on securing an investigation of his rival, trump put his personal and political interests above the united states. as ambassador sondland would
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later tell career foreign service officer 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 counsellor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. also with us is dr. fiona hill whose job security council senior director for european and russian affairs encompass the coordination of u.s. policy towards ukraine. dr. hill left the nsc in july after more than two years in that position. dr. hill and mr. holmes each provide a unique perspective on issues relating to ukraine. dr. hill from washington d.c. and mr. holmes from on the ground in kyiv. in early 2019, dr. hill became concerned by the increasing prominence of rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer who was, as he has testified, ass t
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asserting quite frequently on television and public appearances that he had been given some authority over matters related to ukraine. hill was not alone in her concerns. her boss, national security adviser john bolton was also paying attention, as were other nsc and state department officials including holmes at the u.s. embassy in kyiv. bolton viewed giuliani as a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up and was powerless to prevent the former r engineering former u.s. ambassador to ukraine marie yovanovitch's firing in late april or her recall. holmes was stunned by the consistency of media attacks on yovanovitch by name as a u.s. ambassador and the scope of the allegations that were leveled against her. yovanovitch's dismissal as a result of giuliani's smear campaign was one of several things that unsettled dr. hill. another was the role of gordan sondland who emerged as a key
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player in ukraine policy in may when he was named as part of the u.s. delegation led by secretary rick perry to president ugurati. lieutenant colonel alexander vindman also attended the inauguration and as holmes recalls, during a meeting with president zelensky, took the opportunity to advise the new ukrainian leader to stay out of u.s. domestic politics. another concern that arose for dr. hill around this time was her discovery of a potential nsc-backed channel on ukraine. hill learned that an nsc staff member who did not work on ukraine and for her may have been providing ukraine-related information to president trump that dr. hill was not made aware of. according to holmes, following the zelensky inauguration, sondland and perry took a very active and un conventiconventio in formulating our priorities for the new zelensky administration and personally reaching out to president
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sondland's newfound assertiveness concerned dr. hill who previously had enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the ambassa on june 18, 2019 hill had a blowup with sondland when he told her that he was in charge of ukrainian policy. dr. hill testified that sondland got testy with me. i said who has put you in charge of it?. on july 10 dr. hill was part of a meeting at the white house with a group of u.s. and ukrainian officials including bolton, sondland, and energy secretary perry, another of the three amigos. the meeting was attended to give the ukrainians an opportunity to convey that they were anxious to set up a first meeting between their new president and president trump. sondland interjected to inform the group that, according to white house chief of staff mick mulvaney, the white house meeting sought by the ukrainian president with trump would happen if ukraine undertook certain investigations.
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hearing this, bolton abruptly ended the meeting. un detdeterred sondland brought ukrainian delegation and the nsc director for ukraine, 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 ne t get a meeting at all. bolton told dr. hill to report this to john eisenberg, telling her, you go and tell eisenberg that i am not part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go ahead and tell him what you've heard and what i've said. dr. hill did so, as did lieutenant colonel vindman who separately approached the same lawyers with his concerns. on july 18, the day before dr. hill left her post at the nsc, holmes participated in a secure inter agency video conference on ukraine.
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towards the end of the meeting a representative from the office of management and budget announced that the flow of nearly $400 million in security assistance for ukraine was being held up. the order had come from the president and had been conveyed to omb by acting white house chief of staff mick mulvaney without further explanation. holmes, unaware of the hold prior to the call, was shocked. he thought the suspension of aid was extremely significan undermining what he had understood to be long-standing u.s. national security goals in ukraine. one week later, on july 25, president trump spoke with president zelensky by phone. when president zelensky brought up the u.s. military support and noted that ukraine would like to buy more javelin anti-tank missiles from the united states, trump responded by saying, i would like you to do us a favor though. trump then requested that zelensky investigate the discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine interfered in the
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2016 election. more ominously, trump asked zelensky to look into the bidens. neither request had been included in the official talking points for the call prepared by the nsc staff, but both were in donald trump's personal interest and the interest of his 2020 re-election campaign. 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 26, in kyiv holmes served as a note taker during a meeting between acting ambassador bill taylor, volker and sondland with president zelensky and other senior ukrainian officials. zelensky said on the previous day's call, said that on the previous day's call president trump had, quote, three times raised some very sensitive issues that he would have to follow up on that issues when they met in person.
