REP. TERRI A. SEWELL, D-ALA.
REP. ANDRE CARSON, D-IND.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-ILL.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, D-CALIF.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, D-TEXAS
REP. VAL B. DEMINGS, D-FLA.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, D-ILL.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, D-N.Y.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., EX OFFICIO
REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF., RANKING MEMBER
REP. K. MICHAEL CONAWAY, R-TEXAS
REP. CHRIS STEWART, R-UTAH
REP. MICHAEL R. TURNER, R-OHIO
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP, R-OHIO
REP. ELISE STEFANIK, R-N.Y.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, R-TEXAS
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIF., EX OFFICIO
DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS, HOUSE
STEVE CASTOR, MINORITY CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, HOUSE
DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA,
NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
MR. DAVID A HOLMES, POLITICAL COUNSELOR, U.S. EMBASSY IN KYIV,
SCHIFF: The committee will come to order.
Good morning, everyone. This is the seventh in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as part of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry. Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time.
There is a quorum present. 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. Then 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 disruptions. As chairman, I'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with House rules and House Resolution 660.
With that, I now 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 had regular access to President Donald Trump and pressed the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for two investigations Trump believed would help his re-election campaign.
SCHIFF: 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 to refute the fact that his own election had been helped by Russian hacking and dumping operation and Russian social media campaign directed by Vladimir Putin.
Trump's scheme stood in contrast to the longstanding 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 later tell career Foreign Service officer David Holmes, immediately after speaking to the president, "Trump did not give a expletive about Ukraine. He cares about big stuff" that benefits him, "like the Biden investigation that Giuliani was pushing."
David Holmes is here with us today. He is a Foreign Service officer currently serving as the political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.
Also with us is Dr. Fiona Hill, whose job as the National Security Council's senior director for European and Russian Affairs encompassed 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 she has testified, "asserting quite frequently on television, in 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 Advisor 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 mayor from engineering former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's firing in late April, or her recall.
Holmes was stunned by the intensity and consistency of media attacks on Yovanovitch by name as a U.S. ambassador and the scope of 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 Gordon Sondland, who emerged as a key player in -- in Ukraine policy in May, when he was named as part of the U.S. delegation led by Secretary Rick Perry to President Zelensky's inauguration.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman also attended the inauguration and, as Holmes recalls, during a meeting with President Zelensky, took the opportunity to advise the Ukraine 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 back 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 unconventional role in formulating our priorities for the new Zelensky administration and personally reaching out to President Zelensky and his senior team."
SCHIFF: Sondland's newfound assertiveness also concerned Dr. Hill, who previously had enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the ambassador.
On June 18, 2019, Hill had a blow-up with Sondland when he told her that 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 a group of U.S. and Ukrainian officials, including Bolton, Sondland and Energy Secretary Perry, another of the three amigos. The meeting was intended, among other things, to give the Ukrainians an opportunity to convey that they "were very anxious to set up a meeting, a first meeting" between their new president and President Trump.
Sondland interjected to inform the group that, according to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the White House meeting sought by the Ukrainian president with Trump would happen if Ukraine undertook certain investigations. Hearing this, Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.
Undeterred, Sondland brought the Ukrainian delegation and the NSC director for Ukraine, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, downstairs to another part of the White House, where they were later joined by Dr. Hill. In this second meeting, Sondland was more explicit: Ukraine needed to conduct investigations if they were to get a meeting at all.
Bolton directed Dr. Hill to report this to NSC legal advisor 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 interagency videoconference on Ukraine. Towards the end of the meeting, a representative from the Office of Management and Budget announced that the flow of nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine was being held up. "The order had come from the president and had been conveyed to OMB by" acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "without further explanation."
Holmes, unaware of the hold prior to the call, was "shocked." He thought the suspension of aid was "extremely significant," undermining what he had understood to be longstanding U.S. national security goals in Ukraine.
One week later, on July 25th, President Trump spoke with President Zelensky by phone. When President Zelensky brought up U.S. military support and noted that Ukraine would like to buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States, 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 2016 election. Even 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 in 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 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 -- he said that on the previous day's call President Trump had, quote, "three times raised some very sensitive issues and that he would have to follow up on those issues when they met in person."
(CORRECTED COPY: CORRECTS "NUNES")
SCHIFF: Although he did not realize it at the times -- 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 -- the Ukrainian president's top advisers, Andriy Yermak. But Holmes was not allowed into the meeting and waited for 30 minutes while Sondland and the Ukrainian met alone without any note-takers to record what they said.
After the meeting, Sondland, Holmes and two other State Department staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. At some point during the meal, Sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the White House and asked to be connected to the president.
When Trump came on the line, Holmes could hear the president's voice clearly. Holmes recalled that, quote, "The president's voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume."
Sondland said he was calling from Kyiv. He told the president "that President Zelensky loves your ass." Holmes then heard President Trump 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 Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on Ukraine. It was at this point that Sondland revealed that the president -- that President Trump "doesn't give a expletive about Ukraine." "The president only cares about big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."
A month later, National Security Advisor Bolton travelled to Kyiv. Between meetings with Ukrainian government officials, Holmes heard Bolton express to Ambassador Bill Taylor "his frustration about Mr. Giuliani's influence with the president." Bolton made clear, however, "there was nothing he could do about it." Bolton further stated that "the hold on security assistance would not be lifted" prior to the upcoming meeting between Trump and Zelensky in Warsaw, where it "would hang on whether President Zelensky was able to favorably impress President Trump."
Trump canceled his trip to Warsaw, but Sondland, Volker and others continued to press for a public announcement of the opening of investigations by Zelensky. On September 8, Taylor told Holmes that, quote, "now they're 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, 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. As CNN's Fareed Zakaria has revealed, 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 to 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 up -- it will be 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.
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 wary of Ukrainian election 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. 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 different -- 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 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 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 Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee operative who colluded with Ukrainian officials to smear the Trump campaign by improperly redacting her name from deposition transcripts and refusing to let Americans hear her testimony as a witness in these proceedings.
NUNES: That is the Democrats' pitiful legacy in recent years. They got caught.
Meanwhile, their supposed star witness testified that he was guessing that President Trump was trying -- tying Ukrainian aid to investigations despite no one telling him that was true, and the president himself explicitly telling him the opposite, that he wanted nothing from Ukraine.
Ladies and gentlemen, unless the Democrats once again scramble their kangaroo court rules, today's hearing marks the merciful end of this spectacle in the Impeachment Committee, formerly known as the Intelligence Committee.
Whether the Democrats reap the political benefit they want from 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 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 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 H.Res. 660 and therefore, under House Rule 11, Clause 1(a)1(a), 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 statement on Wednesday, that in March 2018, Intelligence Committee Republicans published the results of a year-long investigation into Russian meddling. The 240-page report analyzed 2016 Russian meddling campaign, the U.S. government reaction to it, Russian campaigns in other countries, and provided specific recommendations to improve American election security.
I'm going to ask my staff to hand these reports to our two witnesses today, just so they can have a recollection of their memory.
As America may or may not know, Democrats refused to sign on to the Republican report. Instead, they decided to adopt minority views filled with collusion conspiracy theories. Needless to say, it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries regardless of which campaign is the target.
I'd like to submit for the record a copy of our report, titled, "Report on Russian Active Measures."
SCHIFF: 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 at the Brookings Institution, where she directed 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, where he serves as the senior policy and political adviser to Ambassador Taylor, who testified earlier in these hearings.
He is a career Foreign Service officer. He has previously served in Moscow, New Delhi, Kabul, Bogota and Pristina. He has also served on the staff of the National Security Council as his (ph) special assistant -- 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 also be held at the unclassified level. Any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately.
Second, Congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any U.S. government official for testifying before Congress, including you or any of your colleagues.
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 are 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 statement.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Nunes, and members of the committee. My names is David Holmes and I'm a career Foreign Service officer with the Department of State. 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. What -- when they do, the oversight role will have been performed, and I think America will come to see what took place here. That is my only goal, to testify truthfully and accurately to enable you to perform that role.
And to that end, I have put together this statement to lay out as best I can my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter.
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.
HOLMES: I'm a graduate of Pomona -- of Pomona College in Claremont, California, and received degrees in international affairs from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
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 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 under secretary of State. My prior overseas assignments include New Delhi, India; Kabul, Afghanistan; Bogota Colombia; and Pristina, Kosovo.
As the political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, I lead the political section covering Ukraine's internal politics, foreign relations and security policies. And I serve the senior policy and political ambassador to the -- advisor to the ambassador.
The job of and embassy political counselor is to gather information about the host country's political landscape, to report back to Washington, to represent U.S. policies to foreign contacts, and to advise the ambassador on policy development and implementation.
In this role I'm a senior member of the embassy's country team and continually involved in addressing issues as they arise. I'm also often called upon to take notes in meetings involving the ambassador or visiting senior U.S. officials with Ukrainian counterparts. For this reason, I have been present in many of the meetings with President Zelensky and his administration, some of which may be 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 -- 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 stay clear of Washington Politics.
I arrived in Kyiv to take up my assignment as political counselor in August 2017, a year after Ambassador Yovanovitch received her appointment. From August 2017 until her removal from post in May 2019, I was Ambassador Yovanovitch's chief policy advisor and developed a deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency and professionalism. During this time we worked together closely, speaking multiple times per day, and I accompanied Ambassador Yovanovitch to many of her meetings with senior Ukrainian counterparts.
Our work in Ukraine focused on three policy priorities: peace and security, economic growth and reform, and anti-corruption and rule of law. These policies match the three consistent priorities of the Ukrainian people since 2014, as measured in public opinion polling, namely, an end the conflict with Russia that restores national unity and territorial integrity, responsible economic policies that deliver European standards of growth and opportunity, and effective and impartial rule of law institutions that deliver justice in cases of high-level official corruption.
Our efforts on this third policy priority merit special mention because it was during Ambassador Yovanovitch's tenure that we achieved the hard-fought passage of a law establishing an independent court to try corruption cases.
These efforts strained Ambassador Yovanovitch's relationship with former President Poroshenko and some of his allies, including Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who resisted fully empowering truly -- truly 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 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 agenda promoted by former New York -- New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.
That change began with the emergence of press reports critical of Ambassador Yovanovitch and machinations by then-Prosecutor General Lutsenko and others to discredit her.
In mid-March 2019, an embassy colleague learned from a Ukrainian contact that Mr. Lutsenko had complained that Ambassador Yovanovitch had, quote, "destroyed him" with her refusal to support him until he followed through with his reform commitments and ceased using his -- 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 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 allegedly pressured Lutsenko's predecessor to close a case against a different former Ukrainian official, solely because of an alleged connection between that official's company Burisma and former Vice President Biden's son.
Mr. Lutsenko also claimed that he had never received $4.4 million in U.S. 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 the 2016 election.
Finally, Mr. Lutsenko publicly -- 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 Ukrainians generally did not believe Mr. Lutsenko allegations, and in -- and on March 22nd, President Poroshenko issued a statement in support of Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Following Mr. Lutsenko's allegations, Mr. Giuliani and others made a number of public statements critical of Ambassador Yovanovitch, questioning her integrity and calling for her removal from office. Mr. Giuliani was also making frequent public statements pushing for Ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related to Burisma and the Bidens.
For example, on May 1st, 2019, The New York Times reported that Mr. Giuliani had, quote, "discussed the Burisma investigation, and its intersection with the Bidens, with the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor."
On May 9th, The New York Times reported that Mr. Giuliani 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.
HOLMES: Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets asking, quote, "why Biden shouldn't be investigated," attacking, quote, "the new president of Ukraine," Zelensky, for being silent on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about The New York Times attacking him for, quote, "exposing the Biden family history of making millions from Ukrainian criminals."
Around this time, the Ukrainian presidential election was approaching, and political newcomer and entertainer Vladimir Zelensky, who had played a president on television, was surging in the polls, ahead of Mr. Lutsenko's political ally, President Poroshenko.
On April 20th, I was president -- I was present for Ambassador Yovanovitch's third and final meeting with then-candidate Zelensky, ahead of his landslide victory in the runoff election the next day. As in her two prior meetings that I also attended, they had an entirely cordial, pleasant conversation and signaled their mutual desire to work together.
However, the negative narratives about Ambassador Yovanovitch had gained currency in certain segments of United States press. On April 26th Ambassador Yovanovitch departed from Washington, D.C., where she learned that she would be recalled early. The barrage of 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 Zelensky administration and on preparations for inauguration scheduled for May 20th, the same day that Ambassador Yovanovitch departed post permanently. It was -- it quickly became clear that the White House was not prepared to show the level of support for the Zelensky administration that we originally anticipated.
In early May, Mr. Giuliani publicly alleged that Mr. Zelensky was, quote, "surrounded by enemies of the U.S. president," and canceled a visit Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, 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 Council Director Alex Vindman representing the White House, temporary acting Charge d'Affaires Joseph Pennington representing the embassy, and Ambassador of the European Union Gordon Sondland.
While Ambassador Sondland's mandate as the accredited ambassador to the European Union did not cover individual member states, let alone non-member 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, Ambassador Volker later styled themselves the three amigos, and made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy 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, Ivan Bakanov, who was Mr. Zelensky's childhood friend and campaign chair, and was ultimately we appointed as the head of the security services of Ukraine, indicated to me privately that he had been contacted by, quote, "someone named Giuliani who said he was an advisor to the vice president." I reported Mr. Bakanov's message to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy 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 aloud why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, quote, "Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved, he goes and F---s everything up."
The inauguration took place on May 20th and I took notes of the delegation's meeting with President Zelensky. During the meeting, Secretary Perry passed President Zelensky the list that Perry described as, quote, "people he trusts." Secretary Perry told President Zelensky that he could seek advice for the people on this list on issues of energy sector reform, which was the topic of subsequent meetings between Secretary Perry and key Ukrainian energy sector contacts. Embassy personnel were excluded from some of these later meetings by Secretary Perry's staff.
On May 23rd Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary Perry, and Senator Ron Johnson -- who had also attended the inauguration, though not on the official delegation -- returned United States and briefed President Trump. On May 29th, 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 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 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 White House a visit, they made alternative plans for President Zelensky's first overseas trip to be to Brussels instead, in part, to American Independence Day even that Ambassador Sondland hosted on June 4th. Ambassador Sondland hosted dinner in President Zelensky's honor following the reception, which included President Zelensky, Jared Kushner, Secretary Pompeo's counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, senior European Union officials, and comedian Jay Leno, among others.
Ambassador Bill Taylor arrived in Kyiv as charge d'affaires on June 17th. For the next month, the focus of our activities -- along with those of 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 its -- 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 first -- that the next five years could hang on what to be accomplished in the next three months. I took that to mean that we did not earn President Trump's support in the next three months, we could lose the opportunity to make progress during President Zelensky's five-year term.
Within a week or two, it became apparent that the energy sector reforms, the commercial deals and anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the White House to schedule a meeting between the presidents.
On June 27th, 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 the way of, quote, "investigations." I understood that -- that this meant the Biden/Burisma investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since March.
HOLMES: 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 Osaka, Japan, sending a further signal of lack of support to Ukraine.
We became concerned that even if a meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky could occur, it would not go well. And I discussed with embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting altogether. While the 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 capable and battle-hardened land force in Europe.
I have had the honor of visiting the main training facility in Western Ukraine with members of Congress and members of this very committee, 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 -- bipartisan recognition of its importance, I was shocked when, on July 18th, an Office of Management and Budget staff member surprisingly 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 officials 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 rationale for the freeze, to conduct a review of the assistance, and to reaffirm the unanimous view of the Ukraine policy community of its importance. NSC counterparts confirmed to 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 25th, President Trump made a congratulatory phone call to President Zelensky, after his party won a commanding majority in Ukraine's parliamentary election. Contrary to standard procedure, the embassy received no read-out of that call, and I was unaware of what was discussed until the transcript was released on September 25th.
Upon reading the transcript, I was deeply disappointed to see that 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 at 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 had already been summoned by President Zelensky to prepare for a subsequent broader meeting, but he did say that President Trump had expressed interest during the previous day's phone call in President Zelensky's personnel decisions 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 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 those issues when he and President Trump met "in person." Not having received a read-out 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 President 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 aide to President Zelensky.
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. I had not expected to join that meeting and was a flight of stairs behind Ambassador Sondland as he headed to meet with Mr. Yermak.
When I reached Mr. Yermak's office, Ambassador Sondland had already gone in to the meeting. I explained to Yermak's assistant that I was supposed to join the meeting as the embassy's representative and strongly urged her to let me in, but she told me that Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yermak had insisted that the meeting be one-on-one with no note-taker. I then waited in the anteroom until the meeting ended, along with a member of Ambassador Sondland's staff and a member of the U.S. embassy Kyiv 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 Ambassador Sondland that I'd 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, and Ambassador Sondland said that I should join.
The four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on outdoor terrace. I sat directly across from Ambassador Sondland, and the two staffers sat off to our sides. At first, the lunch was largely social. Ambassador Sondland selected a bottle of wine that 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 that he was going to call President Trump to give him an update. Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone, and I heard him announce himself several times along the lines of Gordon Sondland holding for the president. It appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistants. And I then noticed Ambassador Sondland's demeanor changed, and understood that 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 earpiece of the phone. The president's voice was loud and recognizable. And Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume.
I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote "loves your ass."
I then heard President Trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation?
Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.
Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the president.
The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland's efforts on behalf of the president to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador Sondland's side of the conversation. Ambassador Sondland told the president that the rapper was, quote, "kind of f----d there," and, "should have pled guilty." He recommended that the president, quote, "wait until after the sentencing or it will only make it worse," and he added that the president should, "let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home."
HOLMES: Ambassador Sondland further told the president that Sweden, quote, "should've released him on your word," but that, "you can tell the Kardashians you tried."
After the call ended, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood, as Ambassador Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning.
I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not give a expletive about Ukraine.
Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give an expletive about Ukraine.
Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about "big stuff."
I noted that there was big stuff going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia.
And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.
The conversation then moved on to other topics.
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 subsequent conversation with Ambassador Sondland.
I told others at the embassy about the call as well. I also e-mailed an embassy official in Sweden regarding the issue with the U.S. rapper that was 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 referred to the call and the conversation with Ambassador Sondland 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. We understood that, in order to secure a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky, we would have to work hard to find a way to explain Ukraine's importance to President Trump in terms that he found compelling.
Over the ensuing weeks, we continued to try to 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 Advisor Bolton had attended in 2018 and Defense Secretary Mattis had attended in 2017. But in the end, nobody senior to Ambassador Volker attended.
Shortly thereafter, on August 27th, Ambassador -- Ambassador Bolton visited Ukraine and brought welcome news that President Trump had agreed to meet President Zelensky on September 1st in Warsaw. Ambassador Bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the Warsaw meeting, where it would hang on whether President Zelensky was able to, quote, "favorably impress President Trump."
I took notes in Ambassador Bolton's meetings that day with President Zelensky and his chief of staff. Ambassador Bolton told Zelensky's chief of staff that the meeting between the presidents in Warsaw would be, quote, "crucial to cementing their relationship." However, President Trump ultimately pulled out of the Warsaw trip, so the hold remained in place with no clear means to get it lifted.
Between the meetings on August 27th, I heard Ambassador Bolton express to Ambassador Taylor and National Security Council Senior Director Tim Morrison his frustration about Mr. Giuliani's influence with the president, making clear there was nothing he could do about it.
He recommended that Mr. Lutsenko's replacement as prosecutor general opened a channel with his counterpart, Attorney General Barr, in place of the informal channel between Mr. Yermak and Mr. Giuliani. Ambassador Bolton also expressed frustration about Ambassador Sondland's expansive interpretation of his mandate.
After President Trump canceled his visit to Warsaw, we continued to try to appeal to the president in foreign policy and national security terms. To that end, Ambassador Taylor told me that Ambassador Bolton recommended that he and Ambassador Taylor send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo, articulating the importance of the security assistance.
At Ambassador Taylor's direction, I drafted and transmitted the cable on -- 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 Chris Murphy's meetings with President Zelensky in Kyiv, 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 these "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 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 requested CNN interview. We had several indications that the interview would occur.
First, the S (ph) conference in Kyiv was held from September 12th to 14th, and CNN's Fareed Zakaria was one of the moderators.
Second, on September 13th, an embassy 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 that a certain investigation that was on hold will progress."
Sondland's aide did not know if this was decided or if Sondland was advocating for it. Apparently, he's been discussing this with Yermak.
Finally, also on September 13th, Ambassador Taylor and I ran into Mr. Yermak on a way out of a meeting with President Zelensky in his private office. Ambassador Taylor again 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. The transcript of the July 25th call was released the same day. As of today, I still -- I have still not seen a readout of the September 25th meeting.
HOLMES: 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 recollection 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 the 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 elicited at the 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 senior officials were using the 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 to 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 what became known as 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 sustained by Russian influence in the country. Those events were followed Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and invasion of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, and an ensuing war that, to date, has cost almost 14,000 lives. Despite the Russian aggression over the past five years, Ukrainians have rebuilt a shattered economy, adhered to a peace process, and moved economically and socially 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 percent of their 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 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 our 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 retreat 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 Russia-led forces in Eastern Ukraine, despite a declared ceasefire. 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 and their new government earnestly want to believe that.
Ukrainians cherish their bipartisan American support and sustain their Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and they recoil at the thought of playing 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 an aggression. They deserve better.
We're now at an inflection point in Ukraine, and it is critical to our national security that we stand in strong support of Ukrainian partners. Ukrainians and freedom-loving people everywhere are watching the example we set here of democracy and the rule of law.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Holmes.
HILL: (OFF-MIKE) Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Do I need to adjust the microphone?
SCHIFF: Is the microphone on?
HILL: I believe it is now. Is that -- is that right?
HILL: 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's impeachment inquiry and I am appearing today as a fact witness, as I did during my deposition on October 14th, in order to answer your questions about what I saw, what I did, what I knew, and what I know with regard to the subjects of your inquiry. I believe that those who have information that the Congress deems relevant have a legal and a moral obligation to provide it.
I take great pride in the fact that I'm a non-partisan foreign policy expert, who has served under three Republican and Democratic presidents. I have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in particular direction, except toward the truth.
I will not provide a long narrative statement, because I believe that 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 share a little a bit about who I am. I'm an American by choice, having become a citizen in 2002. I was born in the northeast of England in the same region that George Washington's ancestors came from. Both my region and my family have deep ties to the United States.
My paternal grandfather fought through World War I in the Royal Field Artillery, surviving being shot, shelled, and gassed before American troops intervened to end the war in 1918.
During the Second World War, other members of my family fought to defend the free world from fascism alongside American soldiers, sailors, and airmen.
The men in my father's family were coalminers whose family has (ph) always struggled with poverty.
When my father, Alfred, was 14, he joined his father, brothers -- brother, uncles and cousins in the coal mines to help put food on the table. When the last of the local mines closed in 1960s, my father wanted to immigrate to the United States to work in the coal mines in West Virginia, or in Pennsylvania. But his mother, my grandmother, had been 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 immigrating to America was thwarted, my father loved America, its culture, its history and its role as a beacon of hope for the world. He always wanted someone in the family to make it to the United States.
HILL: I began my university studies in 1984. And I just learned that I went to the same university as my colleague here, Mr. Holmes, in St. Andrews in Scotland. I 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, or INF treaty. And when President Ronald Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail 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 has 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 professional advancement. This background has never set me back in America.
For the best part of three decades I've built a career as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional focusing on Europe and Eurasia and especially the former Soviet Union.
I've served our country under three presidents, in my most recent capacity under President Trump, as well as in my former position under -- as under my former position of national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In that role I was the intelligence community's 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 Turkey, along with NATO and the European Union.
I was hired initially by General Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland and General Keith Kellogg. But then I started working April 2017 when General McMaster was the national security adviser.
I and they thought that 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 threatens 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 a 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, 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 armed 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 objectives in Europe, including in Ukraine, where Moscow wishes to reassert political and economic dominance.
I say this not as an alarmist but as a realist. I do not think long-term conflict with Russia is either desirable or inevitable. I continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with Moscow, even as we counter their efforts to harm us.
HILL: Right now, Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them.
In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically derivative falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.
As Republicans and Democrats have agreed for decades, Ukraine is a valued partner of the United States, and it plays an important role in our national security.
And as I told the committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016.
These fictions are harmful, even if they're deployed for purely domestic political purposes. President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a super-PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the Americans people in 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 interests, that's more than worthy of your attention.
But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm.
I'm ready to answer your questions. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Dr. Hill.
We'll now proceeded to the first round of questions. As detailed in the memo provided to committee members, there'll be 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman or majority counsel followed by 45 minutes for the ranking member or minority counsel.
Following that, unless I specify, additional equal time for extended questioning we'll proceed under the five-minute rule and every member will have a chance to ask questions.
I now recognize myself for majority counsel 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. The few immigrant stories that we've heard just in the course of these hearings are among the most powerful, I think, I've ever 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, that Russia didn't intervene in our election; it was all the Ukrainians. There's been effort to take a tweet here and op-ed there and a newspaper story here and somehow equate 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 the intelligence committee's finding that Russia intervened to help one side -- to help Donald Trump at the expense of Hillary Clinton. No one in the intelligence community questions that finding nor does the FBI, nor does the Senate bipartisan Intelligence Committee report, nor does 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 it wasn't the Russians that engaged in interfering in our election in 2016, and -- and, of course, this was given a boost when President Trump in Helsinki in the presence of Putin said that he questioned his own intelligence agencies. But why are the Russians pushing that narrative that it was Ukraine? How does that serve Russian interests?
HILL: The Russians' interests, frankly, is to delegitimize our entire presidency.
So one issue that I do want to raise, and I think that this would resonate with our colleagues on the committee from the Republican Party, is that the goal of the Russians was really to put whoever became the president, by trying to tip the hands on one side of the scale, under a cloud. So if a secretary, former first lady, former 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 that what we're seeing here as a result of all of these narratives is this is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for. They seed disinformation. They seed 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.
That's why I wanted to make such a strong point at the very beginning, because there were certainly individuals in many other countries who had harsh words for both of the candidates, who had harsh words for many other candidates during the primaries. You had a lot of people who were running for president on the Republican side.
There were many people who were 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 a bet on who you think is going to be the candidate.
So the Russian government were trying to lay their own bets. But what they wanted to do is get a spread. They wanted to make sure that whoever they had bet on, whoever they tried to tip the scales, would also experience some discomfort, that they were beholden to them in some way, that they would create just the kind of chaos that we have seen in our politics.
So I just want to, again, emphasize that 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.
There's an additional benefit -- and I think you're absolutely right, the Russians are equal opportunity meddlers. They will not only help one side, but they'll also just seek to sow discord in the United States, along ethnic lines, religious lines, geographic lines.
But there's also a benefit now -- isn't there? -- for Russia to put the blame on Ukraine, to cast doubt on whether they intervene 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?
HILL: Well, that's absolutely 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 incidents that they have perpetrated. We saw that recently with the United Kingdom and the Russian secret service's attack on a former spy, Mr. Skripal, (inaudible) in England, where you may recall that the Russians actually accuse the British government of perpetrating this themselves.
So this falls into a long pattern of deflection, of the Russian government trying to pin the blame on someone else.
And as my colleague Mr. Holmes here has lain out, the Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine and Ukrainians and Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light.
All of the issues that we started to discuss today, and that you on the committee have been deeply involved in, began with Russia's illegal annexation of the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, (inaudible) response 2015 and all of the different acts of aggression that Russia has engaged in since: starting a war in the Donbas, shooting down, Russian operatives, a plane, MH17, over Donbas at a later period.
There is a great deal of hostility and malign intent towards Ukraine, and it suits the Russian government is very much if we are also looking at Ukraine as somehow a perpetrator of malign 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, obviously, at your deposition, read your opening testimony, but as you learn more facts you start to see things in different light, even though your opening statement is very much consistent with your opening statement during the deposition.
And 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."
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 -- what does that do to our anti-corruption efforts when the Ukrainians perceive that we're engaging in corruption ourselves?
So our long-standing policy is to encourage them to establish and build rule-of-law institutions that are capable and that are independent and that can actually pursue credible allegations. That's our policy; we 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 president, just not part of what we've done. It's hard to explain why we would do that.
SCHIFF: But it harkens back to the conversation Ambassador Volker testified about, when he urged Ukraine not to initiate or prosecute Poroshenko. And the reply from Mr. Yermak was, "Oh, you mean like 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?
SCHIFF: You also, in your testimony -- and I was struck by this anew today.
When -- even after the aid is lifted, Ukraine still felt pressured to make these statements. And you and Ambassador Taylor were worried that they were going to do it on CNN. And you said that "Ambassador Taylor again stressed the importance of staying out of U.S. politics and said he hoped no interviews -- no interview was planned. Mr. Yermak did not answer but shrugged in resignation, as if to indicate that they had no choice." In short, everyone thought there was going to be an interview and that the Ukrainians believed they had to do it.
So you're acknowledging, I think, Mr. Holmes, are you not, that Ukraine very much felt pressured to undertake these investigations that the president, Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland and others were demanding?
And although the hold on the security systems may have been lifted, there are still things they wanted that they weren't getting, including a meeting with the president in the Oval Office. Whether the hold -- the security assistance hold continued or not, Ukrainians understood that that's something the president wanted and they still 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.
HOLMES: In fact, right now President Zelensky is trying to arrange a summit meeting with President Putin in the coming weeks, his first face-to-face meeting with him, to try to advance the peace process. He needs our support. He needs -- he needs President Putin to understand that America supports Zelensky at the highest levels.
So this is -- this is -- this doesn't end with a lifting of the security assistance hold. Ukraine still needs us, and as I said, still fighting this war this very day.
SCHIFF: Well, and I would underscore again, as my colleague did so eloquently, they got caught. That's the reason the aid was finally lifted.
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 or Burisma and the 2016 elections because they would benefit him politically, and that 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 that he was in charge of Ukraine policy. Is that right?
HILL: That's correct, sir. Yes.
GOLDMAN: Who did he tell you had put him in charge of Ukraine policy?
HILL: He told me it was the president.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Holmes, did you also understand that Ambassador Sondland had been given some authority over Ukraine policy from the president?
HOLMES: We understood that -- that he had been told to work with Mr. Giuliani.
GOLDMAN: And did he hold himself out as having direct contact and knowledge of the president's priorities and interests?
GOLDMAN: Now, 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 lead-up to that conversation.
Before the lunch that you described, you said that you accompanied Ambassador Sondland, Volker, and Taylor to a meeting with President Zelensky. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And you took notes at that meeting?
GOLDMAN: And you reviewed those notes before you came here to testify today?
GOLDMAN: And they were helpful to refresh your recollection as to what happened, is that right?
GOLDMAN: 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?
HOLMES: 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 amigos and his government about this set of issues.
GOLDMAN: And after you read the call, what did you determine to be the sensitive issues that President Zelensky referenced?
HOLMES: The Burisma/Biden investigation.
GOLDMAN: After this meeting with President Zelensky, you testified that Ambassador Sondland had a one-on-one meeting with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, and that you were prohibited from going into that meeting to take notes. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And yesterday, Ambassador Sondland testified that he probably discussed the investigations with Mr. Yermak. Did Ambassador Sondland tell you, at all, what they discussed?
GOLDMAN: Now, after this meeting with Mr. Yermak, you went to lunch. And can you just describe where you were sitting at the restaurant?
HOLMES: Yes, sir. The restaurant has glass doors that open onto a terrace and we were at the first tables on the terrace, so immediately outside of the -- the interior of the restaurant. The doors were all wide open.
There were -- there was tables -- a table for four, although I recall it being two tables for two pushed together. In any case, it was quite a wide table and the table was set. There was sort of a table runner down the middle.
I was directly across from Ambassador Sondland, we were close enough that we could share an appetizer between us, and then the two staffers were off to our right at this next table.
GOLDMAN: 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?
GOLDMAN: In the middle of a restaurant in Kyiv?
GOLDMAN: 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?
HOLMES: It was -- several things, he (ph) 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 the phone away from his ear, like this. And he did that for the first couple of exchanges. I don't know if he then turned the volume down, if he got used to it, if the president moderated his volume, I don't know. But that's how I was able to hear it.
GOLDMAN: And so, you were able to hear some of what President Trump said to President Zelensky, is that right?
HOLMES: The first portion of the conversation, yes.
GOLDMAN: And what did you hear President Trump say to -- I'm sorry, not President Zelensky, to Ambassador Sondland?
HOLMES: What'd I hear the...
GOLDMAN: The president say to Ambassador Sondland.
HOLMES: Yes, he clarified whether he was in Ukraine or not.
He said, yes, I'm here in Ukraine. And then, Ambassador Sondland said, he loves your ass, he'll do anything you want.
He said, is he -- is he going to do the investigation?
GOLDMAN: So you heard President Trump ask Ambassador Sondland, is he going to do the investigation?
GOLDMAN: What was Ambassador Sondland's response?
HOLMES: He said, oh, yes, he's going to do it. He'll do anything you ask.
GOLDMAN: And was that the end of the Ukraine portion of the conversation?
GOLDMAN: Afterwards, you described a follow-on conversation that you had with Ambassador Sondland, where you asked him, I think, generally what did President Trump think of Ukraine. Is that -- is that right?
GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Sondland say to you?
HOLMES: He said he doesn't really care about Ukraine.
GOLDMAN: Did he use slightly more colorful language than that?
GOLDMAN: What did he say that he does care about?
HOLMES: He said he cares about big stuff.
GOLDMAN: Did he explain what he meant by big stuff?
HOLMES: Well, I -- I asked him, well, what kind of big stuff. We have big stuff going on here, like a war with Russia.
And he said, no, big stuff like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani's pushing.
GOLDMAN: Now, were you familiar with the Biden investigation that he referenced at that point?
GOLDMAN: And, how do you have such a specific and clear recollection of this conversation with the president and your conversation with Ambassador Sondland?
HOLMES: Yes. So this was a very distinctive experience in my -- I've never seen anything like this in my Foreign Service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant, making a call on a cell phone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice. He has a (ph) very distinctive personality, as we've all seen on television, very colorful language was used.
They were directly addressing something that I had been wondering about, working on for weeks and -- and even months, a topic that had led to the -- the recall of my former boss, the former ambassador. And so here was a person who said he had direct contact with the president, and had said that over the course of time.
Here he is actually having that contact with the president. Hearing the president's voice, and them talking about this issue of the Biden investigation that I'd been -- been hearing about.
GOLDMAN: So just to summarize, during this -- the phone call that you overheard Ambassador Sondland have with President Trump, you heard President Trump, himself, ask -- the only question that you really heard him ask, I believe, is whether he was going to do the investigation.
To which Ambassador Sondland responded that he would, and he would, in fact, do anything that President Zelensky (sic) wants. Is that an accurate recitation of what happened?
GOLDMAN: And then after that call you had a subsequent conversation with Ambassador Sondland, where he in sum and substance told you that the president doesn't care about Ukraine. He only cares about big stuff related to himself, and particularly the Biden investigation that Giuliani was pushing?
GOLDMAN: Now, a day before your lunch with Ambassador Sondland, President Trump did speak with President Zelensky as you -- as you referred. And certainly, the president made it clear to President Zelensky that he cared about the Biden investigation. Now neither of you did listen to this call but, as you testified, you both read it, subsequent to its publication.
Dr. Hill, you, during your time -- two and half years in the White House, listened to a number of presidential phone calls. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: Can you estimate approximately how many?
HILL: I can't, actually. I mean, sometimes there would be multiple calls during a week. I was there for more than two years, so it's a fair number.
GOLDMAN: Had you ever heard a call like this one that you read?
HILL: I don't want to comment on this call because this is, in my view, executive privilege.
HILL: In terms of the testimony -- yes, sir, just (ph)...
(UNKNOWN): ... Yes, I -- I -- I think that, as a threshold matter, I think that there are issues of classification regarding head of state communications that we do want to be sensitive to in this forum, among other issues.
GOLDMAN: Understood. I'm -- I'm really just focused on this one call that has been declassified and published, and just asking you whether you'd ever heard any presidential phone call along those -- these lines.
HILL: Well, again, I'd like to just focus in this testimony on this particular call. And I will just say that I've found this particular call's subject matter and the way it was conducted surprising.
GOLDMAN: You said in your deposition testimony that you were very shocked and very saddened to read it.
HILL: Because of the nature of the discussion, the juxtaposition of the issues in which they were raised. And also, the -- given the fact that I, myself, had actually opposed -- along with Ambassador Bolton -- for some period, having a call unless it was very well prepared and that we were confident that issues that Ukraine and the United States were most generally together interested in were going to be raised. And I saw in this call that this was not the case.
GOLDMAN: 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?
HILL: I don't think it was specifically about that call, but I recall the testimony that -- because this was clearly the discussion preceding the call. Remember, I left on July 19th, and the call took place the following week.
In the months leading up to that from May onwards, it became very clear that the White House meeting itself was being predicated on other issues, namely, investigations and the questions about the election interference in 2016.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Holmes you indicate in your opening statement that the chief of staff to President Zelensky had indicated to you that in their -- in this phone on July 25th, there was a discussion about personnel issues related to the prosecutor general's office.
After you read the call, did you understand who -- who and what that was referring to?
HOLMES: Yes, sir. In that brief meeting with the chief of staff, it was very confusing to me why in the -- only the few minutes we had, why that would've been the issue he raised.
So it wasn't until I read the -- the transcript of the call on the 25th that I understood that the president had specifically mentioned Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who the Zelensky administration was in the process of replacing and carving out all his, sort of, underlings who had been, you know, collaborating with him on some of the corruption we saw there.
GOLDMAN: And I believe you also said that President (sic) Lutsenko was the source of some of Mr. Giuliani's public views and allegations, is that right?
HOLMES: Yes, sir. So about two weeks before the press, kind of, wave that we saw targeting Ambassador Yovanovitch became public, an embassy contact had reported to us privately that Mr. Lutsenko was -- was sending these messages and had met with an American journalist to try to get those messages out.
GOLDMAN: What was the U.S. embassy and Ukraine's view of Prosecutor General Lutsenko?
HOLMES: He was not a good partner. He had failed to deliver on the promised reforms that he had committed to when he took office. And he was using his office to insulate and protect political allies, while presumably enriching himself.
GOLDMAN: Is another way to describe that corrupt?
GOLDMAN: Now, I want to take a look at a couple of excerpts from this July 25th call with you. And the first one occurs right after President Zelensky thanked President Trump for the United States' support in the area of defense.
And President Trump immediately then says, "I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike. I guess you have one your wealthy people. The server, they say Ukraine has it."
Now, Dr. Hill, is this a reference to this debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interference in the 2016 election that you discussed at the -- in your opening statement, as well as with Chairman Schiff?
HILL: The reference to CrowdStrike and the server, yes, that's correct.
GOLDMAN: And it is your understanding that there is no basis for these allegations, is that correct?
GOLDMAN: Now, isn't 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?
GOLDMAN: So is it your understanding then that President Trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this theory and instead listened to Rudy Giuliani's views?
HILL: That appears to be the case, yes.
GOLDMAN: And I also then want to just show one other exhibit that goes back to what you we're testifying earlier, Dr. Hill, about Russia's interest in promoting this theory.
This is an excerpt from a February 2nd, 2017 news conference between -- with President Putin and Prime Minister Orban on Hungary, where Putin says, "Second, as we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate. More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate to be more precise."
Mr. Holmes, you spent three years, as well, in the U.S. embassy in Russia. Why would it be to Vladimir Putin's advantage to promote this theory of Ukraine interference?
HOLMES: First of all, to deflect from the allegations of Russian interference. Second of all to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, which Russia wants to essentially get back into its sphere of influence. Thirdly, to besmirch Ukraine and its political leadership, to degrade and erode support for Ukraine from other key partners in Europe and elsewhere.
GOLDMAN: And Dr. Hill, by promoting this theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, was President Trump adopting Vladimir Putin's view over his own senior advisors and intelligence officials?
HILL: I think we have to be very careful about the way that we phrase that. This is a view that President Putin and the Russian Security Services and many actors in Russia have promoted. But I think that this view has also got some traction, perhaps in parallel and separately here in the United States. And those two things have over time started to fuse together.
GOLDMAN: Well, back in May of this year, do you recall that President Trump had a phone conversation in early May with President Putin?
GOLDMAN: And that he also then met in mid-May with Prime Minister Orban, who had joined President Putin at this press conference?
GOLDMAN: Now that happened in between the time when President Zelensky was elected on April 21st and his inauguration on May 20th, is that right?
GOLDMAN: And in fact President -- isn't it true that President Trump has asked Vice President Pence to attend the inauguration after his phone call with President Zelensky on April 21st?
HILL: I'm not sure that I can say that President Trump had asked the Vice President Pence. I was not in any meeting in which that took place. I can say that I myself and many others of the NSC and in the State Department were quite keen, very eager to have Vice President Pence go to Ukraine to represent the United States government and the president.
GOLDMAN: And is that also your recollection, Mr. Holmes, that you wanted Vice President Pence to attend?
HOLMES: I -- yes sir, and we (ph) understood that -- that that was the plan.
GOLDMAN: Now Jennifer Williams from the Office of the Vice President testified here that on May 13th, which is the same day that President Trump met with Prime Minister Orban, that the president called off Vice President trips -- Vice President Pence's trip for unknown reasons but before the inauguration date had been scheduled.
And Dr. Hill, were you aware also that -- that during that period, there was a -- a lot of publicity -- and I think Mr. Holmes, you referenced this in your opening statement as well -- about Rudy Giuliani's interest in these investigations in Ukraine?
HILL: I was certainly aware, yes.
GOLDMAN: And the -- around this time, Dr. Hill, you also I believe testified that Ambassador Bolton had expressed some views to you about Mr. Giuliani's interest in Ukraine. Do you recall what you said?
GOLDMAN: What he said to you, rather?
HILL: I do -- I do recall, yes. It was part of a conversation about the things that Mr. Giuliani was saying very frequently in public and we saw them often -- or, saw him often on television making these statements. And I had also already (ph) to Ambassador Bolton's attention the attacks, the smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch and expressed great regret about how this was unfolding, and in fact, the shameful way in which Ambassador Yovanovitch was -- was being smeared and attacked.
And I'd asked if there was anything that we could do about it, and Ambassador Bolton had looked pained and basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much that we could do about it. And he then, in the course of that discussion, said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.
GOLDMAN: Did you understand what he meant by that?
GOLDMAN: What did he mean?
HILL: Well, I think he -- he meant that obviously what Mr. Giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case, and he was frequently on the television making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this, and that he was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us. And in fact I think that that's where we are today.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Holmes, did the Ukrainians understand that Rudy Giuliani represented the president's views?
HOLMES: I -- I believe they did. First, as he was reaching out to them directly, he also -- Ambassador Yovanovitch's removal I think is relevant to this -- this course (ph) of inquiry, because she was removed following this media campaign in which Rudy Giuliani and his associates were very prominent and criticizing her for not taking seriously some of the theories and issues that -- that later came up. And so when she was removed, I -- you know, commentators in Ukraine believed that Lutsenko, working with Giuliani, had succeeded in getting her removed.
So they were already aware of Mr. Giuliani and his influence, of the issues that he was promoting, and the -- and -- and ultimately that he was able to get an ambassador removed, partly because of that.
So he was someone to contend with. And then in addition, immediately after the inauguration, he began reaching out to the Zelensky administration, key figures in the Zelensky administration, and continued to do that.
GOLDMAN: Let's focus on the inauguration for a minute. You would -- you escorted, for lack of a better word, the U.S. delegation around?
HOLMES: So I joined them in -- in -- in some of their meetings, but not for the entire day.
GOLDMAN: And who was the official -- who was on the official delegation?
HOLMES: Yes sir, it was five people, so as the (ph) head of delegation was Secretary Perry, and then it was Ambassador Volker, representing the State Department, Ambassador Sondland, our temporary Charge, Joseph Pennington, and Alex Vindman representing the White House.
GOLDMAN: And did the delegation have a meeting with President Zelensky that you attended?
GOLDMAN: And you testified I think in your -- previously that Secretary Perry gave a list of some sort to President Zelensky at that meeting. Do you recall that?
HOLMES: Yes. In the meeting with the President, Secretary Perry as the head of the delegation opened the meeting of the (ph) American side, and at a (ph) number of points he made and -- and during that period he handed over a piece of paper. I did not see what was on the paper, but Secretary Perry described what was on the paper as a list of trusted individuals (inaudible) and recommended that President Zelensky could draw from that list for advice on energy sector reform issues.
GOLDMAN: Do you know who was on that list?
HOLMES: I didn't see the list. I don't know. Other colleagues -- there are other -- other people who have been in the mix for a while (ph) on that that set of issues -- other people Secretary Perry has mentioned as being people to consult on reform.
GOLDMAN: And are they Americans?
GOLDMAN: Now do you also recall that Colonel Vindman spoke to President Zelensky in that meeting?
GOLDMAN: And what did he say to President Zelensky in -- in terms of some of the issues that we're addressing here in this investigation?
HOLMES: Yes sir, he was the last to speak. He made a general point about the importance of Ukraine for (ph) our national security, and he said it's very important that the Zelensky administration stay out of U.S. domestic politics.
GOLDMAN: Was it your understanding that President Zelensky and the Ukrainians were already starting to feel some pressure to conduct these political investigations?
GOLDEN: And those were the ones related to Biden and Burisma and the 2016 election?
GOLDEN: Now, Dr. Hill, you also testified that around this same time in May you learned that President Trump was receiving information from someone else at the National Security Council, is that right?
HILL: That is not quite right. I was told in passing that someone else at the National Security Council, that the president may want to speak to them because of some materials related to Ukraine.
GOLDEN: And did that person indicate that the president thought that was the director of Ukraine?
HILL: This was a brief conversation, just to be clear.
GOLDEN: Who is the director of Ukraine?
HILL: The -- the director for Ukraine is Alex Vindman, Colonel Vindman.
GOLDEN: And who did the -- this individual in the Executive Secretary's Office refer to?
HILL: The individual just said the name Kash.
GOLDEN: And did you know who that was?
HILL: Initially, what I was thinking about it, I -- I have to search my mind, and the only Kash that I knew at the National Security Council was Kash Patel.
GOLDEN: And Kash Patel did not work on Ukraine matters that you oversaw, is that right?
HILL: Not that I oversaw, no.
GOLDEN: So the -- the indication is that Kash Patel had provided some information directly to the president without your knowledge?
HILL: That seemed to be the indication.
GOLDEN: Now, I want to go back to the July 25th call right now, where President Trump, in another excerpt, asked President Zelensky about his political -- potential political opponent, Vice President Joe Biden. In this excerpt, the -- 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. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it. It sounds horrible to me."
Now Dr. Hill, this was, of course, one of the allegations that Rudy Giuliani was -- was pushing, is that right?
GOLDEN: And now confirmed in this July 25th call that the president was also interested in it?
GOLDEN: Ambassadors Volker and Sondland have tried to draw a distinction between their understanding of the connection between Burisma and the Bidens. But Dr. Hill, was it apparent to you that when President Trump, Rudy Giuliani or anyone else was pushing for an investigation into Burisma that the reason why they wanted that investigation related to what President Trump said here, the Bidens?
HILL: It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes, intended to convey: that Burisma was linked to the Bidens, and he said this publicly repeatedly.
GOLDEN: And Mr. Holmes, you also understood that Burisma was code for Bidens?
GOLDEN: And do you think that anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and the summer would understand that, as well?
GOLDEN: Now, are either -- Dr. Hill, are you aware of any evidence to support the allegations against Vice President Biden?
GOLDEN: And in fact, Mr. Holmes, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine who Vice President Biden encouraged to fire was actually corrupt, is that right?
GOLDEN: And was not pursuing corruption investigations and prosecutions, right?
HOLMES: My understanding is the -- the prosecutor general at the time, Shokin, was not at that time pursuing investigations of Burisma or the Bidens.
GOLDEN: And in fact, removing that corrupt prosecutor general was part of the United States' anticorruption policy, isn't that correct?
HOLMES: That's correct, and not just us, but all of our allies and other institutions that were involved in Ukraine at the time.
GOLDMAN: Now Dr. Hill, you indicated earlier that you had understood that a White House meeting was conditioned on the pursuit by Ukraine of these investigations. And I want to focus on the July 10th meeting in the White House where that came to light.
You indicated that -- in your testimony that there was a large meeting that Ambassador Bolton ran where Ambassador Sondland, Volker and Secretary Perry also attended. Is that right?
HILL: That's correct, yes.
GOLDMAN: And why were they included in that meeting with two Ukrainian officials about national security matters?
HILL: Well the initial intent had not been to include them. We had anticipated that the two Ukrainian officials would have a number of meetings, as is usually the procedure. I thought there would be meetings at the State Department, potentially also at the Energy Department.