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although he did not realize it at thee,s ca to understand that the sensitive issues were the investigations that president trump demanded on the july 25 call. following the meeting with zelensky, holmes accompanied sondland to a separate meeting with one of the ukrainian president's top have hadders, andriy yermak. but holmes was not allowed in the meeting, while sondland met alone without any note takers. after the meeting, sondland, holmes and two other state department staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. at some point sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the white house and asked to be connected to the president. when trump came on the line, holmes could hear the president's voice clearly. holmes recalled that, quote, the president's voice was very loud
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and recognizable, and ambassador sondland held the phone away d time, presumably because of the loud volume. said he was callin from kyiv. he told the president that president zelensky loves your ass. holmes then heard president trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? ambassador sondland replied, he's going to do it, adding that president zelensky will do anything you ask him. after the call ended, holmes took the opportunity to ask sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on ukraine. it was at this point that sondland revealed that president trump doesn't give a expletive about ukraine, the president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president, like the biden investigation that mr. giuliani was pushing. a month later national security adviser bolton traveled to kyiv. between meetings with ukrainian
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government officials, holmes heard bolton express to ambassador bill taylor his frustration about mr. giuliani' about it. bolton further stated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the upcoming meeting between presidenum whether zelensky was able to favorably impress president trump. trump cancelled his trip to warsaw but sondland, volker and others continued to press for a public announcement of the opening of investigations by zelensky. on september 8 taylor how old 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 personally commit to a specific investigation of president trump's political rival on a cable news channel, unquote. on september 9, this committee
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along with the foreign affairs and oversight committees launched our investigation of this corrupt scheme. president trump released the hold od as cnn's fareed za ckaria revealed, the ukrainians cancelled their meeting shortly thereafter. 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, his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, a white house meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, it will be for us to decide whether those acts or compatible with the office of the presidency. i now recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks he would
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like to make. thank you. throughout these bizarre hearings, the democrats have struggled to make the case that president trump committed some impeachable offense on his phone call with ukrainian president zelensky. the offense itself changes depending on the day, ranging from quid pro quo to extortion to bribery to obstruction of justice, then back to quid pro quo. it's clear why the democrats have been forced onto this carousel of accusations. president trump had good reason to be aware of meddling against his campaign and of widespread corruption in that country. president zelensky who didn't even know aid to ukraine had been paused at the time of the call has repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with the conversation. e aid was resumed without the t
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coerced into uer presi trump s as numerous witnesses have testified, temporary holds on foreign aid occur fairly frequently for many different reasons, so how do we have an impeachable offense here when there's no actual misdeed and no one even claiming to be a victim. the democrats have tried to solve this dilemma with a simple slogan, he got caught. president trump, we are to believe, was just about to do something wrong, and getting caught was the only reason he backed down from whatever nefarious thought crime the democrats are accusing him of almost committing. i once again urger
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credibility of the democrats on this committee who are now hurling these chs. they got caught falsely claiming they hade trump colluded with russians to hack the 2016 election. they got caught orchestrating this entire as far as with the whistle-blower and lying about their secret meetings with him. they got caught defending the false allegations of the steele dossier which was paid for by them. they got caught breaking their promise that impeachment would only go forward with bipartisan support because of how damaging
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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 they got caught trying to obtain nude photos of president trump from russian pranksters pretending to be ukrainians. and they got caught covering up for alexander chalupa, a democratic national committee operative who colluded with ukrainian officials to smear the trump campaign by redacting her name from deposition transcripts and refusing to let americans hear her testimony as a witness in these proceedings. that is the democrats' pitiful