And then there was a request to have Ambassadors Sondland and Volker included, coming directly from their offices, and as a result of that, clearly given the important role that Secretary Perry was playing in the energy sector reform in Ukraine and the fact that he'd also been in the delegation to the presidential inauguration in Ukraine, we decided that it would be better then to include all three of them.
GOLDMAN: Now toward the end of this meeting, the Ukrainians raised the ongoing -- their ongoing desire for an Oval Office meeting. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And what happened after they did that?
HILL: Well I listened very carefully to Ambassador Sondland's testimony yesterday, so I want to actually point out something where I think it's easy to explain why he had a different interpretation of how this came into being.
The meeting had initially been scheduled for about 45, you know, minutes to an hour and it was definitely in the wrap up phase of the meeting when this occurred. We'd gone through a series of discussions. Oleksandr Danylyuk, who was at this point the designated National Security Advisor of Ukraine, really wanted to get into the weeds of how you might reform a National Security Council. He talked to me about this prior to the meeting and he was hoping, you know, to have this opportunity with the National Security Advisor of the United States to get his firsthand opinions and thoughts on what might happen.
We'd also wanted to go through a discussion about how important it was for Ukraine to get its energy sector reform underway. And clearly Secretary Perry had some talking points to this. This is an issue that Ambassador Bolton was also interested in.
And then we knew that the Ukrainians would have on their agenda inevitably the question about a meeting. And so as we get through the main discussion, we're going into that wrap up phase, the Ukrainians, Mr. Danylyuk starts to ask about a White House meeting and Ambassador Bolton was trying to parry this back.
Although he's the National Security Advisor, he's not in charge of scheduling the meeting. We have input recommending the meetings and this goes through a whole process. So it's not Ambassador Bolton's role to start pulling out the schedule and start saying right, well we're going to look and see if this Tuesday in this month is going to work with us. And he does not, as a matter, of course, like to discuss the details of these meetings, he likes to leave them to, you know, the appropriate staff for this. So this is already going to be an uncomfortable issue.
As Ambassador Bolton was trying to move that part of the discussion away -- I think he was going to try to deflect it on another wrap up topic -- Ambassador Sondland leaned in basically to say well we have an agreement that there will be a meeting if specific investigations are -- are put underway and that's when I saw Ambassador Bolton stiffen. I was sitting behind him in the chair and I saw him sit back slightly like this. He'd been more moving forward like I am to the table. And for me, that was an unmistakable body language and it caught my attention. And then he looked up to the clock and, you know, at his watch or I suppose his wrist, in any case -- and again, I was sitting behind him -- and basically said well, you know, it's been really great to see you, I'm afraid I've got another -- another meeting.
GOLDMAN: And did Ambassador Sondland say who his agreement on this White House meeting was with?
HILL: In that particular juncture, I don't believe so. It was later, which I'm sure you'll want to talk about, that he did say more specifically.
GOLDMAN: And what did he say later?
HILL: Later, he said that he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney, that -- in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled.
GOLDMAN: And was he specific at that point later about the investigations that he was referring to?
HILL: He said the investigations in Burisma.
GOLDMAN: Now did you have a conversation with Ambassador Bolton after this subsequent meeting with Ambassador Sondland?
HILL: I had a -- a discussion with Ambassador Bolton both after the meeting in his office, a very brief one, and then one immediately after -- it was the subsequent meeting.
GOLDMAN: So the subsequent meeting -- or the -- after both meetings, when you spoke to him and relayed to him what Ambassador Sondland said, what did Ambassador Bolton say to you?
HILL: Well I just want to highlight first of all that Ambassador Bolton wanted me to hold back in the room immediately after the meeting. Again, I was sitting on the sofa with a colleague ...
GOLDMAN: Right, but just in that second meeting, what -- what did he say?
HILL: Yes, but he was -- he was making a very strong point that he wanted to know exactly what was being said. And when I came back and related to him -- to him, he had some very specific instruction for me. And I'm presuming that that's ...
GOLDMAN: What was that specific instruction?
HILL: The specific instruction was that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, our Senior Counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me, that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.
GOODMAN: What did you understand him to mean by the drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up?
HILL: I took it to mean investigations for a meeting.
GOODMAN: Did you go speak to the lawyers?
GOODMAN: You relayed everything that you just told us and -- and more?
HILL: I relayed it precisely and then the -- more of the details of how the meeting had unfolded, as well, which I gave a full description of this in my October 14 deposition.
GOODMAN: Mr. Holmes, you have testified that by late August, you has -- you had a clear impression that the security assistance hold was somehow connected to the investigations that President Trump wanted. How did you conclude that -- how did you make -- reach that clear conclusion?
HOLMES: Sir, we've been hearing about the investigation since March, months before, and we've been -- President Zelensky had received a letter -- congratulatory letter from the President saying he'd be pleased to meet him following his inauguration in May and we hadn't been able to get that meeting and then the security hold came up with no explanation. And I -- I'd be surprised if any of the Ukrainians you said earlier -- we discussed earlier, you know, sophisticated people -- when they received no explanation for why that hold was in place, they wouldn't have drawn that conclusion.
GOODMAN: Because the investigations were still being pursued ...
GOODMAN: ... and the hold was still remaining without explanation?
GOODMAN: So this to you was the only logical conclusion that you could reach?
GOODMAN: Sort of like 2 pluse 2 equals 4?
GOODMAN: Chairman, I yield.
SCHIFF: That concludes the majority questioning. We are expected to have votes I think fairly soon. This would be an appropriate time to break and we'll resume with the minority 45 minutes. If people, before they leave, could allow the witnesses to leave first and if committee members could come back promptly after votes?
SCHIFF: The committee will come to order. The Chair now recognizes the Ranking Member or their counsel for the first round of their 45 minute questions.
NUNES: I thank the gentleman. I want to get a few basic facts on the table of individuals that were involved in the 2016 election, just to see who you know and who you've met with. So I'll start with you, Mr. Holmes. Have you met with or do you know Alexandra Chalupa?
SCHIFF: Mr. Holmes, could you put your microphone on?
NUNES: Do you know Nellie Ohr? Have you met with Nellie Ohr?
NUNES: Thank you. Same question for you, Dr. Hill. Do you know or have you met with Alexandra Chalupa?
HILL: Only in the course of my previous position as the National Intelligence Officer for Russia, where he attended some of the meetings I presided over.
HILL: That's a long time ago, correct.
NUNES: OK. Dr. Hill, in your testimony, you said that - no, in your deposition, excuse me, that Christopher Steele was your counterpart at one time. Is this correct?
HILL: That's correct, yes.
NUNES: You testified that you met with Christopher Steele in 2016. I assume that's still correct?
HILL: That's correct, yes.
NUNES: And the only thing we didn't get on that is do you know about when that was in 2016 and how many times?
HILL: I'm afraid I don't. I actually met with him - well you asked me actually in a deposition when the most recent time that I had met with him in 2016 and he retired from the British Intelligence Services in 2009, which is the same time ...
NUNES: Right, I'm asking about 2016.
HILL: 2016, I don't recall, but I did meet with him some times before 2016.
NUNES: But you don't remember the date?
HILL: I don't, I'm afraid, no.
NUNES: OK. You stated in your deposition that a colleague had showed you the Steele dossier before it was published. Who was that colleague?
HILL: That was one of my colleagues at the Brookings Institution.
NUNES: And who - who was that?
HILL: That was the Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott, who had been sent a copy of this.
NUNES: And he shared it with you?
HILL: That was the day before it was published in Buzzfeed.
NUNES: Thank you. You mentioned in your deposition also that you thought that it was a - let's get the exact quote - that the dossier was a rabbit hole. Is that still your testimony?
NUNES: Do you - do you know who paid Christopher Steele to do - to generate the Steele dossiers? There were several of them.
HILL: At the time, I did not know. I understand from the media that it was through GPS Fusion. If that's not correct ...
NUNES: Do you know who was - and there was a law firm involved do you know who the source of the money was?
HILL: I didn't at the time. No, I did not.
NUNES: But do you know ...
HILL: Well now I've read in reports and thanks to your colleagues, as well, that it was the - the DNC, as I'm led to believe.
NUNES: And the Clinton campaign?
HILL: I don't know that for sure.
CASTOR: Good afternoon, welcome back from lunch, hope you had some sandwiches or something delicious.
CASTOR: Dr. Hill, thank you for your service, also thank you for your participation in a deposition on October 14th, Columbus Day. We were - we were with you most of the day so I appreciate that.
Mr. Holmes, thank you as well. You're a - a late entrant into - into this situation and things sure did escalate quickly when we spoke with you last Friday night about a - a - what we thought was going to be a 30 second vignette about a two minute phone call and - and turns out you - you know, with your 40 minute opener today, you have a lot of information to share, so we appreciate you being here.
Dr. Hill, you - your last day at - at the National Security Council was on July 19th. Is that correct?
HILL: That's correct, yes.
CASTOR: So you weren't involved with the July 25th call and you - you weren't involved with any of the relevant activities related to the - the pause in the aid?
HILL: I was not, that's correct.
CASTOR: And as of July 19th, did you believe that a call was going to be scheduled for the - the 25th?
HILL: I personally did not believe that it was going to be scheduled at that date, no.
CASTOR: And what was - what was the thinking at the NSC as of July 19th about such a call?
HILL: Well I've learned from other depositions, to be clear here, that perhaps there was some awareness that there might be a call. Ambassador Sondland, if you may recall, showed an exchange with the person who was taking over for my position, Tim Morrison, in which he indicated that there would be a call coming up. I was not aware of that.
CASTOR: OK. Were you in favor ...
HILL: So there were differences, let's just say, obviously an understanding about that call.
CASTOR: And were you in favor of - of such a call as of the 19th?
HILL: Actually, I was not and I did say something about that in the opening part of the sessions today.
CASTOR: OK and how about Ambassador Bolton, to your knowledge?
HILL: Well I know that Ambassador Sondland said in that e-mail that Bolton was in agreement. To my knowledge, Bolton was not in agreement at that particular juncture - to my knowledge.
CASTOR: And do you know what his opposition was?
HILL: It was based on the fact that he didn't feel the call had been properly prepared, and as I said earlier, that we wanted to make sure that there was going to be a fulsome bilateral U.S.-Ukraine agenda that was discussed, which is usual with these calls.
CASTOR: And you - were you surprised that a call (inaudible) was scheduled?
HILL: I was when I learned about it, that's right.
CASTOR: And did you have any communications with anyone back at your old staff, with - you know, about how that came to be?
CASTOR: OK. You - you did learn about the - the pause in the security assistance aid ...
HILL: I learned about that on July 18th, so the day before I left. That's correct.
CASTOR: OK and there were several meetings about this, I believe you testified to?
HILL: I said that I knew there was going to be a meeting in that timeframe and there was one put under the schedule for the following week, but of course I had left and so I didn't attend that.
CASTOR: And is it fair to say that -- that stops and starts in -- in aid like this sometimes do happen?
CASTOR: And I believe you had testified there was a freeze put on all kinds of aid and assistance because it was in the process, at that time there were significant reviews of foreign assistance going on?
HILL: That's also correct, yes.
CASTOR: And what else can you tell us about that?
HILL: About the foreign assistance review?
HILL: As I understood, the -- there had been a directive for a whole-scale review of our foreign policy -- foreign policy assistance and the ties between our foreign policy objectives and the assistance. This had been going on actually for many months and in the period when I was wrapping up my time there, there had been more scrutiny than specific assistance to specific sets of countries as a result of that overall view -- review.
CASTOR: And at this time, as well, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, they had -- they had become a little bit more involved with Ukraine policy?
HILL: Well Ambassador Volker was always involved in Ukraine policy, at least since the beginning of his appointment as the Special Envoy for Negotiations towards the war between Ukraine and Russia in Donbass.
CASTOR: What can you tell us about Ambassador Volker?
HILL: Ambassador Volker is an extraordinary, accomplished diplomat. I've worked with him in many capacities previously -- you know his bio, he's been the Ambassador to NATO, he's had a number of positions at the State Department and actually I know him personally. So, you know, the truth that we're trying to get at at who knows who and who's met, I know Ambassador Volker really well, on a personal level, as well.
CASTOR: OK and you said he's a man of integrity?
CASTOR: And always acted in the best interests of the United States?
CASTOR: When did you first learn of Ambassador Sondland's involvement?
HILL: Well it came in different ways. Ambassador Sondland, as the Ambassador to the EU, had some perfectly logical involvement in the Ukraine portfolio. We worked very closely with the European Union and on matters related to Ukraine. The Ukrainian dialogue with Russia was in a format known as the Minsk process, which was led by the French and the Germans, and Ambassador Volker was trying to find out ways in which he could work closely with the French and Germans to move along the -- on the resolution of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
And obviously the European Union, as the umbrella organization for Europe in terms of funding and assistance, was heavily active in offering financial assistance to the Ukrainian government, as well as humanitarian assistance in the conflict.
So it was perfectly logical that Ambassador Sondland would play some kind of a role as our Ambassador to the European Union.
CASTOR: Did you have any concerns when -- when he presented himself to you as somebody with a major role?
HILL: I did at the time in which he presented it to -- to me. This was after Ambassador Yovanovitch had been pushed out of her position and it was at that juncture that Ambassador Sondland's role seemed to grow larger.
CASTOR: And did you express any concerns to him directly?
HILL: I did express concerns to him directly.
CASTOR: What were those concerns?
HILL: I asked him quite bluntly in a meeting that we had in June of -- of 2019 -- so this is after the presidential inauguration, when I'd seen that he had started to step up in much more of a proactive role on Ukraine, you know, what was his role here and he said that he was in charge of Ukraine. And I said well who put you in charge, Ambassador Sondland, and he said the President.
CASTOR: And did that surprise you when he told you that?
HILL: It did surprise me. We'd had no directive, we hadn't been told this. Ambassador Bolton had never indicated in any way that he thought that Ambassador Sondland was playing a leading role in Ukraine.
CASTOR: Right. I believe you used the term "a large remit," that he characterized he had been given "a large remit" from the President?
HILL: I can't remember whether I said remit but it was portfolio -- he was constantly -- you know, these are all synonyms -- he was talking to us about the fact that he'd been given a very broad portfolio by the President. He said his job was to go out and make deals in Europe, and as you know yourself, I listened to his testimony yesterday very carefully, as well, he said that anything that had to do with the EU itself and the European Union member states was within his portfolio.
CASTOR: All right. We asked Ambassador Sondland about that at his deposition and he -- he conceded that he may have been spinning a little bit when he said that the President specifically gave him that role and he indicated that his authority was coming at least a little bit from -- more from the Secretary of State.
At any point in time was that related to you?
HILL: At different points, he mentioned talking directly to the Chief of Staff Mulvaney and he also talked about Secretary Pompeo, but he was very -- in fact, there were other people in the room in the meeting in which he asserted this to me, that it was the President who had put him in charge of this.
CASTOR: Were you encouraged as of your -- your last date -- day in the office that U.S. policy towards Ukraine was headed in the right direction?
CASTOR: And why was that?
HILL: Well I was concerned about two things, in particular. One was, again, the removal of our Ambassador -- and again, I will say for the record that the President has a perfect right to remove any Ambassador at any time for any reason -- but I was very concerned about the circumstances in which her reputation had been maligned repeatedly on television and in all kinds of exchanges. I felt that that was completely unnecessary.
If the President wanted to remove an Ambassador, which he did quite frequently, there was a number of ambassadors who were removed who were not political but career officials, that was done but without these kinds of interventions. I wondered what that message was being sent, so there was that.
And then on the second front, it was very clear at this point that there was let's just say a different channel in operation in relations to Ukraine, one that was domestic and political in nature, and that was very different from the channel or the loop, however you like it, that I and my colleagues were in, where we were focused on bilateral relations and U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.
And these two things had diverged at this point.
CASTOR: In -- in the run up to Ambassador Yovanovitch's separation from post, did you have any communications with officials at the State Department about your concerns?
CASTOR: And who did you relate those concerns to?
HILL: I related those concerns directly to my counterpart, who was Acting Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker, who I know you've spoken to. I also spoke to David Hale in the context of, you know, larger meetings about many other issues. I mean again, I covered a broad portfolio myself and we often would talk about individual items.
And I had private discussions with Deputy Secretary Sullivan and he, of course, has appeared before the committees here in the course of his nomination to be Ambassador to Russia, and has spoken about that himself.
CASTOR: OK and you -- you advocated to all of those officials about your concerns about the information being spread about Ambassador Yovanovitch?
HILL: I did, that's correct.
CASTOR: The Trump administration changed courses from its predecessor and provided lethal defensive assistance to the Ukraine. Were you in favor of arming the Ukrainians with the Javelins?
HILL: I was not initially in 2015, before I joined the government, and I'm sure that many people on the committee have seen that I wrote an opinion piece with a colleague at the Brookings Institution in that juncture, because I was very worried at that particular point in time that the Ukrainian military not in a fit state to really take onboard sophisticated weapons, be they defensive or offensive weapons. And I worried that there was not a long-term sustainable plan given the overwhelming force that the Russians could apply against the Ukrainians.
However, when I came into government in 2017 and started to interact with all of my colleagues in the Pentagon, and you had Laura Cooper here yesterday, I realized in fact that there had been an awful lot of work done on this and that there was a clear and consistent plan for the sustainability long-term of the Ukrainian military, so I changed my mind.
CASTOR: OK. And you're, in fact, one of the -- I believe the only witness that we've spoken to that has been able to articulate the opposition to providing the Javelins. And as we understand it, during the Obama administration, the inter-agency consensus was, in fact, to provide the Javelins, but they were not provided.
Were you aware of the decision back then?
HILL: I was. And I think it was very much made on a political basis about concerns that this would provoke the Russians, depending on how this was presented. And we were very mindful of that also when there were discussions internally about the lethal defensive weapons inside of the administration.
CASTOR: Mr. Holmes, you're on the ground and in Kyiv, and the Javelins have now been authorized, provided. What's the view from the fields, the U.S. embassy, as to the effectiveness of the Javelins?
HOLMES: They are an important strategic deterrent. They're not actively employed in combat operations right now. But the mere idea that were the Russians to advance substantially using certain kinds of armor, that the Ukrainians would have this capability, deters them from doing so.
It also thereby sends a very important symbol -- symbolic message to the Ukrainian military that they have access to this high-end technology and we trust them to do it. I would only add also they have offered to buy some using their own funds. The initial tranche was provided through basically a program to do that, but they've now offered to spend their own money to buy more. So I think they think they're important.
CASTOR: And Ambassador Taylor has testified -- Mr. Kent has testified that this is, in fact, the consensus of the inter-agency, providing the Javelins. Is it the -- in your experience in working with Ambassador Taylor, was he also very -- very much an advocate for this?
NUNES: Mr. Holmes, I want to go back to (INAUDIBLE) some Americans now want to talk a little bit about Ukrainians -- Ukrainian government officials?
NUNES: Are you familiar with Sergii Leshchenko?
NUNES: Have you met with him?
NUNES: OK. He was a journalist, then he was in the parliament, is he currently in the parliament?
HOLMES: Journalist again.
NUNES: Journalist again. Are you aware that when he was in the parliament that he had provided information to a Fusion GPS operative named Nellie Ohr?
HOLMES: I'm not aware of Nellie Ohr. I'm not aware of who he provided information to. I'm aware that as a journalist he has provided information.
NUNES: Well, this is -- he was in parliament at the time. This is in the 2016 campaign. He provided widely known as the "black ledger." Have you ever heard of the "black ledger"?
NUNES: And the "black ledger," is that seen as credible information?
NUNES: The "black ledger" is credible?
NUNES: Bob Mueller did not find it credible. Do you dispute what Bob Mueller's findings were? They didn't use it in the prosecution or in the report.
HOLMES: I'm not aware that Bob Mueller did not find it credible. I think it was evidence in other criminal proceedings. Its credibility was not questioned in those proceedings. But I'm not an expert in that matter.
NUNES: So the motivation for Leshchenko, as reported to -- was to go after a Trump campaign official and undermine Trump's candidacy. Are you aware that?
HOLMES: If you mean by the release of the "black ledger," I think Leshchenko's motivation was the same motivation he has always expressed, which is to expose corruption in Ukraine.
NUNES: Right. But he has admitted motivation was to partly at least undermine the Trump candidacy that he did not support.
HOLMES: He has not said that to me. If he said that to you, I will take your word for it.
NUNES: And you're aware that the -- you heard Dr. Hill's testimony about the Steele dossier that contained initially that initial information that was fed in the FBI. Were you aware that the Democrats had paid for that information?
HOLMES: Sir, I never had any involvement directly with it.
NUNES: I'm not accusing you of involvement, I'm just asking if you -- not even if you knew at the time, but you now know today that the Democrats had paid for that information.
HOLMES: So I do want to be clear that all that happened before I arrived in Ukraine. So I don't have a first-hand...
NUNES: I'm not accusing any involvement of you with the Steele dossier.
HOLMES: Understood. But I do want to be clear about that. And then in addition, I have read about those issues, but I'm not an expert on them.
NUNES: But you're not disputing that the Democrat -- Democrats and the Clinton campaign were the source of funds that funded the Steele dossier.
HOLMES: I wouldn't be in a position to dispute that, sir.
NUNES: Do you think it's appropriate for political parties to run operatives in foreign countries to dig up dirt on their opponents?
NUNES: Dr. Hill, do you think it's appropriate for political parties to pay operatives to dig up dirt on their opponents?
CASTOR: I want to turn to the -- President Zelensky's inauguration. Ambassador Volker testified that he was very pleased with the size of the delegation, although the vice president was unable to make the trip, Secretary Perry and Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland. And I understand, Dr. Hill, you were involved with some of the logistics in putting the delegation together.
CASTOR: What can you tell us about the vice president's role in attending or not attending?
HILL: Well, I know that you've heard the testimony of Jennifer Williams in the vice president's office, and I defer to her as being much closer to the decision-making about the vice president's attendance.
I will say that I and many others hoped that the vice president would be able to attend. What I know from my perspective, because I was not involved intimately in discussions with the vice president or his immediate staff, was that there was some questions about the schedule.
As you all know, the president and vice president cannot be out of the country at the same time. And there was some questions about presidential travel in the same time-frame. And, you know, there was quite a bit of back-and-forth as to whether it would be really feasible for the vice president in that time-frame to go.
So that was what I was aware of. I wasn't aware of the extent of the discussions that obviously Ms. Williams was involved in.
CASTOR: Right, the president was traveling in Japan and then he was headed to Europe for the D-Day anniversary. The vice president's office, according to Ms. Williams, provided four days at the end of May, the 29th, 30th, 31st, June 1st. And as it turned out, the Ukrainians decided, I believe it was on May 16th, to schedule the inauguration for four days later.
And by this point in time the vice president had been rerouted for a trip to Canada about the USMCA and I just want to ask you whether you don't have any evidence that the vice president was encouraged not to attend offer any other reason, do you?
HILL: I personally do not, but again I defer to Ms. Williams.
CASTOR: Ms. Williams' testimony was that she just -- she heard from those chief of staff's assistance that the vice president was not able to go the (inaudible). The reason for that was related to any of (ph) these investigations hasn't been fully established. I want to just note from the materials you provided for your deposition there was a discussion whether President Orban may have influenced President Trump's decision on that May 13th day, and the -- do you remember when the meeting was with President Orban?
HILL: That was in May, that's correct.
CASTOR: Do you remember what time of day it was on the 13th?
HILL: To be honest, I -- usually these meetings are around lunchtime, sometime in that timeframe, in the kind of early to mid part of the day. I can't speak for sure, and I just want to be very clear that I cannot speak about head of State engagements.
CASTOR: OK. The -- Jennifer Williams testified that she learned about 11 or 11:15 and that the meeting with President Orban was -- was not scheduled until later in the afternoon, according your schedule, it was around 1:45 is that consistent with your recollection?
HILL: About the lunchtime timeframe, yes, depending on when one has lunch, I guess.
CASTER: But overall, given the four days notice, given Secretary Perry's involvement, do you think that delegation was a good-sized group?
HILL: I do, and let me also make a point that we don't try to make these delegations large, this is on the taxpayers dime and it's pretty expensive getting people there if you get military (ph) and we try to keep them small. If we had a longer lead time, perhaps we would have made other arrangements, but four days is not a lot of time to make an arrangement.
CASTOR: And Secretary Perry has become interested in some of the energy-related issues in the Ukraine?
HILL: I actually recommended that Secretary Perry be the lead, along with others.
CASTOR: And what can you tell us about his involvement in some of the Ukrainian policy?
HILL: Well, Secretary Perry's engagement in this made again, perfect sense given his as secretary of Energy, and also his deep knowledge of the energy industry, his former governorship, Secretary Perry himself is an extraordinary good advocates of U.S. interests, particularly in the energy sphere. One of (ph) Ukraine's Achilles' heel in addition to its military disadvantage with Russia is in fact energy. Ukraine remains for now the main transit point for Russian oil and gas pipelines to Europe, and this has been manipulated repeatedly, especially since 2006 by the Russian government. And in fact I know (ph) many of you here will remember, in the Reagan era, there was a huge dispute between United States and Europe about the -- about whether it made sense for Europe to build pipelines from the then-Soviet Union to bring gas to European markets.
CASTOR: Mr. Holmes, what was -- what was your view of the delegation? Do you think it was the right size group, right level of prestige to signal to the incoming Zelensky administration that the U.S. stands behind them?
HOLMES: I think it was fine in that regard.
NUNES: Since we're on the topic of Ukraine energy, I think it's a good way for us to segue into Burisma, which I assume both of you are familiar with, you've heard about it for many, many years. You're on the ground are now Mr. Holmes. I know you weren't there, but at the time, but in September 2015, then ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Piatt, Obama appointed career ambassador. I'm sure you know him.
NUNES: Successful ambassador, I'm sure. He called for an investigation into Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, president of Burisma. Are you familiar with that?
NUNES: did you know about deputy assistant secretary of state tense (ph) concerns about the potential conflict of interest with Hunter Biden sitting on the board of Burisma?
HOLMES: I would defer to George Kent was involved at the time at his next (inaudible).
NUNES: Did you know that the financial records show that this Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma routed more than $3 million through the American accounts of Hunter Biden.
NUNES: Did you -- are you familiar with that, Dr. Hill?
HILL: Only from newspaper reports.
NUNES: Did you know that Burisma -- and this is back to you, Mr. Holmes. Did you know that America's legal representatives met with Ukrainian officials just days after the vice president forced the firing of the country's chief prosecutor?
NUNES: Did you know that Burisma's American lawyers try to secure a meeting with the new state prosecutor the same day the predecessor of Viktor Shokin's firing was announced?
NUNES: Did you know that Joe Biden called the Ukrainian President Poroshenko at least three times in February 2016, shortly after the president and owner of Burisma's home was raided on February 2 by the state prosecutor's office?
NUNES: Did you know that Devon Archer (ph) and Hunter Biden reached out to the Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken shortly after the raid on Burisma?
NUNES: Dr. Hill, did you know about -- I don't want to go through and ask all those questions...
HILL: I also did not know, if that's what...
NUNES: You did not know about any of this?
HILL: I did not know, no.
NUNES: OK. So you obviously know that the president had concerns about Burisma, had concerns about the 2016 election, meddling by the Ukrainians. When you were -- you were in there as -- as the head of the Ukraine desk, did you ever raise any of these -- did you ever brief the president or raise it up to ambassador Bolten, have any concerns through 2017 and 18 that -- concern 2016 election meddling or -- or Burisma concerns?
HILL: The whole briefing process didn't really work in the way that you're suggesting there, so if the president had asked about any of this information, it would have been provided for him. Just to be very clear, Ukraine was not a top foreign policy priority in this period in the same way that many other issues that we could talk about from Syria to Turkey, and others are. So there weren't that frequent brieifings on Ukraine. The briefings would take place when there was a scheduled meeting with Ukrainian head of state; and as we know, there havent been too many of those.
NUNES: So just to -- as far as you know, you did no -- no who briefings, no papers, answered no questions as it relates to the 2016 election or burisma during your time there?
HILL: I did not, no. Mr. Castor.
CASTOR: Dr. Hill, you told us during your deposition that, indeed, that there -- there are perceived conflict-of-interest troubles when the child of a government official is involved with -- with something that that government official has a official policy role in, correct?
HILL: I think any family member of any member of the U.S. government, Congress or the Senate is open to all kinds of questions about optics and of perhaps, undue outside influence if they take part in any kind of activity that could be misconstrued as being related to the parent or the family member's work. So there's a much -- of course, yes, I do think that's the case.
CASTOR: Getting back to Ambassador Sondland, you -- you testified that every now and then he made a habit of -- of name-dropping his interactions with the president.
HILL: That's correct, yes.
CASTOR: And I believe you also told us there -- there were instances where you would run into him on the campus and he would say, "Oh, I'm -- I'm here to see the president," or "I'm -- I've been in to see the president," and you had an occasion to circle back and found that that wasn't the case.
CASTOR: And I just want to give you an opportunity. He -- he testified about some sort of coffee he had with you on -- on your last day, and I -- I think when the deposition transcript was released, your -- your counsel indicated that that was completely fabricated on Ambassador Sondland's part, and I just want to give you an opportunity to -- to address that.
HILL: Yes, I mean, unfortunately, this is the federal government. We don't have coffee machines, you know, readily in our office. If you'd come to my office in that time, the best I could have offered you was a cup of water from the water fountain outside of my office. So you know, the coffee that Ambassador Sondland and I shared was actually, we run into each other, or rather, he found out I was going to be there and then asked me to meet him for coffee in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 2018, in August, so this is a full year before I left. That was a very nice coffee, so perhaps he, you know, conflated those two meetings together.
The meeting that he was referring to -- he had come in to meet with our director for the European Union. This was in my last week in the office, and as I was in the office the -- at the same time for a brief period before going into another meeting, and it was my last week in the office, we agreed to sit down with the director for European Union, with, actually, Colonel Vindman and the assistant that Ambassador Sondland had brought with him from the State Department. So there were actually four of us in that meeting and unfortunately, it wasn't over coffee.
CASTOR: And, you know, he -- he went on to indicate that you were upset, and you were upset with Ambassador...
HILL: Actually, there were five of us, really, in that meeting. Obviously, I can't do math. Sorry.
CASTOR: Fair enough. He indicated you were upset, and you were upset with Ambassador Bolton and upset with the way things were going, and I believe your -- your counsel said that was an outright fabrication.
HILL: Well, I think you might recall in my deposition on October 14th that I said that very unfortunately, I had a bit of a blowup with Ambassador Sondland, and I had a couple of testy encounters with him. One of those was in June '18, when I actually said to him, "Who put you in charge of Ukraine?" And you know, I'll admit I was a bit rude, and that's when he told, "The president," which shut me up.
And this other meeting, it was about 15, 20 minutes, exactly as he depicted it was. I was actually, to be honest, angry with him, and you know, I hate to say it, but often when women show anger it's not fully appreciated. It's often, you know, pushed onto emotional issues perhaps, or deflected onto other people.
And what I was angry about was that he wasn't coordinating with us. Now, I've actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right; that he wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him that he wasn't fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having, and he said to me, "But I'm briefing the president. I'm briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I'm briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I've talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?" And the point is we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes. It includes Ambassador Taylor as the charge in Ukraine. It includes a whole load of other people.
But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland's emails and who was on these emails, and he said, "These are the people who need to know," that he was absolutely right, because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged. So he was correct, and I had not put my finger on the -- at that -- at the moment, but I was irritated with him and angry with him that he wasn't fully coordinating. And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, "Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up." And here we are.
And after I left to my next meeting, our director for the European Union talked to him much further for a full half hour or more later trying to ask him about how we could coordinate better, or how others could coordinate better after I had left the office, and his feeling was that the National Security Council was always trying to block him. What we were trying to do was block us from straying into domestic or personal politics, and that was precisely what I was trying to do.
But Ambassador Sondland is not wrong that he had been given a different remit than we had been. And it was at that moment that I started to realize how those things had diverged, and I realized, in fact, that I wasn't really being fair to Ambassador Sondland because he was carrying out what he thought he been instructed to carry out, and we were doing something that we thought was just as, or perhaps even more important, but it wasn't in the same channel.
NUNES: Dr. Hill, I -- to my answer. Sorry. Dr. Hill, I just want to drill down on this a little bit. The -- the president of the United States, commander-in-chief, was concerned about the 2016 elections and Burisma. He had his personal attorney working these issues because he was under investigation by Robert Moeller as special counsel, partly beginning with an investigation that started with the Steele dossier that we've already established that the Democrats had paid for, and then fed into the FBI.
So the end of the day, the commander-in-chief, concerned about 2016 election meddling by Ukraine, does it -- sounds like you just -- had just earlier testified that you weren't aware of that. But if that was the concern of the president to try to get to the bottom of it, and it's the concern of -- of Ambassador Sondland, who was trying to set up meetings on behalf of -- to make -- to ensure, really, that meetings occurred and phone calls occurred to strengthen the relationship, I'm a little -- I mean, I understand the people at the NSC, people at State Department had issues with that, but at then end of the day, isn't it the commander-in-chief that makes those decisions?
HILL: My point, Mr. Nunes, is that we at the National Security Council were not told either by the president directly or through Ambassador Bolton that we were to be focused on these issues as a matter of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. So when you're talking about Ukraine in 2016, I never personally heard the president say anything specific about 2016 and Ukraine. I've seen him saying thing -- plenty of things publicly, but I was not given a directive.
HILL: In fact, I was given a directive on July 10th by Ambassador Bolton very clearly to stay out of domestic politics.
CASTOR: And just for the sake of the timeline, I think as of July 19th they hadn't even engaged with Rudy Giuliani yet. I -- I don't believe that happened until a little bit later. So you believe by July 19th they were already engaged in those types of activities?
HILL: We'd already had a discussion with Kurt Volker in which it was in the depositions of his assistant Chris Anderson that indicated that he had met with Rudy Giuliani at this point. And Ambassador Sondland made comments about meeting with Giuliani. And as we know in the May 23rd meeting, they had been instructed to meet with Giuliani.
HILL: They gave us every impression that they were meeting with Rudy Giuliani at this point and Rudy Giuliani was also saying on the television and indeed has said subsequently that he was closely coordinating with the State Department.
So it was my belief that they meeting with him.
CASTOR: OK. And there's some -- I mean, there's some ambiguity in the -- the direction to work with Rudy Giuliani. Ambassador Volker said the President dismissed Ukraine and said oh, if you want to work on it, just go talk to Rudy and Ambassador Sondland took that a little bit differently.
And I believe that Ambassador Volker was primarily the interlocutor with Mr. Giuliani and that was happening, didn't -- didn't start until the end of July.
HILL: I only learned that subsequently from Ambassador Volker's depositions so I just want to tell you in that particular timeframe, I was not aware of that and in fact Gordon Sondland did refer to Rudy Giuliani, and again Ambassador Bolton had warned Ambassador Volker not to meet with Rudy Giuliani in a meeting.
CASTOR: Mr. Morrison told us both in his deposition and at his public hearing that you had related concerns about Colonel Vindman's judgment?
HILL: I did not relate any concerns in general terms about Colonel Vindman's judgment, so I was somewhat surprised when I heard Mr. Morrison make that assertion and when I read his deposition.
There was a very specific point that was made -- and again, these are personnel issues and I'm sure that nobody here would like to have their private personnel issues put before a committee, but you've asked me about this -- so I had a couple of very short transition meetings with Mr. Morrison -- and again, Mr. Morrison did not work in our directorate, he was taking over the position which he held for three months.
I had worked on the -- as the Director -- the Senior Director for Europe and Eurasia, it was at the time, for more than two years at this point and I'd been working for a year with Colonel Vindman -- with Mr. Vindman. And in the course of one of the meetings sometime in the June timeframe, I sat down with Mr. Morrison and with a deputy -- he referred to him in his deposition -- John Erath, who was also working, and we went through our organizational chart. We went through who was staying, who was rotating out and leaving in the summer and we talked about everybody's strengths and weaknesses.
And I always asked my staff to do upward (ph) feedback, as well, to talk about what I wasn't doing right, either, I'd like to learn, too. And I said that I was concerned about the way things were trending in Ukraine policy.
So Colonel Vindman is a highly distinguished, decorated military officer -- he came over to us from the Chairman's Office in the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and we were evaluating and looking at him in the context of what his future positions would be in the context of the U.S. Army.
And I was concerned that if, for example, Colonel Vindman might decide to leave the military, that perhaps he wasn't as well suited for something that would be much more political, I did not feel that he had the political antenna to deal with something that was straying into domestic politics. Not everyone is suited for that.
That does not mean in any way that I was questioning his overall judgment nor was I questioning in any way his substantive expertise. He is excellent on issues related to Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, on Russian defense issues, he'd be in charge of the Russia campaign, thinking through at the -- at the Chairman's Office and in the Pentagon. This was a very specific issue because by June, we saw that things were diverging and he needed a completely different sensitivity.
Some people in my office have worked at the highest levels of advisory positions and Mr. Morrison had come from Capitol Hill. He knew politics inside out and that we said that Colonel Vindman did not and we were concerned about how he would manage what was becoming a highly charged and potentially (inaudible) issue which had not been before.
CASTOR: And Colonel Vindman, you related to us during his deposition, that he subsequently was sort of cut out of a lot of the -- the decision-making and involvements with the -- with the embassy in Ukraine. Was that something you recommended?
HILL: Not with the embassy in Ukraine. I mean, we did pull him back from the meeting in May in the Oval Office and subsequently we were very concerned about these political aspects to this and we did not feel -- when July 10th -- Colonel Vindman was justifiably alarmed when he realized that there was this highly political aspect of the meeting that we were looking for eventually with President Zelensky.
CASTOR: And Mr. Holmes, I want to -- at the end of August, we understand that Ambassador Taylor was engaged in obtaining some information for the President about European allies burden sharing in the region, as the decision about aid was being debated.
HOLMES: So sir, after the hold was placed on the security assistance, many people I think were scrambling to try to understand why. I believe it was Senator Johnson who had said that the President was concerned about burden sharing, perhaps others as well, and so in trying to interpret why this might have happened, we were looking into the facts of what the Europeans have provided and what we have provided. It's very illuminating, what we learned.
The United States has provided combined civilian and military assistance to Ukraine since 2014 of about $3 billion, plus two $1 billion -- three $1 billion loan guarantees. That's not -- those get paid back largely. So just over $3 billion. The Europeans, at the level of the European Union plus the member states combined since 2014, my understanding, have provided a combined $12 billion to Ukraine.
CASTOR: And you were able to communicate that information back at the end of August?
HOLMES: I believe so. Yeah, we were -- this is done in collaboration with other missions, the EU to NATO and others. Yes.
CASTOR: And do you think that was the information the White House was looking for?
HOLMES: I -- we don't know. If the concern was that we weren't -- that others weren't -- weren't spending as much as we were to support Ukraine, then that information showed a different story.
CASTOR: OK. And the aid was subsequently lifted -- the pause in the aid was lifted shortly thereafter?
HOLMES: It was in -- yes, in Early September -- in mid September.
SCHIFF: That concludes the 45 minute rounds. We'll now go to member questioning. I'll recognize myself for five minutes. First, as a -- a threshold matter, I want to say to the witnesses to be a bit cautious when members represent are you aware of this fact, are you aware of that fact, do you know that so and so testified to this or testified to that? If you have personal knowledge of it, that's fine, but -- and it -- I'm not saying it's deliberate, sometimes members get it wrong.
So let me just clear the record on one of the things that was suggested to you that the Vice President canceled his trip because of a conflict with a trip to Canada. That was not Ms. Williams' testimony. Her testimony was "I asked my colleague why we should stop trip planning and why the Vice President would not be attending and I was informed that the President had decided the Vice President would not attend the inauguration." So, just offer that caution.
Dr. Hill, I want to ask you -- you may be aware of some of the attacks on Colonel Vindman, suggesting that he has a dual loyalty, that he's not really loyal to America; he's loyal to Ukraine.
I wanted to ask you, as a fellow immigrant, what you think of those kind of accusations when they're leveled against Colonel Vindman or other Americans.
HILL: I think it's very unfortunate. I mean, this is a country of immigrants, you know, with the exception, you know, perhaps of very few people still here, everyone immigrated to the United States at some point in their family history. And this is what, for me, really does make America great.
I mean, I'm sure that every single person here -- some people perhaps came reluctantly, others came by choice, as I did, but this is -- for me, this is the essence of America. It's why I wanted to be here, and why I wanted to stay here, and I think it's unfair to castigate anyone -- everyone has some kind of appellate to them. I'm -- I'm Anglo-American, perhaps, and -- or I'm a British American, I'm a naturalized citizen. I do not believe that my loyalty is to the United Kingdom. My loyalty is here, to the United States. This is my country and the country that I serve.
And I know for a fact that every single one of my colleagues -- and there were many naturalized citizens in my office and across the national security council -- felt exactly the same way. I think it's deeply unfair.
SCHIFF: Thank you. You mentioned something in your testimony -- I may not (ph) have this exactly right, that I think Ambassador Sondland at one point told you his role was to make deals; is that right?
SCHIFF: I want to ask you...
HILL: He told other people that as well, to be -- to be clear.
SCHIFF: I want to ask you about one of those deals, the one that Ambassador Bolton described as a drug deal. I had (ph) the suggestion, or the indication rather, when Mr. Goldman was asking questions about the July 10th meeting and in fact there were two meetings, one in Ambassador Bolton's presence and then another in the Ward Room, that there was more you had to say about that. Do you want to walk us through that in a little more detail?
HILL: Well the reference that Ambassador Bolton made was after I returned from the Ward Room and related to him what I had heard. Because as -- so there was a -- those (ph) sequencing of meetings, which I know that there's been some concern about the sequencing here and discrepancies between various depositions.
So what happened immediately after the meeting that Ambassador Bolton called (ph) a little short was that he told me to hold back in the room. And he was escorting out the Ukrainian visitors, along with Secretary Perry and Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, and I guess they wanted to take a -- a quick photograph outside of his office, and I know that Secretary Perry and others have tweeted out that photograph, beautiful sunny day, and there's a picture of all of them standing just outside of Ambassador Bolton's office.
This was very quick, he came back in, and at that point I guess they were already moving down to the Ward Room, because on the way out of his -- of Ambassador Bolton's office, Ambassador Sondland had said let's regroup in the Ward Room for, you know, a quick huddle on next steps, which to be honest was quite unusual. You don't usually huddle in a room in the White House to discuss next steps with foreign delegations. Because we took it being (ph) next steps on setting up the meeting, which already, as I'd said, Ambassador Bolton wasn't prepared to do.
When Ambassador Bolton came back into the office, that's when he gave me the very strong instruction to go downstairs, find out what was being discussed, and to come right back up and report it to -- to him. And as I came into the Ward Room, Alex Vindman -- Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Sondland were in an exchange, and that's when I noticed that Colonel Vindman looked quite alarmed.
Now I know that Ambassador Sondland was asked yesterday -- because again, I watched all of his testimony and I watched it very carefully -- that there were some questions about yelling and shouting. I certainly never said that, and there was no yelling and shouting. That's some (ph) embellishment that's crept in, perhaps in media depictions or how people like to retell these stories and add things to them.
When I came in, Ambassador Sondland was in an exchange with Colonel Vindman along the lines of, well we have an agreement to have this meeting. And I came in and I -- and I asked what's -- what's going on here, and he said -- and this is again the Ukrainians are there, Ambassador Volker was there, but at this point, I also want to stress, Secretary Perry had left. He was not in the Ward Room when I came. As I was coming in, Secretary Perry and his colleagues were leaving, so Secretary Perry has no recollection of this meeting because he was not in it.
And so when I came in, Gordon Sondland was basically saying, well look, we have a deal here that there will be a meeting -- I have a deal here with -- with Chief of Staff Mulvaney there will be a meeting if the Ukrainians open up or announce these investigations in -- into 2016 and Burisma.
And I cut it off immediately there, because by this point having heard Mr. Giuliani over and over again on the television and all of the issues that he was asserting, by this point it was clear that Burisma was code for the Bidens, because Giuliani was laying it out there. I could see why Colonel Vindman was alarmed, and he said this is inappropriate, we're the National Security Council, we can't be involved in this.
And I've learned, you know, since from Mr. Holmes' rendition here today that Colonel Vindman had (ph) already warned the Ukrainians, or, in fact, President Zelensky no less, to stay out of American politics -- domestic politics.
So I cut off this line (ph), and I said to Ambassador Sondland, look, we -- the -- we need procedures for here, Ambassador Bolton just made it clear we can't set up the meeting right now, we have to properly prepare this through the proper process -- I know this sounds all very boring, but you know, we have national security procedures to do this. And I said we really shouldn't be litigating this or talking about this in front of our colleagues from Ukraine. It was completely inappropriate for us to be thrashing this out in front of them.
And he agreed, and we asked our Ukrainian colleagues to move into the corridor outside the Ward Room, and I explained where this is in the deposition, which was also extraordinarily (ph) awkward because they shouldn't have been standing around in a corridor in the -- you know, basically (ph) in the West Wing at this particular juncture.
And that's when I pushed back on Ambassador Sondland and said, look, you know, there's differences about whether, one, we should have this meeting, we're trying to figure out whether we should have it after the Ukrainian democratic -- sorry, parliamentary elections, the Rada elections, which by that point I think had been set for July 21st -- it must have been, because this is July 10th at this point -- and Ambassador Bolton would like to wait until after that to basically see whether President Zelensky gets the majority in the parliament, which would enable him to form a cabinet and then we can -- then we can move forward.
And Ambassador Sondland then said, OK, fair enough, he realized he wasn't going to, you know, be able to push this further. Ambassador Volker didn't say anything at this particular juncture, and then he said he had another meeting and -- and they all left.
And I went back up and relayed this Ambassador Bolton, which is when he gave me the very specific instruction that we've already been through to go to talk to Mr. Eisenberg -- John Eisenberg -- in the NSC Council's (ph) office.
SCHIFF: Thank you. Mr. Nunes?
NUNES: I assume we're given eight minutes there (ph)?
SCHIFF: Mr. Nunes, I don't cut off a witness in the middle of their answer. You may proceed.
HILL: Sorry, that was a long answer.
JORDAN: Mr. Holmes, why didn't your boss talk about it?
HOLMES: What's that, sir?
JORDAN: Why didn't your boss bring up the call that you overheard? The reason you're here today? I mean, you're their closing witness. Yet their star witness, their first witness, Ambassador Taylor, didn't even bring it up. And when we deposed you, you said this was an (ph) extremely distinctive experience, one of the most remarkable events of my life. You described it like this. You said after the call happens, I immediately told Deputy Chief of Mission and others at the embassy about the call.
Then you said you went on vacation, you told several friends and family about the call. Then you come back on August 6th and you tell Ambassador Taylor about the call.
And then in your deposition statement -- you said in your statement today as well -- I repeatedly referred to the call in meetings and conversations where the issue of the president's interest in Ukraine was relevant. I repeatedly referred to the call in meetings and conversations where the issue of the president's interest in Ukraine was relevant.
That sounds like government speak for, you told everybody. Yet their star witness, their first witness, Ambassador Taylor, when he came here, he related 13 different conversations he had between July 18th when the aid was frozen, September 11th when it's released, 13 different conversations, never once mentioning this call.
July 19th, Dr. Hill and Colonel Vindman told Taylor what Sondland told them. July 19th, Sondland told Taylor about the upcoming Trump-Zelensky call. July 20th, Sondland told Taylor what Sondland told Zelensky to tell Trump. July 20th, Danyluk (ph) tells Taylor what Zelensky told Danyluk. July 28th, Morrison tells Taylor what happened on the Trump-Zelensky call.
August 16th, Volker tells Taylor what Yermak told Volker. August 21st, Brechbuhl talks to Taylor. August 22nd, Morrison talks to Taylor. August 29th, Yermak talks to Taylor. September 1st, Morrison tells Taylor what Sondland told Morrison about what Yermak told Sondland. September 2nd, Morrison tells Taylor what Danyluk told Morrison. September 7th, Morrison tells Taylor what Sondland told Trump. And September 8th, Sondland tells Taylor what Trump told Sondland.
Nowhere, nowhere is there -- is there a Holmes tells Taylor what the president of the United States told Sondland.
HOLMES: May I answer that question...
JORDAN: Thirteen conversations -- yeah, I'll get to you, I'll give you a chance here in a second.
JORDAN: But 13 conversations, 13 conversations from their star witness. You're their closing witness, and he can't remember a call from a guy he works with every single day? Why?
HOLMES: Yes, sir. So immediately when I went back to the embassy, after this -- this lunch on the 26th, I told my direct supervisor, the deputy chief of mission. I would have told Ambassador Taylor immediately except he was on the front lines that afternoon.