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legacy in recent years. they got caught. meanwhile, their star witness testified that he was guessing and the president himself office, that he wanted nothing from ukraine. ladies and gentlemen, unless the democrats once again scramble their kangaroo court rules, today's hearing marks the merciful end of the spectacle in the impeachment committee, formally known as the intelligence committee. the damage they have done to this country will be long lasting. with this wrenching attempt to overthrow the president, they
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have pitted americans against one another and poisoned the mind of fanatics who actually believe the entire galaxy of bizarre accusations they have leveled against the president since the day the american people elected him. i sincerely hope the democrats end this affair as quickly as possible so our nation can begin to heal the many wounds it has inflicted on us. the people's faith in government and their belief that their vote counts for something has been shaken. from the russia hoax to the shoddy ukrainian sequel, the democrats got caught. let's hope they finally learn a lesson, give their conspiracy theories a rest, and focus on governing for a change. in addition, mr. chairman, pursuant to house rule 11 clause
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2 j 1, the republican members transmit our request to convene a minority day of hearings. to date you have blocked key witnesses that we have requested from testifying in this partisan impeachment inquiry. this rule was not displaced by hr 660 and therefore under house rule 11, clause 1a, it applies to the democrats' impeachment inquiry. we look forward to the chair promptly scheduling an agreed upon time for the minority day of hearings so that we can hear from key witnesses that you have continually blocked from testifying. i'd also like to take a quick moment on an assertion ms. hill made in the statement that she submitted to this committee in which she claimed that some committee members deny that russia meddled in the 2016 election. as i noted in my opening
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statement on wednesday, in march 2018 intelligence committee republicans published the results of a year-long investigation into russian meddling. the 240-page report lie analyzee 2016 campaign, the reaction to it, and provided specific recommendations to improve american election security. when asked by staff to hand these reports to our witnesses today just so they can have a recollection of their memory. as america may or may not know,
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instead they decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. needless to say, it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in electio meddling at the same time, and republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries regardless of which campaign is the target. i'd like to submit for the record a copy of our report titled "report on russian active measures." i yield back. today we are joined by dr. fiona hill and david holmes. dr. fiona hill is a former deputy assistant to the president and senior director for europe and russia on the national security council. before returning to government she was a senior fellow heershe directed the center on the united states and europe. she previously worked at the national security col,
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eurasia foundation and the john f. kennedy school of government. david holmes is the political counsellor at the u.s. embassy in kyiv where he serves as the adviser to ambassador taylor who testified earlier in these hearings. he is a career foreign service officer. he has previously served in moscow, new delhi, kabul and bogota. he has served on the national security council 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 on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress wno reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official for testifying in front
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of congress including you or any of your colleagues. if you would please rise, raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you'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'll be immediately recognized thereafter for your opening statement. thank you, good morning, mr. chairman, ranking member nunes and members of the committee. my name is david holmes and i'm a career foreign service officer with the department of state. since august 2017 i have been the political counsellor at the
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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 appear and tell you what i know. as secretary pompeo has stated, i hope everyone who testifies will do so truthfully and accurately. when they do, the oversight rule 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 can my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter. by way of background, i have spent my entire professional career as a foreign service officer. like many of the dedicated public servants who have testified in these proceedings, my entire career has been in the service of my country.