I then went on -- as I have testified -- my vacation on Saturday, came back the following Monday. And on Tuesday, I was back in the ambassador's office where I referred to the call. In that week-plus that I was away, it was my assumption that the deputy chief of mission would have informed other people about the call as well.
So my recollection is when I did refer to the call in that meeting, that Ambassador Taylor nodded knowingly as though he had been briefed on it. So I referred to the call and I mentioned some of my takeaways from the call.
And at the time, the main takeaway from the call was, the president doesn't care about Ukraine. So we're going to have a tough road ahead to convince him that it's important enough for him to schedule an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky and ultimately to release this hold on security assistance.
That was the takeaway. And that's what I referred to repeatedly in the coming weeks, whenever it became -- became relevant. And I'll remind you, sir...
HOLMES: ... that -- that -- one more important point. Throughout this time, as I have testified, we were trying to find a formula, things we could do with Ukrainians that would convince the president that they were worth talking to.
JORDAN: Maybe -- maybe, Mr. Holmes, the takeaway was he thought it was no big deal because he already knew. He didn't remember it because we already had the transcript.
HOLMES: No, I (ph) actually (ph)...
JORDAN: He didn't remember the -- he didn't remember the -- we had the -- the Trump-Zelensky transcript had been out for two months.
HOLMES: Sir, I believe that when I...
JORDAN: Even though you're repeatedly bringing this conversation up, as you said, to everybody when it's -- when they're -- any time there's a talk about Ukraine, you -- you recall this conversation. Maybe it was the transcript -- the call happened on the July 25th, that's four months ago. The transcript's been out for two months. Maybe the ambassador thought this is -- this is nothing new here.
But shazam (ph), last week, you come forward with supposedly this new information? There is nothing different in there than what we had on the transcript. Maybe that's the reason their star witness, their first witness didn't bring it up. But they had to have something, so you're their closing witness because you overheard -- you overheard the president talking to Ambassador Sondland.
HOLMES: Sir, if I could answer, I see four seconds left on the clock. I believe...
SCHIFF: Mr. Holmes, you may take as long as you need.
I believe that Ambassador Taylor did already know when I briefed him when I returned from vacation on the 6th. He -- it was not news to him that the president was pressing for a Biden investigation...
JORDAN: That's not what I asked. I asked why he didn't share it with us. Well?
SCHIFF: Jordan -- Mr. Jordan, please do not interrupt the witness any further.
HOLMES: This -- this is exactly what I...
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan's time is expired but yours is not.
HOLMES: OK. Thank you, sir.
SCHIFF: You may answer the question.
HOLMES: It's exactly my point. I briefed the call in detail to the deputy chief of mission, went away for a week, come back, I refer to the call and everyone is nodding. Of course that's what's going on, of course the president is pressing for a Biden investigation before he'll do these things the Ukrainians want. There was nodding agreement.
So did I go through every single word in the call? No, because everyone by that point agreed. It was obvious what the president was pressing for. And Ambassador Taylor, as you've just outlined, had all those other interactions with all these other...
JORDAN: But he didn't share it with us.
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan, please do not interrupt.
HOLMES: But, sir -- sir, that...
HOLMES: ... but, sir, my vivid recollection of an event I was involved with was a touchstone experience that to me, validated...
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan, please do not interrupt.
HOLMES: ... what we believed. And Ambassador Taylor was not in that call. He was...
JORDAN: And so all of a sudden, last week, you've got to come tell us, right?
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan -- Mr. Jordan...
JORDAN: Even though your boss...
SCHIFF: ... you will allow the witness to answer the question.
HOLMES: I'll finish with this.
HOLMES: He was involved in a number of other interactions, as you've outlined, that brought him to the same conclusion. It is quite possible that that...
JORDAN: But he doesn't share the one that...
JORDAN: ... the guy he worked with...
SCHIFF: ... Jordan -- Mr. Jordan -- Mr. Jordan...
JORDAN: ... he doesn't share that one?
SCHIFF: You may not like the witness' answer, but we will (ph) hear it.
JORDAN: No, I -- I -- there wasn't an answer. It was a filibuster.
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan, we will hear the witness' answer.
Have you concluded, Mr. Holmes?
HOLMES: I have, sir. Thank you.
HIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Hill, Mr. Holmes, thank you for your testimony.
Dr. Hill, you made a fairly dramatic comment in your opening statement, to which the ranking member took some exception. I'm more interested in the Ukraine piece of this, but you said, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country, and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. I'm really much more interested in the Ukraine piece of this, but I do want to defend you briefly.
I don't know what my colleagues believe, but I do have a pretty good sense of what the effects are of creating ambiguity, of lacking clarity and conviction around the Russian attack on the election of 2016.
In response to your comment, the ranking member offered up a report, which varies in material respects from the report that was created by the 17 agencies of the intelligence community. A day does not go by in which Ranking Member Nunes does not speak of the Russia hoax, and this is an area in which context is pretty important.
Dr. Hill, let me read you a comment by another senior official. Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks? It's all a big Dem HOAX -- all caps -- why did the DNS refuse to turn over its server to the FBI? It's all a big Dem scam.
Dr. Hill, do you know who said those things?
HIMES: That's the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. So you might be forgiven for your (ph)...
HILL: I might have missed that, yeah.
HIMES: ... for -- yeah, you didn't miss much. But my point is -- and tell me if you agree or disagree -- ambiguity, a failure to name and shame the Russians for the attack in 2016, that is not in the service of our national security, is it?
HIMES: It's not. So let's -- let's turn to Ukraine. Dr. Hill, have you seen a -- you characterized the idea that Ukraine interfered in the election as a fictional narrative. Have you seen any evidence at all that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 Election?
HILL: Well I brought with me two exhibits that I was pointed to in fact by our colleagues during deposition that I gave on October 14th and actually I'm quite grateful that they pointed me in this direction. I was presented during my deposition with two articles or at least two pieces of information. One was an oped that the Ukrainian Ambassador Charlie wrote in 2016 in "The Hill" so this is during the Presidential Campaign when President Trump was then the nominee for the Republican Party.
This is Ambassador Charlie who was then still the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States being critical of President Trump who was then the nominee for the Republican Party for making comments about Ukraine, Crimea and Russia.
HIMES: May I interrupt you there? Let be very specific about what those comments were. The President when he was a candidate said "the people of Crimea from what I've heard would rather be with Russia than where they were" so Ambassador Charlie is responding to that in that article, correct?
HILL: That's correct. And he just uses this as a peg. Because to be honest the whole article is actually about Ukraine. And this is classic standard for anyone who wants to write an oped. I've written plenty of them myself. You pick a peg by -
HILL: -- something that you or somebody else might have said and then you proceed to say what you want to say.
HIMES: Right, so here it is.
HILL: This is what Ambassador Charlie does, is he talks about Ukraine's position vis-a-vis Russia and Russian aggression against Ukraine.
HIMES: Yes, and let me just read because it's worth people hearing what this sever attack on President, Candidate Trump who has suggested that the Crimeans would rather be with Russia. Ambassador Charlie writes even if Trump's comments are only speculative and do not really reflect a future foreign policy they call for appeasement of an aggressor and support the violation of a sovereign countries territorial integrity and anothers breach of international law. Dundundun. That's the attack on Candidate Trump.
HILL: (inaudible) correct.
HIMES: Does that sound like election interference to you?
HILL: Well, I would say that it's probably not the most advisable thing to do for an Ambassador because you never know who is going to win and I think that the second piece that presented to me at great length and I want to thank Mr. Custer for making me go back and read it again. Because when you asked me the questions about it I did remember the piece Kenneth Vogel is a very well known and as you've pointed out extremely good journalist. And I remembered reading this back in the day in January 2017. But it had been a long time between then and October.
And you gave me a copy and I went back and read it again because I think it actually is an extraordinarily important it gets to this issue here. Mr. Vogel points out that the Ukrainian Government again they wouldn't have done very well at the bookies picking up the issue I pointed out at the beginning of today. They bet on the wrong horse. They bet on Hillary Clinton winning the election. And so they were trying to curry (ph) favor with the Clinton Campaign, it's quite evident here. And he relates to some extent individuals and some Ukrainian Officials, like Mr. Avakov the Interior Minister and a number of other people that he names here and that have been named at various points.
And talks about how they were trying to collect information as Ranking Member Nunes said on Mr. Manafort and on other people as well. However I do want to point out that crux (ph) of the article here by Mr. Vogel is he said there was little evidence of a top down effort by Ukraine. And he makes a distinction between the Russian effort that personally directed by Russian President Putin and involved the countries Military and Foreign Intelligence Services. Now I don't think that those two things are exactly the same.
I also mentioned in my deposition of October 14th that in fact many officials from many countries including Ukraine bet on the wrong horse. They believe that Secretary Clinton, former Senator Clinton, former First Lady Clinton was going to win. And many said some pretty disparaging and hurtful thing about President Trump. But I can't blame him for feeling aggrieved about them. And when we were setting up Head of State visits, remember I have a portfolio of 50 plus countries plus NATO and the European Union, we thought it prudent to collect as much as possible about comments that people might have said about the President during the campaign when he was either one of the candidates to be the nominee for the Republican party or when he was actually the candidate running against Hillary Clinton. And I'm sorry to say that awful lot and perhaps I shouldn't name them here because it will have conscience an awful lot of Senior Officials in many Goverance (ph) including our Allied Governments said some pretty hurtful things about The President.
And I would also personally take offense at some the things that were said if I were The President. Now the difference here however is that that hasn't had any major impact on his feelings towards those countries. Not that I have seen. But I've heard The President say, and he said it in public so I'm not revealing any kind of executive privilege here that Ukraine tried to take me down. What (ph) I have seen is this ill advised Ukrainian Officials, Ambassador Charlie been removed as being the Ambassador from here. Made some pretty unpleasant statements and above all some ill advised opeds. But I could list a whole host of Ambassadors from allied countries who tweeted out, who had public comments about The President as well. And it did not affect security assistance having meetings with them. If it would there been a lot of people he wouldn't have met with.
HIMES: Thank you, Dr. Hill. Mr. Chairman, I seek unanimous consent to add to the record a political article of December 1, 2016 entitled "Russia accuses Ukraine of Sabotaging Trump". It outlines Russian Senior Officials making allegations that there was Ukrainian interference in the 2016 Election.
SCHIFF: Without objection. Mr. Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield to Mr. Ratcliffe, five minutes.
RATCLIFFE: Thank the gentleman for yielding. I want to pick up where my colleague across the aisle, Congressman Himes, left off earlier. Respectfully, Dr. Hill, he was not defending you he was defending himself and Democrats. I want to make sure the record is very clear, Ranking Member Nunes was correct. He correctly noted in his opening that Republicans not Democrats on this committee were the first ones to raise the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 Election. The disagreement wasn't about Russian meddling the disagreement was about whether or not President Trump conspired with Russia, a false allegation, peddled by the Democrats generally and specifically by some Democrats on this committee.
With that, Mr. Holmes I want to turn to you in the part of the conversation your testimony where you said you heard President Trump say is he going to do the investigation and Ambassador Sondland said he's going to it, he'll do anything you ask him to. Is that right?
RATCLIFFE: What did President Trump say next?
HOLMES: He said, good, what about Sweden.
HOLMES: Sir, I need to look at back where we are in middle of the conversation here.
Where are we from the testimony?
This is -- exactly. So then they turned to the Sweden conversation.
RATCLIFFE: What did President Trump say next?
HOLMES: He said, good what about Sweden?
RATCLIFFE: Good, what about Sweden? Good, what about Sweden? Why isn't that in the -- in your statement?
HOLMES: Sir, it's not a word for word -- every single word in the conversation.
RATCLIFFE: But it's to most important part of the conversation.
HOLMES: We'll then they turned to Sweden, they turned to the other topic.
RATCLIFFE: Respectfully Mr. Holmes, this impeachment inquiry is based on the call the day before where President Trump as part of a bribery scheme -- as part of an extortion scheme -- as part of a quid pro quo according to the Democrats demanded investigations in exchange for either military aid or a White House meeting and the next day, you were witness to President Trump receiving word that the bribery scheme was successful. The extortion scheme was successful.
And his response -- his response was, good, what about Sweden?
HOLMES: Yes sir. The Ukraine portion of that conversation was extremely brief.
RATCLIFFE: What was the first thing the President said on the call?
HOLMES: He -- the -- this was --
RATCLIFFE: -- you stated here you had a (ph) clear recollection of this conversation.
SCHIFF: Mr. Ratcliffe, please allow Mr. Holmes to answer.
HOLMES: Yes sir. Sondland greeted the President.
HOLMES: He said I am in -- he said Mr. -- he said hello Mr. President in Ukraine -- I'm in Kyiv and the President correct -- I think said (ph) are you in Ukraine.
RATCLIFFE: You think he said I think you're Ukraine -- he said what?
HOLMES: He said are in -- is Kyiv Ukraine?
RATCLIFFE: What did you hear President Trump say about A$AP Rocky?
HOLMES: I did not hear President Trumps side of the conversion about A$AP Rocky.
RATCLIFFE: You said how did we go from the conversation was very loud and his voice was recognizable to as you say here when the conversation shifted, I could only hear Ambassador Sondland's side of the conversation.
HOLMES: Yes sir, as I have testified. The initial part of the call Ambassador Sondland -- sort of when the President came on the call, he sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear for the initial portion of the call and then at some point in the call he stopped doing that, and I don't know why, I don't know if he turned the volume down, I don't know if the President spoke much more quietly, I don't if he got used to the volume, I don't know what changed --
RATCLIFFE: What -- what did change, it's important -- this was memorable.
HOLMES: I don't know sir, it was -- Ambassador Sondland stopped moving the phone away from his ear, that's what --
RATCLIFFE: That's what it was?
RATCLIFFE: OK. How did the conversation end?
HOLMES: I only heard Ambassador Sondland's side of the conversation sir, and at the end of the conversation, he said -- he said -- he was giving the President advice on how to deal with A$AP Rocky situation and he said -- you know you should've -- they should've released him on your word and you can tell the Kardashians you tried.
RATCLIFFE: OK, so to be clear when President Trump received the word that President Zelensky had agreed to the investigations he said good, what about Sweden.
RATCLIFFE: When exactly did Gordon Sondland ask President Zelensky about the investigations?
RATCLIFFE: When did he ask about the investigations?
HOLMES: When did Gordon Sondland ask Zelensky about the investigations?
HOLMES: Uh -- are you asking (ph) in which -- in which meeting did he raise the investigations?
RATCLIFFE: We'll it was raised the day before on a call, and the next day Gordon Sondland said the answer to that he's going to do the investigation, so when did he ask about the investigations?
HOLMES: It's my assumption is he did in the closed door meeting with Yermak.
RATCLIFFE: Well -- I want to --
SCHIFF: Time on the gentleman has expired.
RATCLIFFE: I appreciate that, but I want to make sure the records clear that yesterday Ambassador Sondland testified that --
RATCLIFFE: -- the topic of conversations did not come up on that day. I yield back.
SCHIFF: The time of the (ph) gentleman has expired. Ms. Sewell you're recognized.
SEWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank both of witnesses for being here today. I'd like to turn our discussion to the campaign to remove career diplomat Ambassador Yovanovitch. Both of you in your various capacities had to work with her and both of you witness what I would call a smear campaign. I wanted to know your thoughts, Dr. Hill, what was your view of Ambassador Yovanovitch experience and quality of her work in the Ukraine and what -- and do you consider it to be a smear campaign?
HILL: I have the highest regard for Ambassador Yovanovitch both in terms of her integrity and the high standards of work that she was carrying out as ambassador in Ukraine and across her whole career. I do believe that there was a smear campaign and I just want to say again for the record that I think it was unnecessary. If there was a decision to have a political ambassador put in place in Ukraine, that would be perfectly acceptable and it's exactly the right of the President to be able to do that.
I just did not see why it was necessary to malign Ambassador Yovanovitch (ph) to such an extent.
SEWELL: Mr. Holmes would you agree with that and can you talk about the character integrity and performance of professor -- Ambassador Yovanovitch, both in Ukraine.
HOLMES: Yes ma'am. She was extremely professional, respected in Ukraine by Ukrainians, I think also by visiting American senior officials, including members of this committee and of Congress who came to visit. She is extremely dedicated, hard working.
SEWELL: Did you see it as smear campaign as well?
SEWELL: And what the effect that it had on the morale of other professionals that you worked with in the Ukraine?
HOLMES: It was a confusing time as I've said before. The President has the right to remove an ambassador for any or no reason at all. It was not clear as to why this was happening, or why people weren't standing up for her.
SEWELL: I'd like to now turn, Dr. Hill, to your boss. Your boss was Ambassador Bolton, right?
HILL: That's correct, yes.
SEWELL: Did you boss -- Dr -- I mean Ambassador tell you that Giuliani was "a hand grenade"?
SEWELL: What do you think he mean by his characterization of Giuliani as a hand grenade?
HILL: What he meant by this was pretty clear to me in the context of all of the statements that Mr. Giuliani was making publically about the investigations that he was promoting, that the storyline he was promoting, the narrative of -- he was promoting this content backfired (ph) -- I think it has backfired.
SEWELL: was that narrative also inclusive of falsehoods about Ambassador Yovanovitch?
HILL: At the particular juncture that Ambassador Bolton made that comment, absolutely, because that was in the context of my discussions with him about what was happening to Ambassador Yovanovitch.
SEWELL: I -- was particularly struck by your testimony, Dr. Hill, about receiving hateful calls and being accused being a source mole (ph) in the White House. Are you a Never Trumper or have you been true to your profession and remained nonpartisan?
HILL: I honestly don't know what the definition of a Never Trumper is, as I think many of my colleagues are feeling the same way that is a puzzling term to be applied to career or nonpartisan officials. And I chose to come into the administration. I could easily have said no when I was approached --
SEWELL: Yes but you didn't sign up to have hateful calls and the like.
HILL: I guess unfortunately where we are today in America that's coming with the territory. They're (ph) continuing honestly, I mean we are constantly having to block twitter posts of my name and address on the internet -- we've been doing this over the last couple of days --
HILL: And -- and as I said in my deposition, this could happen to any single person in this room, be it members of the press, be it member of Congress, and be it the staff. And I think we have to find ways of combating this, and again, this gets back sadly to things that our adversaries can also exploit.
SEWELL: Exactly. I think you would agree with me that this shouldn't become the new normal. Would you agree?
SEWELL: I also think that this kind of behavior, instead of keeping you down, would make you undeterred. Are you -- are you more determined to continue to do your work and to do it professionally.
HILL: I am, and I think that all of my (ph) colleagues are as well, because just as you've said, we can't let this stand. And I don't think anyone here wants to let this stand. I actually don't believe that this is a partisan issue. I don't think anybody wants to come under personal attack.
SEWELL: Yes, I unfortunately think that this has become the new norm and we're being led by the very top of the food chain, which is our president, which is unfortunate. I'm especially disheartened by his treatment of women, and I think that the fact of the matter is that there's a long line of strong, talented women who have been part -- smeared and victimized by this president, and we can either choose to ignore it or do something about it.
And frankly I think that whether you voted for him, whether you supported him or not, that doing so is wrong. You can simply just remove someone. You don't have to smear them.
Thank you, and I yield back my time.
TURNER: Right, I just want to echo that sentiment and certainly lament the attacks that have been levied against our colleague, Elise Stefanik, on this panel, which have been vile and -- and hateful.
For those of you keeping score at home, the effort to accuse our president of coercion, extortion, or bribery with these witnesses as we come to the closing session of this, basically break down as follows: we have Kent and Ambassador Taylor, who spoke of hearsay, their hearsay of these matters that they said that they had heard, were all statements that they'd heard from others who have also testified in front of us. So there's no one that's missing, there's no one out there. Kent and Taylor basically said that they'd heard it from Morrison and Sondland; Morrison indicated he'd heard it from Sondland, Sondland testified yesterday he'd heard it from no one on the planet.
Vindman and Morrison both have direct testimony of the phone call with the president of the United States. Beyond that, they only had contact with Sondland, and again, Sondland indicated he had contact with no one on the planet.
Volker testified that he did have direct contact, both with the Ukrainians and with the President of the United States and indicated that the President of the United States did not condition either a phone call, a meeting, or aid upon Ukraine undertaking investigations and also testified that the Ukrainians did not believe that either.
We also have the direct statements from the President of Ukraine and the Foreign Minister that they did not feel any pressure to undertake investigations, and we also have the evidence that we're all very much aware of, which is they did not undertake any investigations.
We also have Yovanovitch and Dr. Hill -- Yovanovitch obviously left before the time period, Dr. Hill, we appreciate your -- your being with us today, and Mr. Holmes.
Dr. Hill, you have provided me probably the greatest piece of -- of -- of evidence that's before us to illustrate the problem with hearsay. So you said, based on questions and statements, I have heard some of you on this committee -- that'd be us -- appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country. And perhaps somehow for some reason it was Ukraine.
So this is the -- it was held up by Devin Nunes, is the report on Russian active measures that was voted on by all of us. It begins with this sentence: in 2015, Russia began engaging in a covert influence campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Every one of us -- a little small, like, you know, effort on your part, Dr. Hill, and you would have known that what you just said was not true; what you had heard.
But you felt the need to put it in your eight-page statement before you went on to tell us a bunch of other things that you heard about other people, no matter how convinced you were of, also which were not necessarily true. One of which was that you said that Ambassador Sondland met with Giuliani. Actually, Ambassador Sondland testified here that he had not as ambassador met with Giuliani. He'd briefly met him in his lifetime by shaking his hand, and Giuliani issued a statement that they had never met either.
This is the problem with -- no matter how convinced we are, Dr. Hill, no matter how much we believe we know that what we've heard is true, it is still just what we've heard.
But so far in this -- in this hearings, in these series of hearings, the only thing that we have is Volker saying I spoke to the president and I've spoke to the Ukrainians, neither of which believe that aid was -- was conditioned, neither of which believed that the president was requiring it, and Ambassador Sondland, which said no one on the planet told him that that was the case.
That's the sole evidence. Now, I've got to tell you, the one thing that's interesting is -- is -- Ambassador Sondland did say is his belief that a meeting with the president was conditioned upon investigations. Ambassador Volker, who I think is a man of very significant integrity, said that that was not the case.
Now even if Ambassador Sondland is correct that somebody -- and -- and Dr. Hill, you testified -- and again, it's hearsay, you don't know -- that supposedly Mulvaney told him that, because he didn't testify to that -- but let's say somebody beside the president told him that, I -- you guys want to be the laughingstock of history to impeach a President of the United States because he didn't take a meeting? Oh please, dear God. Please undertake that.
Now Mr. Holmes, I -- I got to tell you, you stated (inaudible)...
SCHIFF (ph): Sir, is there -- is there a question for Dr. Hill?
TURNER: ...in your testimony, you said that Sondland said he loves your ass, and also said he'll do anything that you want.
TURNER: Mr. Holmes, that information had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of any of these hearings. It was -- it was anecdotal, it was extraneous, your statements that your interests are protecting Ukraine are very dubious when you embarrass President Zelensky by making those statements you didn't have to make. Who cares that Ambassador Sondland said that?
And you know, you didn't embarrass Ambassador Sondland, you embarrassed Zelensky, because you know he got asked this question in his own country and people are hearing that statement as if it's true...
SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired...
TURNER: ...and it's -- it's totally dubious if you did -- for you to do that to him (ph).
SCHIFF: Mr. Carson, you are recognized.
(UNKNOWN): ...you get to answer (ph).
CARSON: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you both for your service. Dr. Hill, why don't you talk a little more in depth about Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's role in the events under investigation. You testified, Ma'am, that Mr. Mulvaney and Ambassador Sondland were both involved with a letter President Trump sent to the Ukrainian President on May the 29th congratulating him on his inauguration. Do you recall that, Ma'am?
CARSON: And towards the end of that letter, President Trump closed with, quote, I would like to invite you to meet me at the White House in Washington D.C. as soon as we can find a mutually convenient time, end quote.
Dr. Hill, was this congratulatory letter drafted through the normal procedures at the NSC -- that the NSC uses to send letters to foreign heads of state?
HILL: The first part of it was, except the last paragraph.
CARSON: You also testified that Ambassador Sondland told you that he had dictated that line to the president, and that Mr. Mulvaney -- he told Mr. Mulvaney to add that to the letter. Is that correct, Ma'am?
CARSON: You said that you were nervous about that. Why were you nervous, Dr. Hill?
HILL: Because at this juncture, it had become quite apparent that the president wasn't very keen on having a meeting with Mr. Zelensky, for all the reasons that we've been trying to lay out today. And we were -- once one puts in a letter like that, you raise the expectation of a letter -- of an invitation coming shortly.
CARSON: Dr. Hill, you also testified, ma'am, that Ambassador Sondland was frequently meeting with Mr. Mulvaney. Mr. Giuliani's campaign of lies ultimately led to Ambassador Yovanovitch being recalled from her post in April 2019. You've also testified, ma'am, that her removal was pretty dispiriting, and a turning point for you. Can you explain to us why, ma'am?
HILL: Well, again, as we've all made clear, Ambassador Yovanovitch -- and you saw for yourselves in her deposition -- is a person of great integrity. She is one of our finest Foreign Service officers, career Foreign Service officers.
And this (ph) had been a decision to remove her, to replace her with a political appointee. Again, that would -- that was perfectly within the rights of the president. Sometimes it's highly advisable, in fact, to emphasize to a country just exactly how close the relationship is likely to be, to have an appointee who is close to the president, if it's an important relationship.
But what was dispiriting was all of the accusations that were being fired at Ambassador Yovanovitch, leading her to be tweeted, including by members of the president's family. We all firmly believed that Mr. Giuliani -- and others including the -- people who were recently indicted, the Ukrainian-American gentleman -- had for some reason decided that Ambassador Yovanovitch was some kind of personal problem for them. They -- and that they had then decided to engage in just the kinds of things we've been discussing about, and frankly she was an easy target, as a woman.
And I'm very sorry to hear about what's happened to Congressman Stefanik. And I think that this just illustrates the point and the problem that we're dealing with here today.
CARSON: Certainly. I was also struck by your testimony, that you were also the target of false accusations during your time in the Trump administration. You testified, ma'am, about receiving hateful calls and then being accused of being, quote, "a mole in the White House." You testified about death threats and calls at your home. Is that right?
HILL: That's correct. That was in 2017.
CARSON: well, I'm sorry you've had to go through all of this, ma'am. You don't strike me as a woman who is easily deterred. You're not easily deterred, are you, Dr. Hill?
CARSON: Thank you both for your service.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Just another fact-check -- and again, my caution to both of you that representations about what prior witnesses said or what you have even said may not be consistent with the facts.
This was from Ambassador Sondland's opening statement. "After the Zelensky meeting, I also met with Zelensky's senior aide, Andrey Yermak. I don't recall the specifics of our conversation, but I believe the issue of investigations was probably a part of the -- that agenda or meeting."
I now recognize Dr. Wenstrup.
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you both for being here. You know, in 1998, I voluntarily joined the United States Army Reserves because I saw our country under attack, time and time again. Bill Clinton was the president. I didn't vote for Bill Clinton, but he was my commander in chief. It didn't matter that I didn't vote for him.
I was grateful to live in a country that gets to legitimately elect our leaders. And I've been to places where people don't get to, and it's not pretty. And I respect our system, and I accept the results that are determined by the American people.
I deployed to Iraq, 2005, 2006 as an Army surgeon with soldiers from many backgrounds. The most important thing was we were all Americans, that was first and foremost.
In our mission, we treated our troops, we treated the enemy, winning over the hearts and minds of people that never knew us because of their dictator, Saddam Hussein, who told them that we were responsible for all their problems, and that was his narrative.
And speaking of narratives, Dr. Hill, I'm sorry, I have to say this. You said, based on statements you've heard, that some on this committee believe Russia did not conduct a campaign against our country, is false. That's Mr. Schiff's narrative, that's where you've heard it. We did a whole report on it. And we agree that Russia has done this since the Soviet Union, and they've actually gotten better at it. That's a problem.
But at the same time, certain Ukrainians did work against Candidate Trump, some with the DNC. And if that's debunked, why is it Mr. Schiff has denied DNC operative Alexandra Chalupa from testifying to come forward and debunk it?
I ask America, was it good for the country for the DNC and the Clinton campaign to pay Christopher Steele to dig up fake dirt, with other Foreign Service sources, on their political rival? Was it good for America to claim having evidence of the president colluding with Russians when he did not, costing the taxpayer millions and being debunked by special counsel? I'd say the false narrative got caught.
Was it good for the country for Americans and foreigners alike to attempt to entrap members of the United States presidential campaign, specifically the Trump campaign? Sadly, I've come to believe, through all this, that some in power do think it's good. They think it's OK. And now we're here in an impeachment proceeding, certainly a right that Congress has. And apparently, even with very partisan rules.
But I'm curious, this impeachment inquiry was announced by the speaker before the whistleblower complaint was even out. I'm curious how -- why the lawyer for the whistleblower announced that the coup to impeach the president, the -- he announced that right after Trump won. That's pretty damning.
I know it hurts after losing an election. Especially as Americans, we usually get over it. And I imagine it would hurt even more if you were promised a position in the next administration, and lost, and your hopes and your dreams are dashed.
You know, I've seen hatred for political reasons. Specifically on June 14, 2017, at a ballfield in Virginia. And I've seen hatred and more, and I know that hatred blinds people. I've been in war, and I've studied war. And coups create division. And it's time for this phase of the publicly announced and proclaimed Democrat coup to end.
Thank you for your service, thanks for being here.
HILL: Could I actually say something? Because we've had three...
SCHIFF: Doctor, I was going to -- I was going to ask you if you'd like to respond there, but...
WENSTRUP: No (ph), no (ph). I yield back...
WENSTRUP (?): ... ask (ph) the question.
SCHIFF: The gentleman will suspend.
Dr. Hill, you may respond.
WENSTRUP: (inaudible) statement.
HILL: No, I think that what Dr. Wenstrup said was very powerful, about the importance of overcoming hatred, and certainly partisan division. And it's unfortunate that Congressman Turner and Ratcliffe have both left as well. Because I think all of us who came here under a legal obligation, also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came as fact witnesses.
When I was referring to questions that I'd heard, it was in the context of the deposition that I gave on October 14th, because I was very worried about the turn in which some of the questions were taking.
And I understand that the point is being made about individuals, as you've just said, Dr. Wenstrup, and that these articles lay out taking different (ph) positions in our elections.
I don't believe that there should be any interference of any kind in our election. I think it was unfair for people to already call and to make attacks also on candidate Trump and on President Trump.
And I know that this has put a huge cloud over this presidency and also over our whole democratic system. That's actually why, as a non-partisan person and as an expert on Russia and an expert on Vladimir Putin and on the Russian Security Services, I wanted to come in to serve the country, to try to see if I could help.
I heard President Trump say that he wanted to improve the relations with Russia. I believe we have to. We can't be in this unending confrontation with Russia, we have to find a way to stabilize our relationship and to professionalize our relationship, as well as to stop them from doing what they did in 2016 again in 2020.
This is really the crux of the issue that I and others are trying to put across and I think that you've put across very eloquently. The other matter's related to this inquiry. We're here just to provide what we know and what we've heard.
I understand that for many members, this may be hearsay, I've talked about things I've heard with my own ears. I understand that Ambassador Sondland has said a lot of things. I have told you what he told me and what others told me.
A lot of other people have said things to me again as well and also to Mr. Holmes and we're here to relate to you what we heard, what we saw and what we did, and to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here. We are not the people who make that decision.
And I do again want to underscore what you've said here, Dr. Wenstrup. It was very eloquent and very moving about your service and trying to bring us all together again as Americans. We need to be together again in 2020 so the American people can make a choice about the future and about - make their vote in a presidential election without any fear that this is being interfered in by any - from any corridor (ph) whatsoever.
So I just want to thank you for making what I think was also a very elegant and eloquent and heartfelt defense.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Dr. Hill. Ms. Speier?
SPEIER: Mr. Chairman, thank you, and Dr. Hill, Mr. Holmes, thank you both for being fact witnesses. We are here as fact finders and we appreciate very much your presentations. Dr. Hill, I want to verify this story. I understand that when you were 11 years old, there was a schoolboy who set your pigtails on fire and you were taking a test, you turned around and with your hands snuffed out the fire and then proceeded to finish your test. Is that a true story?
HILL: That is a true story. I was a bit surprised to see that pop up today. It's one of the stories I occasionally tell cause it had some very unfortunate consequences afterwards. My mother gave me a bowl haircut.
So for the - the school photograph later in that week, I look like Richard III, as if I'm going to be in a permanent ...
SPEIER: Well I think it underscores the fact that you speak truth, that you are steely and I truly respect that. Let me move to your testimony and your deposition. You had indicated you were deeply troubled by Ambassador Yovanovitch's - the attacks on her and you underscored again today that all ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President.
And certainly in the case of Ambassador Yovanovitch, he could have just asked her to come home. But that didn't happen. In fact, there was a systematic character assassination that went on. It went on from 2018, if I'm not mistaken.
But you say "and the most obvious explanation at this point, it has to be said, seemed to be business dealings of individuals who wanted to improve their investment positions inside of Ukraine itself." You were then asked who do you understand was responsible for her removal and you said "I understand this to be the result of the campaign that Mr. Giuliani had set in motion in conjunction with people who were writing articles and, you know, publications that I would have expected better of, and also, you know, just the constant drumbeat of these accusations that he was making on the television."
So Rudy Giuliani was playing fast and furious in Ukraine, it would appear. Is that correct?
SPEIER: And he had no official tasking within the administration. Is that correct?
HILL: Not that I had been told of.
SPEIER: But he frequently met with Ukrainian officials to request that they open an investigation.
HILL: So I was - I to understand, yes.
SPEIER: You testified that Mr. Giuliani's involvement was quote "a massive complication in terms of our engagement with Ukraine."
SPEIER: Would you like to explain that?
HILL: Well I think I already laid that out in a earlier part of response to some of the questions. We were actually conducting which - you know, for a lot of the American people might seem to be a rather boring standard bilateral policy toward Ukraine - pushing them on issues of reform in the energy sector and more broadly we were concerned obviously about corruption in Ukraine. We were trying to help Ukraine regain its sovereignty after the attacks by Russia.
SPEIER: So how did Mr. Giuliani's involvement affect you?
HILL: Well we were - we basically had worked out of a - a course of two years in - in conjunction - close conjunction with the embassy in Kiev an interagency agreed action plan. And these are things that in fact Colonel Vindman and others were working on, basically moving forward on the various issues that were on the list of items.
Clearly Rudy Giuliani and other people didn't care at all about this ...
HILL: ... Ambassador Sondland wasn't particularly interested in it, either - it's quite boring, it wouldn't make for good copy in the press and it's the kind of thing that everybody in a routine moves forward on.
SPEIER: Mr. Holmes, you talked about the extraordinary power that Russia tries to assert against Ukraine. So since President Zelensky never got his White House meeting, doesn't that make Ukraine look weak and doesn't that benefit Russia?
HOLMES: Absolutely it does.
SPEIER: All right. So promoting Putin's false claim of Ukraine intervention into the U.S. election also benefits Russia, doesn't it?
SPEIER: So when President Trump meets privately with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, who does that benefit?
HOLMES: Well it doesn't help Ukraine.
SPEIER: It doesn't help Ukraine. And by President Trump calling Ukraine corrupt and not North Korea, for instance, does that accrue to Russia's benefit?
HOLMES: Again, it doesn't help Ukraine.
SPEIER: All right. I thank you and Mr. Chairman I'll yield the rest of my time to you.
SCHIFF: You're yielding me three seconds.
Not even I can make use of three seconds. Mr. Stewart?
STEWART: Thank you. Dr. Hill, Mr. Holmes, thank you for being here. I actually have no questions for you that haven't already been asked or made any points that haven't already been made. And I guess I'll just conclude by something I've said before.
This impeach-a-palooza tour finally comes to an end. I mean, a year of resistance - two and a half years of these absurd accusations against the President of Russian collusion. We've gone from quid pro quo to bribery to extortion, seven weeks of hearings, 16 secret closed door sessions, 12 public hearings now of which you are the last, hundreds of hours of testimony. And I really think that for those who hate The President they haven't changed their minds but there's a lot of Americans who look at this and they think is that it, really. You're going to impeach and remove a President for this. Now like I said if you don't like The President you've already come to that conclusion. Many people wanted this three years ago.
But for a lot of Americans they really look at that and they can see this. No evidence, zero evidence of any bribery, zero evidence of extortion, zero evidence first hand of any quid pro quo. And yet impeachment is almost inevitable. And why because the leadership of this committee has been unfair and dishonest. And I know we hear these crocodile tears from some of my colleagues who are hear broken because they finally have to impeach this President and we know that's absurd there's not heartbroken, there's no, there's no prayful tears over this. They're giddy over this.
And there's not a person in the country who doesn't know that. Everyone knows what they're going to do next, they're going to impeach The President and they're going to send it on to the Senate. But that is the good news. That's good news, you know we'll all been to a concert, you've got the warm up band and then you've got the main act. And what we've seen here is a warm up band. This is like the Sioux City Crooners, this is a band that no one's ever heard of. But the warm-up band is over and now we're going to go on to the main event and that's in US Senate. And in the US Senate there won't be any secret testimony. There's not going to be dishonest leadership or a Chairman who refuses to let us ask appropriate questions or deny a defense. Where in the world, where in the country do you have a trial where the Prosecution presents her case and the defense isn't able to.
So we'll finally be able to get to the truth. And so I'm talking now (ph) to my colleagues in the Senate. These are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First you have to hear from the whistleblower. Now they can choose to do that in close session if they want to, I leave that up to them. But you can't initiate an impeachment of The President of The United States and not have to answer some questions. Who did he get his information from? Did he have the classification and clearances tot get that information? What's his relationship with Vice President Biden? Who has he shared that information with including some members of the committee here. I think our own Chairman needs to be called.
What interactions did he or his staff have with the whistleblower? Did they help to coordinate or in any way facilitate the complaint? Did they coordinate and facilitate him (ph) counsel? What about Hunter Biden? How did he get his job? How did he, what did he do to earn his salary? And here's the key to this, look if he goes there and makes money knock yourself out I don't care. But I want to know did he have officials with or conversations with Government Officials and was government policy changed at a particularly high level because some of those? Devon Archer former Board Member from Burisma, Alexandra Chalupa former DNC Official who admitted she provided anti-Trump information to the DNC and to Hillary Clinton. Nellie Ohr from Fusion GPS who helped to create the ridiculous steel dossier.
I'd like to remind us what I said yesterday. The American people expect a lot in Politics, they understand the tussle, the fight, the debate but they also expect basic fairness. And these precedings have been anything but fair. The Senate has an opportunity to fix that. I am confident they will. And I look forward to them completing the job that we could have done here. And with that, I will yield back.
QUIGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, both for being here. Dr. Hill when we last left July 10th, I believe Ambassador Bolton said to you, you go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooling up on this. And you go tell them what you heard and what I've said. That's correct, is that right?
HILL: That's correct, sir, yes.
QUIGLEY: And John Eisenberg he's the Chief Lawyer for the National Security Counsel, correct?
QUIGLEY: And you went to see him?
HILL: I did go to see him.
QUIGLEY: And what did you say to him that day?
HILL: I basically gave him the same summary that I've given to you on the 10th of July.
QUIGLEY: Of what took place?
HILL: Of what took place, correct. Including maybe some of the details that shared with you as well, the sequencing and what transpired as I was walking in.
QUIGLEY: Now did you have one or two meeting with him about that?
HILL: He did not have a great deal of time on the 10th and I gave him the quick summary and we agreed that we would meet again on the 11th, on July 11th the next day. And I also wanted to bring in with me my colleague, Wells Griffith our Senior Director for Energy who had been setting with me on the sofa for the first portion of the meeting. And I also suggested that he speak to Colonel Vindman separately as well because Colonel Vindman was in the Ward (ph) Room when I arrived and he obviously been engaged in some discussion before I got there. Because it was as I got into the room they were clearly in the course (ph), sorry with the microphone, clearly in the course (ph) of conversation. And I thought it was important for John Eisenberg to hear from Colonel Vindman, himself, what his recollections of the meeting were.
QUIGLEY: You raised the concerns that Ambassador Bolton had raised to you to Mr. Eisenberg?
HILL: I certainly did. The first thing I related to him was exactly and precisely what Ambassador Bolton had asked me too.
QUIGLEY: In the course of those two meetings, which was Mr. Eisenberg's response?
HILL: Mr. Eisenberg took it all very seriously. He said for example that Colonel Vindman should feel free, he said this to me, in future to go and bring any concerns to him about these meetings. Similarly myself and any others if there was any subsequent follow up in terms of these issues being raised again with any of the parties in the future.
QUIGLEY: He didn't say anything in response about how he took that meeting or how he would describe it? Or if he had any, did he raise any concerns about what you told him that took place?
HILL: No, he did not. He listened very carefully to all of the information that we imparted.
QUIGLEY: Back to that July 10th meeting, the second meeting that it's the Ward (ph) Room, correct?
QUIGLEY: Now, whose in the meeting besides yourself, the two Ukrainians?
HILL: Mr. Donalque (ph), Mr. Yermack, Mr. Yermack's aid, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and then a couple people I think were from the State Department. I wondered for awhile if one of Secretary Perry's group had been there too.
HILL: I honestly can not remember.
QUIGLEY: But Ambassador Volker was there during that entire?
HILL: He was there but he didn't actually speak very much during that meeting. And I heard his deposition and I read his deposition where he didn't really recall that encounter. Again he didn't really speak, Ambassador Sondland was doing most of the speaking.
QUIGLEY: And as you, I think you described it as you came in Ambassador Sondland was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going forward with the investigations. While this was taking place and afterwards, how were the Ukrainians reacting to what was being said?
HILL: Well at the time, Mr. Yermack, was quite impassive. I said that he had an aid with him and his aid was sitting next to him in the original meeting with Ambassador Bolton and was from time to time, actually on this side, whispering to him. So I wasn't sure myself, because I had not met Mr. Yermack before, about how good his English was. So I wasn't sure, perhaps Mr. Holmes might be able to reflect on that, as to whether he was, you know, having some points of clarification from the aides.
QUIGLEY: He understood what was happening.
HILL: Yes, so I wasn't entirely sure if he was following all of the back-and-forth. Mr. Danyluk, who I know very well, and speaks very good English, looked quite alarmed. I think he was more alarmed at the fact that there was this back-and-forth between Ambassador Sondland and Colonel Vindman, then with me about the meeting.
Clearly they very much wanted to have this meeting, and here are some U.S. officials arguing about the meeting in front of him. And that was obviously also very uncomfortable for him.
QUIGLEY: Did you have a follow-up to that, sir?
HOLMES: Just add that Danyluk speaks perfect English and Yermak can get by in meetings but often does ask for clarifications.
QUIGLEY: Given the time, I would yield back.
STEFANIK: Before I turn to our witnesses, I just wanted to say to my Democratic colleagues, not a single Republican member of this committee has said that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 elections. As the ranking member stated, we published a report focused on Russian active measures in 2016 with policy recommendations as to how we strengthen our cyber resiliency and election security to counter Russia.
I myself have worked with members of this very committee on this issue, but also on the House Armed Services Committee. So to have our Democratic colleagues say these s untruthful statements just reeks of political desperation in their continued obsession to manipulate mainstream media coverage.
But the good news is the American people understand that this has been a partisan process from the start. The Democratic coordination with the whistle-blower, the incessant and astounding leaks, the unprecedented closed-door process, closed to the majority of members, closed to the press, closed to the people, starting this inquiry without taking a vote. And then when finally forced to take a vote, the vote was with bipartisan opposition.
Now with four minutes left I'm going to turn to our two witnesses. Thank you both for your service. Thank you, Dr. Hill, for your comments on the personal attacks. I wanted to ask you each fact-based questions. Dr. Hill, you testified that you handed over your duties on the NSC to Tim Morrison on July 15th, and that you physically left the White House on July 19th, correct?
HILL: That is correct, yes.
STEFANIK: So that means that by the time there was the July 25th call with President Trump and President Zelensky, you were no longer on the NSC, correct?
HILL: Actually I was still technically on the payroll of the NSC until the end of August, August 30th of 2019. But I was not physically in the building and I had handed over my duties to Mr. Morrison.
STEFANIK: And you were not on the call.
HILL: I was not on the call. That is absolutely correct.
STEFANIK: And it's also correct that you did not participate in the preparation of talking points or the specific coordination of setting up the call.
HILL: Not for that call. But let me just say for the record that there had been a long-anticipated -- and eventually there would be a call. So there was a call package that was prepared in advance. I just cannot say how much of that call package that had perhaps been prepared since, for example, of the inauguration of President Zelensky was then used as the basic material for that call.
So I did take part in the preparation of that standard call package. But I did not take part in any preparation for the specific call on July 25th.
STEFANIK: And the first time you actually read the transcript of the call was when it was released to the public.
STEFANIK: Mr. Holmes, I wanted to turn to you. Good to see you again. Thank you for mentioning the bipartisan delegation that I lead on behalf of the House Armed Services Committee with my friend Representative Anthony Brown from Maryland. We did have an exceptionally informative visit where we highlighted the bipartisan congressional support for Ukraine, in particular the importance of countering Russian aggression. And we discussed in the briefings at the embassy the importance of defensive lethal aid in the form of Javelins, which as you both -- I think you stated today, is, quote, "an important strategic deterrent to Russia."
And I just want to highlight on the record, I know this has been asked, the Javelins were provided by the Trump administration and not the Obama administration, correct?
HOLMES: That's correct. And I would just say, I think we discussed the importance of all our security assistance to Ukraine, not just the Javelin.
STEFANIK: Absolutely. All of our security assistance, which I strongly support. Again, thank you for being a host on that.
Dr. Hill, turning back to you. There has been discussion about the process of scheduling the meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump. And you testified that there was hesitancy to schedule this meeting until after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, is that correct?
HILL: That is correct, yes.
STEFANIK: And that's because there was speculation in all analytical circles, both in Ukraine and outside the Ukraine, that Zelensky might not be able to get the majority that he needed to form a cabinet, correct?
STEFANIK: And you also testified that another aspect of the NSC's hesitancy to schedule this meeting was based on broader concerns related to Zelensky's ability to implement anti-corruption reforms. And this was in specific relation to Ukrainian oligarchs who basically were the owner of the TV company that Mr. Zelensky's program had been a part of, is that correct?
STEFANIK: You know, just distilling this down to the key facts, I wanted to ask both of you three key questions. So the fact of the matter is Ukraine ultimately did receive the aid, correct, Mr. Holmes?
STEFANIK: Yes. And, Dr. Hill?
HILL: Correct, ultimately.
STEFANIK: And there was no investigation into the Bidens, correct, Mr. Holmes?
HOLMES: They did not open a new investigation into the Bidens.
STEFANIK: Correct. And, Dr. Hill?
STEFANIK: And there was, in fact, a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky ultimately at the U.N., is that correct?
HOLMES: The president invited Zelensky to the Oval Office at a date undetermined that has not yet happened.
STEFANIK: The meeting at the U.N., President Trump and President Zelensky met at the U.N.
HOLMES: They did, but not at the Oval Office.
STEFANIK: But they did have a meeting at the U.N.
STEFANIK: They did, OK. Thank you.
SWALWELL: Dr. Hill, yesterday I think a lot of Americans were scratching their heads as Ambassador Sondland testified that on September 9 he calls the president of the United States and just says broadly, what do you want from Ukraine? And the president says, there's no quid pro quo, there's no quid pro quo. Like being pulled over for speeding and being asked, do you know how fast you're going? And saying, I didn't rob the bank, I didn't rob the bank.
But your testimony today is that on July 10 of this year, you told one of the president's lawyers that you had concerns that a White House meeting was linked to investigations, is that right?
HILL: That's correct. Based on what Ambassador Sondland said in the wardroom.
SWALWELL: And so as early as July 10, the president's lawyers had knowledge that there was at least concern by a presidential employee about a linkage, is that right?
SWALWELL: Dr. Hill, just like you were -- we are trying to account for all the president's men. You had that same concern when you saw Mr. Solomon's emails and you saw people who were outside the channels that you had been working on. So I want to walk you through something you told us earlier. You said that you have evidence that as recently as this year, President Trump believed someone named Kash (ph) was the Ukraine director, is that right?
HILL: It's not really evidence. And, look, I want to be very clear about this. I was asked a question about this in my deposition. I did not raise it. And to be honest, I was surprised that I was asked the question.
SWALWELL: But you heard that -- that name, Kash, is that right?
HILL: I did. But, again, it was in passing, and I explained the circumstances in which it came up. But I was asked a question in the course of my deposition about it.