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i'm a graduate of pomona college in california and received degrees in international affairs from the university of saint andrew's in console lascotland e princetprinc princeton university. i joined the foreign service in 2002 under the george w. bush administration. i have proudly served administrations of both parties and worked for their appointees, both political and career. prior to my current post in kyiv, ukraine, i served in the political and economic sections at the u.s. embassy in moscow, russia. in washington i served on the national security council staff as director for afghanistan and as a special assistant to the undersecretary of state. my assignments including new delhi, indian, bowigota, colomb. i lead the political section
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covering ukraine's internal politics, foreign relations and security policies and serve as the political adviser to the ambassador. the job of an embassy political counsellor is to gather information about the host country's political landscape, to report back to washington, to represent u.s. policies to foreign contact, and to advise the ambassador on policy development and implementation. in this role i'm a senior member of the embassy's country team and continually involved in addressing issues as they arise. i'm also often called upon to take notes in meetings involving an ambassador or visiting senior u.s. officials with ukrainian counterparts. for this reason i've been present in many of the meetings with president zelensky and his administration, some of which may be germane to this inquiry. while i'm a political counsellor at the embassy, i'm not a political appointee or engaged in u.s. politics in any way. it is not my job to cover or
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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 we'll cover today, my colleagues and i followed direct guidance from ambassador yovanovitch and ambassador taylor to focus on doing our jobs as foreign policy professionals and to stay clear of washington politics. i arrived in kyiv to take up my assignment as political counsellor in august 2017, a year after ambassador yovanovitch received her appointment. from august 2017 until her removal from post in may 2019, i was ambassador yovanovitch's chief policy adviser and developed a deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency and professionalism. during this time we worked together closely speaking
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multiple times per day, and i accompanied ambassador yovanovitch to many of her meetings with senior ukrainian counters parts. our work focused on three policy priorities, peace and security, economic growth and reform, and anti-corruption and rule of law. these policies matched the three consistent priorities of the ukrainian people since 2014 as measured in public opinion polling, namely, an end to the conflict with russia that restores national unity and territorial integrity, responsible economic policies that deliver european standards of growth and opportunity, and effective and impartial rule of law institutions that deliver justice in cases of high level official corruption. our efforts on this third policy priority merit special mention because it was during ambassador yovanovitch's tenure that we achieved the hard fought passage of a law establishing an independent court to try corruption cases. these efforts strained
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ambassador yovanovitch's relationship with the former president and some of his allies including prosecutor general yu independent anti-corruption institutions that would help ensure that no ukrainians, however powerful, were above the law. despite this resistance, the ambassador and the embassy kept pushing anti-corruption and other priorities of our policy towards ukraine. beginning in march 2019, the situation at the embassy and in ukraine changed dramatically. specifically, the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for ukrainian democratic resistance to russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former new york city mayor rudy giuliani and a cad dre of officials operating with a direct channel to the white house. that change began with the emergence of press reports critical of ambassador yovanovitch to discredit her.
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in mid march 2019, an embassy colleague learned from a ukrainian contact that mr. lutsenko complained that ambassador yovanovitch had, quote, destroyed him with her refusal to support him until he followed through with reform commitments and ceased using his position for personal gain. in retaliation, mr. lutsenko made a series of unsupported allegations against ambassador yovanovitch mostly suggesting that ambassador yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to advance the political interests of the democratic party. among mr. lutsenko's allegations were that the embassy had ordered the investigation of a former ukrainian official solely because that former official was allegedly the main ukrainian contact of the republican party and of president trump personally, and that the embassy had allegedly pressured lutsenko's predecessor to close case against a different ukrainian official because of
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the connection with burisma and vice president joe biden's son. mr. lutsenko said he never received funds intended for his office and that there was a tape of a ukrainian official saying that he was trying to help hillary clinton win 20916 election. finally, mr. lutsenko publicly claimed that ambassador yovanovitch had given him a do not prosecute list containing the names of her supposed allies, an allegation the state department called an outright fabrication and that mr. lutsenko later retracted. 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 generally did allegations, and on march following mr. lutsenko's allegations, mr. giuliani and others made a number oblic statements critical of ambassador yovanovitch questioning her intey office. mr. giuliani was also making frequent public statements pushing for ukraine to
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investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related to burisma and the bidens. for example, on may 1, 2019 "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani had, quote, discussed the burisma investigation and its intersection with the bidens with the ousted ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. on may 9, "the new york times" reported that mr. giuliani said he planned to travel to ukraine to pursue investigations into the 2016 election interference and into the involvement of former vice president biden's son in a ukrainian gas company. over the next few months, mr. giuliani also issued a series of tweets asking, quote, why biden shouldn't be investigated, attacking, quote, zelensky, for being silent on t presidential e around this time, the ukrainian newcomer and entertainer volodymyr zelensky who had
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played a president on television was surging in the polls ahead of president poroshenko. i was present for ambassador yovanovitch's third and final meeting with then candidate zelensky ahead of his land slide victory in the runoff election the next day. as in her two prior meetings that i also intended, they had a cordial, pleasant conversation and signalled their desire to work together. however, the negative narratives against ambassador yovanovitch gained population and she learned she would be recalled early. the allegations directed at ambassador yovanovitch, a career ambassador, is unlike anything career. following president-elect zelensky's victory, our attention in the embassy focused on getting to know the incoming zelensky administration and in
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preparations for the inauguration scheduled for may 20, the same day that ambassador yovanovitch departed post permanently. it quickly became clear that the white house was not prepared to show the level of support for the zelensky administration that we had originally anticipated. in early may, mr. giuliani publicly alleged that mr. zelensky was, quote, surrounded by enemies of the u.s. president and cancelled a visit to ukraine. we learned that vice president pence no longer planned to lead the presidential delegation to the inauguration. the white house then whittled down an initial proposed list for the official presidential delegation to the inauguration from over a dozen individuals to just five. secretary perry as its head, special representative for ukraine negotiations kurt volker representing the state department, national security counsel director alex vindman representing the white house, temporary acting affairs joseph pennington, and ambassador to
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the european union, gordan 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 later styled themselves the three amigos and made clear they would take the lead with the zelensky stwradministration. around the same time i became aware that mr. giuliani was taking a direct role. mr. zelensky's childhood friend and campaign chair was appointed the head of security services in ukraine indicated to me e haivbeen contacted by, quote, someone named giuliani who said he was an adviser to the vice
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president. i reported the message to deputy secretary of state 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. at one point during a preliminary meeting, someone wondered aloud why mr. giuliani was involved. ambassador sondland stated, quote, damn it, rude erudy, evee rudy gets involved he fs everything up.eeng secretary perry, past president zelensky a list as perry described as, quote, people he trusts. secretary perry told president zelensky that he could seek advice from the people on this list of energy sector reform which was the topic of subsequent meetings between secretary perry and key
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ukrainian energy sector contacts. embassy personnel were excluded from some of these later meetings by secretary perry's staff. on may 23 ambassador volker, sondland, secretary perry and senator ron johnson who had also intended the inauguration though not on the official delegation returned to the united states and briefed president trump. on may 29 president trump signed a congratulatory letter to president zelensky which included an invitation to visit the white house at an unspecified date. it is important to understand that a white house visit was critical to president zelensky. president zelensky needed to show u.s. support at the highest levels in order to demonstrate to russian president putin that he had u.s. backing as well as to advance his ambitious anti-corruption reform agenda at home. president zelensky's team immediately began pressing to set a date for that visit. president zelensky and senior members of his team made clear that they wanted president
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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 instead, in part to attend an american independence day event that ambassador sondland hosted on june 4. ambassador sondland hosted a dinner in president zelensky's hon which included jared kushner, secretary pompeo's counsellor, senior european officials and comedian jay leno among others. ambassador bill taylor arrived in kyiv on june 17.
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for the the next month the focus of our activities along with the three amigos 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 support. ambassador taylor reported that secretary pompeo had told him prior to his arrival in kyiv, quote, we need to work on turning the president around on ukraine. ambassador volker told us the next five years could hang on what could be accomplished in the next three months. i took that to mean that if we had not earned president trump's support in the next three months we could lose the opportunity to make progress during president zelensky's five-year term. within a week or two it became apparent that the energy sector reforms, the commercial deals,
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and the anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the white house to schedule a meeting between the presidents. on june 27, ambassador sondland told ambassador taylor in a phone conversation the gist of which ambassador taylor shared with me at the time, that president zelensky needed to make clear to president trump that president zelensky was not standing in the way of, quote, investigations. i understood that this meant the biden burisma investigations that mr. giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since march. while ambassador taylor did not brief me on every detail of his communications with the three amigos, he did tell me that on a june 28 call with president 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 28 while president trump was still not moving
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forward on a meeting with president zelensky, he met with russian president putin at the g20 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. 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 strong signal of support likely would be worse for president zelensky than no visit at all. congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in security assistance for ukraine since 2014. this assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to ukraine in its defensive war with russia and has helped ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably the most
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capable and battle hardened 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, ms. stefanik, where we witnessed firsthand u.s. national guard troops along with allies conducting training for ukrainian soldiers. since 2014 national guard units from california, oklahoma, new york, tennessee, and wisconsin have trained shoulder to shoulder with ukrainian counterparts. given the history of u.s. security assistance to ukraine and the bipartisan recognition of its importance, i was shocked when, on july 18, an office of management and budget staff member surprisingly announced the hold on ukraine's security assistance. the announcement came toward the end of a nearly two-hour national security council conference call which i participated in from the embassy conference room. the official said that the order had come from the president and
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had been conveyed to omb by mr. mulvaney with no further explanation. this began a week or so of efforts by various agencies to define a rationale, conduct a review of the assistance and reaffirm the unanimous view of the ukrainian policy community of its importance. nsc counterparts confirmed that us that there had been no change in our ukraine policy but could not determine the cause of the hold or how to lift it. on july 25, president trump made a congratulatory phone call to president zelensky after his party won a commanding majority in ukraine's parliamentary election. contrary to standard procedure, the embassy received no readout of that call and i was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript was released on september 25. upon reading the transcript, 00 i was deeply disappointed to see that the president raised none of what i understood to be our
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interagency agreed upon foreign policy in ukraine and instead raised the biden burisma investigation and referred to the theory of crowdstrike and its supposed connection to ukraine. the next day, july 26, 2019, i attended meetings of the presidential administration building in kyiv with ambassador taylor, ambassador volker and 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 summoned by president zelensky to prepare for a subsequent broader meeting but he did say that president trump expressed interest during the previous day's phone call related to the prosecutor general's office. the delegation then met with president zelensky and several other senior officials. during the meeting president zelensky stated that during the july 25 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 those issues
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when he and president trump met in person. not having received a readout of the july 25 call, i did not know at the time what those sensitive issues were. after the meeting with president zelensky, ambassador volker and ambassador taylor quickly left the presidential administration building for a trip to the front lines. ambassador sondland who was to fly out that afternoon stayed behind to have a meeting with andriy yermak, a top aid to president zelensky. as i was leaving the meeting with president zelensky i was told to join the meeting with ambassador sondland and mr. yermack to take notes. i had not expected to join that meeting and was a flight of stairs behind ambassador sondland as he head today meet with mr. yermack. when i reached mr. yermack's office, ambassador sondland had already gone in and i explained that i was supposed to join the meeting and strongly urged her to let me in but she told me that they had insisted that the
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meeting be one-on-one with no note taker. i waited until the meeting ended along with a member of ambassador sondland's staff. when the meeting ended, the two staffers and i accompanied ambassador sondland out of the presidential administration building. ambassador sondland said he wanted to go to lunch and i told them i would be happy to join them if he wanted to brief me on his meeting or discuss other issues. ambassador sondland said i should join. the four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an oortw staffers sat off to our sides. at first the lunch was largely social. ambassador sondland selected a bottle of wine that we shared and we discussed topics such as marketing strategies for his hotel business. during the lunch, ambassador sondland said that he was going to call trump to give an update. ambassador sondland placed a call on his mobile phone and i heard him announce himself several times along the lines of
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gordan sondland holding for the president. it appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switch boards and assistance and i noticed ambassador sondland's demeanor changed and i understood that he
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