SWALWELL: And the only person at the time who worked at the National Security Council was Kash Patel, is that right?
HILL: It was the only person I could think of.
SWALWELL: And Kash Patel, prior to working for the National Security Council from 2017 to 2018, worked for Ranking Member Nunes. Is that right?
HILL: I actually only found that out after the fact.
HILL: Cause I wondered why I was being asked about him, so I went to look this up.
SWALWELL: And Dr. Hill, you cautioned us on the dangers of members of this community - of this committee perhaps pedaling any Ukrainian conspiracy theories that could benefit Russia and I want to ask you if you have heard the name Lev Parnas of Ukraine, someone in this investigation, who was influencing President Trump and Rudy Giuliani about some of the debunked conspiracy theories you referenced earlier?
HILL: I have heard his name, yes.
SWALWELL: Are you aware that Mr. Parnas was indicted on October 10 for making foreign contributions to Republicans in U.S. elections?
HILL: I am aware of those reports, yes.
SWALWELL: Are you aware of yesterday's Daily Beast story reporting the indicted Ukrainian Lev Parnas has been working with Ranking Member Devin Nunes on Mr. Nunes' overseas investigations?
HILL: I am not aware of that.
SWALWELL: Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to put into the record the Daily Beast story 'Lev Parnas Helped Rep. Devin Nunes' Investigations' from yesterday, first two paragraphs reading "Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, Parnas' lawyer Ed McMahon told The Daily Beast. Nunes aide Derek Harvey participated in the meetings, the lawyer said, which were arranged to help Nunes' investigative work. McMahon didn't specify what those investigations entailed."
SCHIFF: Without objection.
SWALWELL: Mr. Chairman, you have been falsely accused throughout these proceedings by the Ranking Member as being a quote-unquote "fact witness." Now if this story is correct, the Ranking Member may have actually been projecting and in fact he have been - he may be the fact witness if he is working with indicted individuals around our investigation.
But I want to go to what this is really all about. First, it's your credibility, Mr. Holmes, and can you tell us and confirm that in 2014, you received the William Rifkin Constructive Dissent Award from the Obama administration State Department?
SWALWELL: And that was for dissent that you brought up against an administration policy, is that right?
SWALWELL: Congratulations and thank you for speaking up in the way that you did. But what we're really here about is what you're working on in Ukraine and I want you to take a look at the picture. Who do you see in the foreground of that photo?
HOLMES: President Zelensky.
SWALWELL: That's a photograph in May 2019, where newly elected President Zelensky visited the Luhansk region in Eastern Ukraine. It was his first visit to the front lines of Donbass as President. Can you just tell taxpaying Americans why it's so important that our hard-earned taxpaying dollars help President Zelensky and the men standing beside him fight against Russia in this hot war?
HOLMES: Absolutely, sir. President Zelensky was elected on overwhelming majority to defend Ukraine interests. This is at a time when Ukrainians are defending their sovereignty, their territorial integrity on Ukrainian soil from Russian-backed soldiers who are attacking them. And they said 14,000 Ukrainian lives lost in this war so far, as I mentioned, a few this week already.
And - and - and this is a hot water. This is not a frozen conflict. People are shooting at each other and dying, being injured every single week and despite the ongoing war, they're still trying to pursue peace. President Zelensky, even right now, is trying to pursue a summit meeting with President Putin in order to try to bring this war to a conclusion so they - they can move on with all of the difficult things they need to do in terms of building the economy and reforming the judiciary and whatnot.
And I want to add just one other thing, sir, if I may. Mr. Turner had suggested earlier that I (ph) somehow embarrassed President Zelensky. I have the deepest respect for President Zelensky. This is a guy - this is a guy of a Jewish background from a post-Soviet industrial suburb in Southern Ukraine who made himself one of the most popular entertainers in the country and somehow got elected President and he's not going to miss that opportunity.
This is a Ukrainian patriot, this is a tough guy, and frankly he withstood a lot of pressure for a very long time. And he didn't give that interview. I have a deepest respect for him, the Ukrainian people, also have the deepest respect for him, they've chosen him to help deliver the full measure of promise of their revolution of dignity and I think he merits all of our respect.
SWALWELL: Thank you. And Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to enter the May 27th photograph depicted on the screen into the record.
SCHIFF: Without objection. Mr. Hurd?
HURD: Thank you, Dr. Hill, Mr. Holmes for your years of service to this country and I appreciate you all being here today. Throughout this process, I have said that I want to learn the facts so we can get to the truth. So why are we here? Because of two things that occurred during the President's July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky - the use of the phrase "do us a favor, though" in reference of the 2016 presidential election and the mention of the word "Biden."
I believe both statements were inappropriate misguided foreign policy and it's certainly not how the Executive, current or in the future, should handle such a call. Over the course of these hearings, the American people have learned about a series of events that in my view have undermined our national security and undercut Ukraine, a key partner on the front lines against Russian aggression.
We've heard of U.S. officials carrying uncoordinated, confusing and conflicting messages that created doubt and uncertainty in Kiev at a time when a new reformist administration has just taken office and was ready to fight corruption and work with us to advance other U.S. objectives. I disagree with this sort of bungling foreign policy.
But through these hearings, many of my colleagues have unwittingly undermined the Ukrainian government by suggesting that it is subservient to the United States, and without the United States, they wouldn't be able to function.
The Ukrainians, as you stated, Mr. Holmes, is in a hot water with Russia and they are holding their own. We could benefit from the experience of the Ukrainians, not the other way around. While I thought the Intelligence Committee would actually be engaged in oversight of the intelligence and national security communities, unfortunately we are not. We're here talking about one of the most serious constitutional duties we have as members of Congress, the impeachment and removal of a President of the United States.
Over the past weeks, we've learned a few things. The officials on the July 25th call have many different opinions on whether the call was concerning or not and just because Vice President Biden is running for President does not mean that corruption related to Burisma, Ukraine's largest natural gas company, and Americans ties to it are not concerning.
There's also a lot we do not know. We have not heard from Rudy Giuliani, we haven't heard from Hunter Biden. I'd like to know more about both of their activities, why they talked to whom and to whom. Despite promises from Chairman Schiff, we have also not heard from the whistleblower, something that can occur in a closed setting without violating his or her anonymity. We need to understand the motivations and level of coordination that happened prior to his or her submission of the complaint.
Over the past few weeks and even today, it's been reiterated in 2017 the Trump administration made the decision to provide lethal defensive aid to Ukraine after the Obama administration refused to do so. Ukraine is receiving all of the security assistance as directed by Congress, President Zelensky has undertaken significant anti-corruption efforts, including eliminating the parliamentary immunity from prosecution. And again, Mr. Holmes, you mentioned this today, under President Zelensky's leadership we have finally seen some progress as for (ph) -- towards ending the Russian occupation based in Ukraine.
So where does this leave us? And impeachable offence should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear in unambiguous, and it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I've not heard evidence proving the President committed bribery or extortion. I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all the foreign policy choices we have been hearing about over these last few weeks. To paraphrase Tim Morrison, the testimony this week, every international conversation on Ukraine has focused on impeachment, not the conflict in Donbass, not the illegal occupation of Crimea, not the need for reforms in Ukraine's government economy; it's a day where we are not focused on our shared national security interests with Kyiv.
I hope that we won't let this very partisan process keep us from agreeing on how a free and prosperous Ukraine is important to the security of the Ukrainian people, the United States of America, and the rest of the world. Mr. Chairman before I yield back my time, I'd like to make a statement for the record that has this committee been given proper notice as required by House rule 11 clause (2)(g)(3) (ph) that the business meeting was to follow last nights hearing and had Mr. Conaway's point of order been appropriately recognized I would have voted no on the committee's first motion to table during lasts impromptu meeting. I yield back the balance of my time.
CASTRO: Thank you Chairman. Thank you -- both of you for you testimony today. I fist want to say because I think it shouldn't go unmentioned that the characterization just a few minutes ago by one of my Republican colleagues of this proceeding I think was vile, irresponsible and dangerous. And I want to -- to remind us why we're here; because somebody in government, a whistle blower, felt that it was important enough to get other people in government's attention that the President may have committed a wrong act.
We have now heard and seen substantial evidence that the President in fact tried to trade a political favor for official government resources. The most damning words come from no one else but the President himself on that phone call with the Ukrainian president where he asked for a favor he mentions investigations, he mentions the Biden's, and Burisma. However as Mr. Holmes has testified -- Mr. Holmes also overheard the President speaking to his handpicked Ambassador, Ambassador Sondland about investigations.
Mr. Holmes has also said that in the office everybody knew, or many people knew at least that there was an -- that the President wanted an investigation of the Biden's. In addition, although Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani have not come before this committee, Mike Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani have spoken publically on the issue of investigations. Mick Mulvaney, the President's Chief of Staff, the person who usually works with the President the most, day in and day out, went in front of the White House press corps and basically admitted that an investigation had something to do with holding up the aid.
And that this -- and admitted that this -- this process was politicized. Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer also essentially admitted that these investigations were an issue. He said that he thinks he did nothing wrong because he was working at the direction of the president. So we have seen substantial evidence and heard substantial evidence of wrong doing by the President of the United States. And this congress will have to continue to take up this very important issue for the American people.
Well, my concern today is also -- I feel as though the cancer of wrongdoing may have spread beyond the President and into others of the executive branch. And I want to ask you a few questions about that, before I do. I'd like Chairman to enter two articles into the record if I could. One of them is headlined After Boosts from Perry, Backers Got Huge Gas Deal in Ukraine. The other one is titled Wall Street Journal Federal Prosecutors Probe Giuliani's Links to Ukrainian Energy Projects. Mr. Holmes, you --
SCHIFF: Without objection.
CASTRO: -- thank you Chairman. You indicated that Secretary Perry went -- when he was in the Ukraine, had private meetings with Ukrainians. Before he had those private meetings he had a meeting with others, including yourself I believe, he had presented a list of American Advisors for the Ukraine energy sector. Do you know who was on that list?
HOLMES: Sir, I didn't see the names on the list myself.
CASTRO: Do you know if Alex Cranberg and Michael Bleyzer were on that list?
HOLMES: I have since heard that Michael Bleyzer is on the list.
CASTRO: Was it -- what is (ph) -- before Secretary Perry did this we also heard in testimony before that Ambassador Sondland also had a private meeting with somebody. How unusual was it before these guys showed up for folk -- diplomats so to speak or U.S. government officials to have private meetings where they insist that nobody else be in the room.
HOLMES: Very rare, almost never.
CASTRO: OK. And I want to ask you also about the precedent that we sat, both of you -- I know you're here as fact witnesses, but you're also public servants for this country. The precedent that this congress would set -- putting aside Donald Trump for a second, if the congress allows a President of the United States now or later to ask a foreign government, Head of State to investigate a political rival, what precedent does that set for American diplomacy, for the safety of Americans overseas, and for the future of our country?
HILL: It's a very bad precedent.
HOLMES: Very bad precedent and going forward if that were ever the case, I would raise objections.
CASTRO: Thank you both. I yield back, Chairman.
RATCLIFFE: Thank you Chair, I want to return the favor and recognize my colleague, yield to my colleague, Congressman Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Dr. Hill, I don't think there's a lot of questions that one of Putin's primary objectives within the United States is to sew -- is to foment unrest with out nation to cause us to have lost news confidence in our elections, and up (ph) the results of the elections, those kind of things. There is tension though in conducting our businesses the way we should and playing in Putin's hands as an example.
While I disagree with what we're doing here today, it's under our Constitution and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe that they are functioning under that Constitution. These hearings, this issue has (ph) very divisive (ph) within our country and is continuing to push that way. I think that plays into Putin's inadvertently, maybe nothing we can do about that. But there are certain things we can do as individuals that wouldn't play into his hands and one of them would be that the loser in the 2016 election has for three years continued to argue because she won the popular vote, as she and her friends (ph) won the popular that somehow the election was inappropriate and that we shouldn't trust it, that the electoral college victory which was resounding shouldn't be trusted.
Does that help Putin or play into the narrative that he would like for us to think (ph) that our elections are somehow rigged and shouldn't be trusted?
CONWAY: So the RT, Putin's -- would you agree with me, the RT is Putin's propaganda machine here in the United States?
HILL: I would agree with you, yes.
CONWAY: So is it appropriate for the RT to be used to effect public policy on a nation? As an example (ph) there have been a long series of advertisements, or programs on RT going against fracking, saying it's bad and trying to effect public policy in the United States, is that appropriate use -- or should Americans be paying attention to that?
HILL: In the sense (ph) that Americas should be paying attention to RT and other outlets used to propagate this kind of information, absolutely. I wasn't quite sure what you meant about --
CONWAY: So just with that thing (ph), fracking is a controversial issue in our nation. If we did away with fracking, the United States would not be in a position today to dominate the oil production within the world, and would play in to strengthening Putin's hands with respect to oil (inaudible) --
HILL: That's correct. And actually I would like to point out that in 2011, in November 2011 I actually sat next to Vladimir Putin at a conference, in which he made precisely that point.
It was the first time that he had actually done so, to a group of American journalists and experts who were brought to something called the Valdai Discussion Club. So he started in 2011 making it very clear that he saw American fracking as a great threat to Russian interest.
We were all struck by how much he stressed this issue, and it's since 2011, and since our particular junction that Putin has made a big deal of this.
CONWAY: So they said that Americans pay attention to RT, and are misguided by whatever propaganda he's going -- it's not in our nation's best interest.
Mr. Holmes, in your roll your privileged to an awful lot of stuff -- official things, and things that are best kept between you and the official folks that you deal with. Is there an expectation among the principles that you represent, that you will exercise some discretion in what you share with others about what goes on?
HOLMES: Of course, yes sir.
CONWAY: In your public -- in your testimony -- in your deposition you made the -- well first off we had a hard time pinning down the number of people that you actually had this conversation with, about the conversation that you overheard.
Now our Ambassador had to expectation of privacy, and she's (ph) blustering around doing what needs done. But we couldn't figure out how many people you actually shared that information with. And I would argue that the information is unflattering to the president, unflattering to the Ambassador. And that your discretion is -- you know, at odds here.
I mean, your testimony, your deposition said that you shared that with folks who you thought would find it interesting. Well I'd argue that everybody on the back row would find it interesting, but I don't know that that's necessarily criteria.
So on a go-forward basis can you, articulate that in the future when you're privileged to certain circumstances that would be embarrassing to the principle, that if it's official that you share with the Ambassador that's fine, but the folks outside the Embassy or folks even within the Embassy that don't have a need to know, that you wouldn't regale them with your recounting of those instances?
HOLMES: Sir, I think it was Gordon Sondland who showed indiscretion by having that conversation over a phone line (inaudible) --
CONWAY: No -- no, no. You -- you're -- well (inaudible) --
HOLMES: That's the first thing. The second thing is, I (inaudible) --
CONWAY: Please, excuse me, Mr. Holmes, let me clarify the question --
SCHIFF: Let him answer your question, sir.
CONWAY: It's my question, you're exactly right and I get to clarify my question to get the answer -- and I'm hopeful in a few more seconds because of the interruption from the Chairman. His patience is growing then, I was working hard not to irritate him again but I failed again. The question is of you, Mr. Holmes, your discretion.
Gordon Holmes did not -- I mean, Gordon Sondland did not (inaudible) the privacy, we got that. But you're going to be in rooms for life (ph). You've been in rooms 17 years where people trust that when whatever went on in that room and left, that you kept it to official channels -- that you didn't share all that information with their folks.
Now I'm just asking you to argue for -- on your own behalf that interesting is not some sort of a criterion that you would use when you share information from meetings -- several straight-forward questions (ph).
HOLMES: Sir, I shared the information I had to share with the right people who needed to know it. I did not share any information that people didn't need to know.
CONWAY: But you did use the word interesting in your deposition --
SCHIFF: Mr. Conway, your time has expired.
HOLMES: It certainly was interesting, sir. And I would also hate to think that what I brought before this process, I shouldn't have done that. I have come here because you have subpoenaed me to share what I know, and I've done that.
SCHIFF: Since you were cut off when you were talking about Mr. Sondland's indiscretion, did you want to finish that answer?
CONWAY: Mr. Chairman, that's patently unfair.
CONWAY: As you've entire investigation.
SCHIFF: Mr. Conway, to interrupt the witness as you have done repeatedly --
CONWAY: Well but you're certainly willing to interrupt me during my five minutes. You have -- you're the only person on this dais who has unlimited time -- you have absolutely unlimited time, you're the only one that has abused that power and you continue to do that.
SCHIFF: Mr. Conway, the gentleman will cease. We allow the witnesses to answer the question even if those asking the question don't want to hear the answer. Mr. Heck, you are recognized --
CONWAY: Does that apply to you as well?
HECK: Mr. Holmes, (inaudible) --
HECK: About the use of both regular and irregular foreign service or diplomatic channels -- my reading of history is that American presidents have on occasions used irregular channels, would you generally agree?
HECK: And my reading of history is that generally speaking, however those irregular channels have either been closely coordinated with the regular ones, or at least in furthering some American foreign policy in our national security interest, would you agree?
HOLMES: That's right, sir.
HECK: And do you believe, sir, that Mr. Giuliani's efforts were closely coordinated with the regular channel such as the Ambassador to the Ukraine?
HOLMES: No, they weren't.
HECK: And were they in furtherance of the American foreign policy as you understood it?
HECK: Mr. Holmes, if left unchecked do you think that Russia would either by means of force, or other malign means subjugate Ukraine, attempt to render it a client state if not occupy it?
HOLMES: Absolutely sir, it's been said that without Ukraine Russia's just a country, but with it it's a empire.
HECK: You know, I feel like I've been treated to a Gatling gun fire of myth propagation over the last couple of weeks and it reminds me of that old expression about the big lie if you tell it often enough and keep repeating it that people will come to believe it.
I think we've been subjected to some of that. Here's a sample, the president didn't solicit campaign assistance from Ukraine in a clear violation of federal law, yes he did.
The president didn't withhold vital military assistance in furtherance of his objective to obtain that campaign assistance, yes he did.
Rudy Giuliani was acting, just on his own, kind of as a rogue -- no he wasn't. That all of this is business as usual, this happens all the time and stems from a principle interest -- no it isn't, and no it wasn't.
And that it's OK to attack patriotic diplomats and public service if they stand in your way and having -- have the courage to speak up, then no it isn't.
Those are just some of the big lies, but here's the big truth. The president did it. He did it. We all just came from the floor, and that's a majestic chamber. And in the front of the chamber there are only two portraits on the left looking forward is my favorite President, George Washington -- and on the right is the Marquis de Lafayette, who came to this country to help us stand up our fledgling democracy.
So here's another big truth. Without his help, we probably never would've gotten off the ground, and that assistance from many other countries who are helping us to create something that had never been created before, it was an audacious idea, this notion of - of a democracy of self-governance, of freedoms such as speech and press and religion and expression and assembly, and most of all, that it would be rooted in the premise of the rule of law - not monarchs, not military strongmen, but the rule of law.
Others helped us to get here and we wouldn't be here without them and I frankly feel like we're almost in a little bit of a pay it forward moment. So when the President did it, he put at risk the security of Ukraine, a strategic ally and a nascent democracy, with their masses yearning to breathe free, who six years ago this day, when their government said we're not going to sign that Memorandum of Agreement with the European Union, rose up and took to the streets because they wanted frankly what we have.
And when the President did it, he put our own national security at risk. But what he did, most importantly, was put at risk that idea that makes us exceptional, because I do believe America's truly exceptional. We are a country rooted in something that nobody has ever tried before - rule of law. He put that at risk when he did what he did.
The President did it and the only question that remains is what will we do? I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Hill, during - during your deposition, I asked you was Christopher Steele's dossier a rabbit hole. Do you remember - you remember the answer you gave to ...
HILL: Yes, I thought it was a rabbit hole.
JORDAN: Yeah and you also said a couple of pages later in the deposition or in the transcript that I have here of your deposition that you thought he got played. Is that fair?
JORDAN: I was struck by a number of things in your statement, a number of things I thought were right on the target, and one - one was on Page 7. You said this, President Putin and the Russian Security Services weaponize our own political opposition research, and that is exactly what happened in 2016 - exactly what happened. You called it, you knew it, you saw it.
The DNC hired Perkins Coie, who hired Fusion GPS, who hired Christopher Steele, who talked to Russians, who gave them a bunch of dirt, bunch of National Enquirer garbage that he compiled in a dossier and our FBI used it. They used it as part of their investigation that they opened in July of 2016 where they spied on two American citizens associated with the presidential campaign.
My guess is that's probably never happened in American history and exactly what Dr. Hill talked about is what happened in 2016 - exactly what she talked about. And for 10 months, Jim Comey and his team did an investigation, and after 10 months, they had nothing cause we deposed Mr. Comey and he told us after 10 months, we didn't have a thing.
But that didn't matter - that didn't matter. We got the Mueller investigation. $32 million, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 500 search warrants, 2,800 subpoenas and they came back this spring and what'd they tell us? No collusion, no conspiracy, no coordination. But the guys on the other side don't care - they don't care.
They're doing what - Dr. Hill said a number of important things in her opening statement, they're doing exactly what Dr. Hill talked about. The impact of a successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today, our nation is being torn apart - torn apart.
I've never seen it this divided. It is not healthy - it is not healthy for our culture, our country, not healthy for our nation but that's what these guys are doing. No conspiracy, no coordination, no - no collusion but they don't care. Now this, this whole impeachment thing.
As the witness said yesterday - witness said yesterday, without an announcement from Zelensky about an investigation, they weren't going to get a call with the President, they weren't going to get a meeting with the President and they weren't going to get aid from the United States.
But guess what? Ukraine, they got the call, they got the meeting and they got the money and there was never an announcement of any type of investigation. This is - but they don't care. They're going to move forward, there's going to be some kind of report, they're going to send something - I - I assume something to the Judiciary Committee and the process is going to go forward and there will be a trial in the Senate, all based on some anonymous whistleblower who came forward with no firsthand knowledge, who's biased against the President, who worked with Joe Biden, now all of this - now all of this.
This is - Dr. Hill's right, she said - she said it, we've got to stop this, but they're not going to and they're doing it all 11 and a half months before the next election. And I think maybe the most telling thing is what the Speaker of the House said Sunday - Speaker of the House said Sunday - this is scary - Speaker of the House said Sunday - national Sunday morning TV show, she said the President is an impostor. The guy that 63 million people voted for, who won an electoral college landslide, the Speaker of the House of Representatives called the President of the United States an impostor. Sad - it is sad what the country's going through, I wish it would stop, but unfortunately I don't think it is. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
WELCH: I want to use my time to speak directly to my colleagues and to the American people. Today's witnesses and the ones we've been privileged to have before the committee over the last two weeks have provided an invaluable service to our country, not just in all of your careers but in having the courage and the patriotism to share your facts with the American people, and you do so at considerable risks to yourselves but you've clearly stepped forward for the simple fact you believe it's your duty.
And all your testimony reaffirms a very central fact, President Trump conditioned our foreign policy and national security on getting a valuable political benefit from Ukraine. He wanted Ukraine's new President to create ethical questions about Joe Biden by publicly announcing investigations. And to pressure President Zelensky to take that action that would benefit his personal political interests, he withheld vital military aid to Ukraine and refused to meet with President Zelensky in the Oval Office.
And as we heard from Mr. Holmes and Dr. Hill today, that meeting was extraordinarily important to Ukraine and extraordinarily important in sending a message to Russia about our unyielding support. The witnesses have made it absolutely clear what the President did and it's equally clear that President Trump has launched a cover up and disinformation campaign to hide this abuse of power from the American people. That's why the administration refuses to provide documents to this committee.
And it's why the White House has taken the unprecedented position that senior officials could ignore congressional subpoenas and refuse to testify. That's why acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney, Secretary of State Pompeo, and others have not testified.
Now the president and even some members of this committee are pretending this is normal. It is not, it must never be. No other president has betrayed his office like this by putting his own small political interest above our national interest and our national security.
You know I asked some of our witnesses what would happen in any American city or town if the mayor stopped funding the police department until the chief of police launched an investigation into the merest (ph) political rival. Or a governor or a member of Congress did that and the answer was clear.
It would be wrong, it would be illegal and it wouldn't be tolerated. It would violate the most basic trust we have in public officials. If it happened with a military commander, a court marshal would follow. If it happened with a corporation, a CEO would be fired.
We all know this kind of conduct is wrong. But the president continues to say it isn't. He says it's perfect and he'd do it again tomorrow. The same rules apply to mayors, governors, members of Congress, CEOs and everyone else in America. They apply to the president too.
Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, you like MSNBC or Fox; I think every American believes in one of our nation's founding principles, no person is above the law, not even the president.
In July 24, Director Mueller testified about Russian state sponsored systematic interference in our 2016 election. He expressed apprehension this could become the new normal. The day after on July 25th, President Trump spoke to President Zelensky and asked a favor.
That favor was that Ukraine interfere in our 2020 election. If we allow this to stand, to become the new normal, it will be the standard for all future presidents. In good conscious none of us can do that.
This conduct corrupts our democracy, it corrupts how our country conducts foreign policy, it threatens our national security and the security of all Americans. And it is in my view a clear betrayal of the presidents oath of office. I yield back.
MALONEY: Mr. Chairman, two quick housekeeping matters. Asking unanimous consent to enter into the record an ABC news story, this one's for my friend Mr. Stewart, entitled "70 percent of Americans Say Trump's Actions Tied to Ukraine Were Wrong." Dated November 18, 2019.
SCHIFF: Without objection.
MALONEY: I also ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a New Yorker story entitled, "The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine: How a Conservative Dark Money Group that Targeted Hillary Clinton in 2016 Spread the Discredited Story that May lead to Donald Trump's Impeachment." Jane Mayer, October 4, 2019.
SCHIFF: Without objection.
MALONEY: Good afternoon, thank you for being here. Dr. Hill, first of all, I thought that was some epic mansplaining that you were forced to endure from -- by my colleague, Mr. Turner.
And I want you to know some of us think it was inappropriate but I appreciate -- I appreciate you forbearance. Let me ask you something. I'm fascinated by this meeting -- two meetings really, on July 10th. You have the meeting in Mr. Bolton's office.
Sondland says this thing about investigations, Bolton ends the meeting. Photo. There's a follow on meeting in the Ward Room. And you get there a little late and Vindman is talking to Sondland and they're already going at it about Sondland's desire to assert that meeting's going to happen if there's these investigations. Is that some in substance what's going on?
HILL: Absolutely right, yes.
MALONEY: And what I want to understand is -- is this isn't a policy disagreement, right?
HILL: No that's not -- that's correct ...
MALONEY: The source of your concern is not a policy disagreement and it's not purely a procedural disagreement either, right. About how -- how -- excuse me.
HILL: I'm sorry. Yes, it's not. Correct. Sorry.
MALONEY: It's neither policy nor is it procedure that's bothering you or for that matter the national security advisor, Mr. Bolton, right.
MALONEY: I mean it's not why he sends you down there to see how the meeting's going.
MALONEY: And in fact, he instructs you to go to the lawyer. Ever been instructed to go report something to the NSC lawyer before?
HILL: That was the first time. I've self-instructed a couple of times but that was the first time I have been instructed to go.
MALONEY: And why did he send you to report this to the lawyer?
HILL: Well, he clearly wanted to have himself on the record as not being part of what was basically an agreement to have a meeting in return for investigations. And he wanted to make sure that I and Colonel Vindman were also not part of this as well.
Because remember there was a (inaudible) to this about not getting involved in domestic politics.
MALONEY: Yes, I understand. And you of course, did you concur with this concern that Mr. Bolton had?
HILL: I did because July 10th is really the first time that it crystallized for me that there was basically a different channel going on here.
MALONEY: And I think you ...
HILL: A foreign policy channel and a domestic policy channel and we're not in that other channel.
MALONEY: Right. I think you described as a political errand and you were doing national security policy is how you distinguish those two channels. Is that fair?
MALONEY: Right. And so is it fair to say that you -- you felt it was improper what was occurring by Mr. Sondland in the Ward Room.
HILL: It was improper and it was inappropriate and we said that in the time in real time.
MALONEY: And -- and -- and here's my point. If -- if it was improper and -- and -- and you went so far as to report this to the lawyers, what was the nature of your disagreement with Mr. Sondland who has come here and said he had no idea that Burisma meant Bidens until much, much later than July 10th.
And of course we know that he and Ambassador Volker had a blizzard of interactions with Mr. Giuliani. They were amending statements -- proposed statements for the Ukrainian president. This went on all summer.
And yet, how is it that you had this disagreement in (ph) front of the Ukrainians would -- sent them out into the hallway. At some point did he ask -- you know I'm just talking about an investigation of corruption generally, what are you getting so worried about.
HILL: He didn't put it in that -- in that way. And I think, you know, from listening to him and his depositions and in, you know, what I've read and what he deposed, he made it very clear that he was surprised that we had some kind of objection.
You may remember that in his deposition and when he was here, he actually didn't remember the meeting in the same way.
MALONEY: But I thought you said it was pretty obvious to you -- excuse me -- I thought ...
HILL: Well, it was obvious to me, correct.
MALONEY: I thought it was obvious to you that -- that Burisma meant Bidens.
MALONEY: And -- and you -- you actually treated that as a pretty easy thing to understand. In fact, Mr. Morrison figured it out with a single Google search. But is it credible to you that Mr. Sondland was completely in the dark about this all summer? I mean he had an argument about it. Didn't he say what are you so worried about?
HILL: (Inaudible) to me at all that he was oblivious to this.
MALONEY: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your answer.
HILL: It is - it is not credible to me that he was oblivious. He did not say Bidens, however, he just said Burisma, he said 2016 and I took it to mean the elections as well as Burisma.
MALONEY: Well I want to thank you both for your appearance here today. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
DEMINGS: Thank you so much, Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes, for your service. I have no doubt after today that we're a better nation because of it. We all know by now that in July of this year, President Trump sent an order to the Office of Management and Budget that congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine be put on hold.
Both of you have expressed that Ukraine is the front - the first line of defense against Russian aggression and expansion into Europe, that Russia's priority is to undermine the United States. Is that right, Dr. Hill?
DEMINGS: Would you agree with that, Mr. Holmes?
DEMINGS: Dr. Hill, in your professional opinion, is it in the national security interest of the United States to support Ukraine with the much talked about military aid?
DEMINGS: We've already said it several times today and you've already testified today that Ukraine is in war right now with Russia. Isn't it true, Mr. Holmes, that even though the security assistance was eventually delivered to Ukraine, the fact that it was delayed to a country that is actively in war signaled to Russia that perhaps the bond between Ukraine and the United States was weakening?
HOLMES: Absolutely - absolutely.
DEMINGS: And even the appearance that the U.S.-Ukraine bond is shaky could embolden Russia to act in an even more aggressive way?
DEMINGS: You also testified that it was, and I quote, "the unanimous view of the Ukraine policy community that the aid should be released because supporting Ukraine is in our national security interests." Dr. Hill, why do you believe that the entire Ukraine policy community were unanimously in agreement?
HILL: Well we've had this experience before and I just want you to indulge me for a moment. In 2008, Russia also attacked the country of Georgia. I was the National Intelligence Officer at that particular juncture and we had warned, in multiple documents to the highest levels of government, that we believed that there was a real risk of a conflict between Ukraine - sorry, Georgia and Russia.
And in fact, we also believed at that point that Russia might attack Ukraine. This was in 2008 when both Georgia and Ukraine sought a membership action plan in NATO and Russia threatened them openly, that if they proceeded with the - their request for NATO membership that there would be consequences.
In the wake of the attack on Georgia, President Putin made it clear to the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili at the time, and this was related to me at the highest levels of the Georgian government, that Putin had said directly to Saakashvili your western allies, your western partners promised a great deal. They didn't deliver. I threatened, I delivered.
We had made all kinds of promises to Georgia and Ukraine in that timeframe and we didn't come through. So Putin is always looking out to see if there is any hints that we will not follow through on promises that we have made because he will always follow through on a threat, as indeed he ultimately did. He threatened Ukraine in 2008 and it wasn't until 2014, when Ukraine tried to conclude an association agreement with the European Union, that he struck. But he had been threatening this for the whole period since 2008.
DEMINGS: Thank you so much. Dr. Hill. And Mr. Holmes, what kind of message does it potentially send to other allies of the United States when military holds for assistance are imposed with absolutely no explanation? What kind of message does it send to our allies in terms of the good faith and good relationship with the U.S.?
HOLMES: It calls into question the extent to which they can count on us.
DEMINGS: Policies change but U.S. interests don't, at least not for those true public servants who are committed and dedicated to protecting our nation. Thank you both for being two of them.
SCHIFF: Mr. Krishnamoorthi?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good afternoon and thank you so much for coming in and thank you for your service. Dr. Hill, you stated in your deposition you've been accused of being a mole for George Soros in the White House. Correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You said in your deposition specifically a conspiracy was launched against you by convicted felon Roger Stone on the show Infowars, led by Alex Jones. Right?
HILL: I don't think he was a convicted felon at the time that he launched this so I didn't use those exact words. But it was indeed Roger Stone and Alex Jones on Infowars in 2017. And in fact, just more recently, before Mr. Stone was - endured his trial, they were at it again, reprising the same Infowars video and adding embellishments.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And they said - I'll - I'll quote what they said about you - "we here at Infowars" - this is Roger Stone speaking - "first identified Fiona Hill, the globalist leftist George Soros insider who had infiltrated McMaster's staff" - he said that on May 31st, 2017. I presume you're not a globalist leftist Soros insider, correct?
HILL: I think my coal mining family would be very surprised to hear all of these things about me - actually, leftist perhaps not so much, but, you know, anyway, the left in Europe is a bit different from the left here, let's put it that way.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I agree. Interestingly, you stated in your deposition that a similar conspiracy theory had actually been launched against Marie Yovanovitch.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you said specifically "when I saw this happening to Ambassador Yovanovitch, again I was furious because this is again just this whipping up of what is frankly an antisemitic conspiracy theory about George Soros to basically target nonpartisan career officials." Isn't that what you said?
HILL: I did say that, yes.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I'm sure you've been watching with concern what's happened to other nonpartisan career officials. We had Alex - Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman and - an American immigrant questioned for his criticism of the President in a - in a very unfair way, you know, basically questioning his loyalty to the country. I believe that he's also of Ukrainian-Jewish descent.
Would you say that these different theories - these conspiracy theories that have been targeting you, spun in part by folks like Mr. Stone, as well as fueled by Rudy Giuliani and others, basically have a tinge of antisemitism to them, at least?
HILL: Well certainly when they involve George Soros, they do. I'd just like to point out that in the early 1900s, the czarist secret police produced something called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which actually can still obtain on the internet, and you can buy it actually sometimes in book shops in Russia and elsewhere.
This is the longest running anti-Semitic trope that we have in history. And the trope against Mr. Soros, George Soros was also created for political purposes. And this is the new "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." I actually intended to write something about this before I was actually invited to come in to the administration...
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm sorry...
HILL: ... because it's an absolute outrage.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm sorry you've been kind of wrapped up in these crackpot conspiracy theories. Let me turn to Rudy Giuliani. You became increasingly concerned that Rudy Giuliani's, you know, increasing role in Ukraine between January and March of 2019, correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I know you served in the Bush and the Obama administrations. I presume that George Bush's personal lawyer and President Obama's personal lawyers were never, you know, directing or heavily influencing Ukraine policy.
HILL: I'm not even sure so I know who they were. So the answer is no.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And the concern for having someone like Rudy Giuliani having such a strong influence on American foreign policy is that, you know, basically that policy may be operating not in the best interest of America, but perhaps in the best interest of Rudy Giuliani or his clients or business associates, right?
HILL: I think that's correct. And that's, as I said in my deposition on October 14th, that frankly that's what I thought it was at the very beginning when I first heard Mr. Giuliani making these statements.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And some of those associates included indicted folks Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, isn't that right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: We have an interesting character in Chicago who has now been indicted. His name is Mr. Firtash. And Mr. Firtash has been indicted for federal bribery charges. Another associate of Giuliani, right?
HILL: I do know Mr. Firtash. That's correct. I know of him from my work. That is correct.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And the question that we're all asking is whether American foreign policy in Ukraine is potentially being run in their interests and not our own.
HILL: It certainly appears that it is being used, that there's a subversion of American foreign policy to push these people's personal interests.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much.
SCHIFF: That concludes the member questioning and we'll now go to closing statements.
Mr. Nunes, do you have any closing remarks?
I have stressed in these hearings that the whistle-blower complaint was merely a pretext for Donald Trump's political opponents to do what they've been trying to do since he was elected: oust the president from office. A brief timeline will illustrate the wide range of extraordinary attacks his administration has faced.
It started in June of 2016 when Donald Trump was just a candidate. On behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS hires Christopher Steele to write the Steele dossier, a collection of false allegations attributed to Russian sources claiming that Donald Trump is a Russian agent.
Fast-forward to January 6th of 2017. FBI Director James Comey briefs President-elect Trump on the Steele dossier. The briefing is leaked to CNN and soon afterwords Buzzfeed publishes the dossier.
January 20th, on President Trump's Inauguration Day, The Washington Post runs a story headlined, quote, "The campaign to impeach Donald Trump has begun." January 30th, 10 days later, the whistle-blower's current lawyer tweets #couphasstarted, #firstofmanysteps, #rebellion, #impeachment will follow immediately.
March 22nd, Democrats on this committee falsely declare on national TV that they have more than circumstantial evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian. July 12th, an article of impeachment is filed against President Trump in the House of Representatives. November 15th, Democrats file additional articles of impeachment against President Trump.
As you see, this was just in President Trump's first year in office. He was subjected to a coordinated smear operation designed to falsely portray him as a Russian agent, as well as attempts to impeach him. This all occurred before his now infamous call with President Zelensky.
In 2018 the attacks continued, often from executive branch officials charged with implementing his policies. On February 2nd, 2018, Intelligence Committee Republicans release a memo revealing that the FBI used fabrications of the Steele dossier to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.
September 5th, The New York Times prints a column by an anonymous Trump administration official who explains that he and other senior officials are, quote, "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of Trump's agenda." December 7th, James Comey admits to Congress the Steele dossier was unverified before and after the FBI used it to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.
The Russia hoax continued to be the main focus of attacks going into 2019. But when that entire operation collapsed, a new impeachment pretext had to be found. May 4th, 2019, on national television a Democratic congressman proclaims, quote, "I'm concerned that if we don't impeach this president you will get reelected."
July 24th of this year, special counsel Robert Mueller testifies to Congress about his report which debunked the conspiracy theory that Trump campaign Associates conspired with Russia to hack the 2016 election. July 25th, just the very next day, a new anti-Trump operation begins as someone listens to the president's phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky and leaks the contents to the so-called whistle-blower.
September 13th, Democrats on this committee take the extraordinary step of issuing a press release related to the whistle-blower's complaint. October 2nd, it's revealed that Democratic staff on this committee had contact with the whistle-blower before he submitted his complaint to the inspector general, contradicting Democrat denials that such contact had occurred.
October 31st, Halloween, probably the most appropriate day, Democrats in the House of Representatives vote to open an official impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
What you're seeing in this room over the past two weeks is a show trial. The planned result of three years of political operations and dirty tricks, campaigns waged against this president. And like any good show trial, the verdict was decided before the trial ever began.
After all, after denouncing the president for years as a Russian agent and a threat to democracy, how could the Democrats not impeach him? If they don't have to -- if they don't moved to overthrow him, it would indicate that they don't really believe their own dire warnings about the threat he poses. The Democrats only needed a pretext. When their Russian dossiers and investigations failed to do the job, they moved to Plan B, the Ukraine hoax. The spectacle with its secret depositions and mid-hearing press conferences, is not meant to discover the facts, it was designed to produce a specific storyline to be pushed forward by the Democrats and their supporters in the media.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we approach Thanksgiving, Speaker Pelosi has just made clear just today USMCA, free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, will boost our economy, won't be signed this year, so I hope Mr. Schiff will clarify how much longer we will waste on this effort, and what other vital legislation he's willing to sacrifice for this impeachment proceeding. Will there be even more secret depositions accompanied by the usual flood of Democratic leaks? Will we have more public hearings with Democrat witnesses but not ours? Minority are in the dark about what this committee will be doing when we return. And so is America.
James Madison warned us about the danger posed by the tyranny of the majority. To avoid that threat, our founders created a constitutional republic. But is there a better example of the tyranny of majorities than the way this impeachment process has been run in the House of Representatives? A process that is grossly unfair can only stem from a cynical majority that is willing to break long-established precedents, trample on legitimate minority concerns and impose their absolute will on this body through sheer force of numbers. Exploiting the Intelligence Committee as a venue for impeachment has been one of the grossest abuses in the process build with cynical manipulations, large and small, but this farce will soon move to the judiciary committee where impeachment rightfully belongs. I wish my Republican colleagues well in fighting this travesty in defending the idea which at one time received bipartisan support not long ago. The American people's vote actually means something. I yield back.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman. First of all, I want to thank you both for your testimony. I want to thank you for your long years of service to the country. You're not Democratic witnesses or Republican witnesses, you're nonpartisan witnesses and you have stuck to the facts and that is as it should be. First, I want to make a couple observations about the hearing today, and Dr. Hill, you were criticized several times by my colleagues for your opening statement. I'm glad you didn't back down from it.
You're much more diplomatic than I am, I have to say. Anyone watching these proceedings, anyone reading the deposition transcripts would have the same impression that you evidently had from hearing my colleagues talk about the Russia hoax, that the whole idea that Russia had gotten involved in the 2016 election was a hoax put out by the Democrats. And of course they're not alone in pushing out this idea, it is trumpeted by no one other than the present of the United States who almost on a daily basis at times would comment and tweet and propagate the The idea that Russia's interference in our election was a hoax.
And of course we all remember that debacle in Helsinki when the president stood next to Vladimir Putin and questioned his own intelligence agencies. I wish I had heard just some of the righteous indignation we heard in the committee today when the president questioned that fundamental conclusion of our intelligence agencies, but of course they were silent when the president said that. They'll show indignation today, but they will cower when they hear the president questioning the very conclusions that our intelligence community has reached.
But we saw something interesting also today, my colleagues sought to use your Dr. Hill to besmirch the character of Colonel Vindman, and I thought this was very interesting. It certainly wasn't unexpected. It was very interesting for this reason, they didn't really question anything Colonel Vindman said. After all, what Colonel Vindman said is what you said you said. He was in a July 10th meeting, he heard the same quid pro quo, the same comments by Sondland. If you want this meeting, Ukrainians, we have agreement about this, you've got announce you're going to do these investigations. He heard the same quid pro quo that you did. So why are they smearing him?
Mr. Holmes, you testified just as Vindman said, Colonel Vindman said that he warned Zelensky about getting involved in U.S. politics. You don't question that, they didn't take issue with that. So why smear this Purple Heart recipient just like the smear of them ambassador Yovanovitch, it's just gratuitous. You don't question the facts, it's just gratuitous. The attack on Mr. Holmes and you were indiscreet in mentioning this conversation to others, well I think you're quite right. The indiscretion is when an ambassador, you (ph), calls the president on an insecure line in the country known for Russian telecommunications and eavesdropping, that's more than indiscretion, that's a security risk.
But why attack you, Mr. Holmes? They didn't question anything you said in question, they didn't question what conversation you overheard, Ambassador Sondland indeed didn't question what you said. He acknowledged that the one thing the president wanted to know the day after that conversation with Zelensky was, is he going to do the investigations? And Sondland said yes he'll do anything you ask. They don't question that, so why attack you? They didn't question your testimony when you said and I think you and you asked Ambassador Sondland, does Donald trump give a blank, and I would like to use the word here, about Ukraine?
He said he doesn't give a blank about Ukraine, he only cares about the big stuff. And you said well, there's some big stuff here. Ukraine's at war with Russia, that's kind of big stuff, and his answer was no, no, no, no, no, he cares about the big stuff that matters to him, his personal interest like the Biden investigation that Giuliani wants. I mean, one question posed by your testimony, Mr. Holmes, is what do we care about? Do we care about the big stuff like the Constitution, like an oath of office, or do we only care now the party? What do we care about? Let's -- let's go beyond your testimony today. Let's look at the bigger picture. What do we know now after these depositions, these secret depositions? Now, people watching at home might now know that in the secret depositions which apparently no one else is allowed to hear -- no members are allowed to participate, it's just secret apparently. Sounds like it's just me and the witness. Only over 100 members of Congress are able to participate in those secret depositions, and the minority was just so unable to participate they got the same time they got in these open hearings, it was the same format.
That was the secret star chamber that you've been hearing so much about. So what have we learned through these depositions and through the testimony? Because so much of this is really undisputed.
We learned that a dedicated public servant Marie Yovanovitch, known for fighting corruption, widely respected throughout the diplomatic core was ruthlessly smeared by Rudy Giuliani, by the president's own son, by their friends on Fox primetime and a whole host of other characters. Her reputation was sullied, so they could get her out of the way, which they did.
And you're right, it was gratuitous, the president could have gotten rid of her any time he wanted -- but that's not enough for this president. No, he has to smear and destroy those that get in his way and someone fighting corruption in Ukraine was getting in his way, so she's gone. She's gone.
And this makes way -- almost immediately thereafter she leaves the three amigos come in. The three amigos -- two of whom never made the connection that Burisma means Biden.
It took Tim Morrison all of 30 seconds on Google to figure that out, but we're to believe, I guess that in all the companies in all the world that Rudy Giuliani just happens to be interested in this one? That's absurd.
The interest, of course was in an investigation of Donald Trump's rival, the one that he apparently feared the most and they were willing to do whatever was necessary to get Ukraine to do that dirty work, to do that political investigation.
And so it began, we're not going to set up a phone call until you make certain commitments, that was Ambassador Sondland's testimony, the first quid pro quo was actually just getting on the phone with President Trump. And then there was the quid pro quo involving the White House meeting.
And witness after witness -- and none of my colleagues contested this, talked about just how important that meeting was to the president of Ukraine and why they're at war with Russia, and their most important ally is the United States -- and the most important person in the United States for that relationship is the president of the United States.
And if President Zelensky can show that he has a good relationship with the president of the United States -- it means to his people that this new president has the support of their most important patron, and it means to the Russians that we have their back.
This president -- this new president who is negotiating with a far superior power that has invaded his country is going in to negotiation with Putin over how to resolve this conflict whether he has good leverage or lousy leverage depends on whether the Russians think he has a relationship with the president.
And the president wouldn't give him that, not without getting something in return -- wouldn't give him that official act that White House meeting without getting something in return, and that return was investigations of his rival that would help his reelection. An official act for something of clear value, and something very important -- the big stuff, as Sondland explained to you, Mr. Holmes, to help his campaign.
Now we also heard abundant testimony about the other quid pro quo, the withholding of security assistance which no one can explain. There's no debate among my colleagues, everyone in the NSC, in the State Department, the Defense Department -- everyone supported this, everyone.
All the reviews that needed to be done to make sure that Ukraine was meeting its anti-corruption standards hadn't been done, and they had found to meet the criteria the aid should have been released but was withheld and no one could understand or get a clear explanation for why.
Until it became clear to everyone, it's all about the investigations -- it's all about the leverage. And if there was any doubt about it, the man closest to the president, who meets with him every day, Mick Mulvaney erased all doubt.
You're darn right -- yes, we talked about the 2016 election investigation. And yes, this was in the context of holding up the military aid and you know, "just get used to it," or "just get over it," or whatever it was he said -- because that's how we roll, those are my words, not his. But that's the import. Yeah there's going to be politics and just get over it.
Well if we care about the big stuff we can't just get over it. Now my colleagues have had a lot of defenses to all of this evidence which has piled up day, after day, after day and it's amazing. They hear you testify, Mr. Holmes and it was clear that the security assistance was being withheld. It was clear to all of the Americans, it was clear to the Ukrainians.
You testified Ukrainians felt pressure, they still feel pressure to this day. And one of my colleagues saying the same hearing, I mean, I guess they're not listening. The Ukrainians felt no pressure, there's no evidence they felt pressure.
Which gets in to their next defense which it's all hearsay -- it's all hearsay. Now, most of my colleagues I guess are not lawyers. Lawyers out there understand just how wrong they are about what hearsay is, but let's just discuss this in terms that all people can understand.
The impression they would have you take from it's all hearsay is, because we in this committee were not in that ward room (ph) with you, Dr. Hill, we were not in that meeting earlier with Dr. Bolton that -- because we're not in the room, it's all hearsay.
After all, you're relating what you heard and you were saying it -- so it must be hearsay, and therefore we don't really have to think about it, do we? We don't have to consider that you have direct evidence that this meeting in the White House was being withheld because the president wanted these meetings -- these investigations, we can't accept that.
Well if that were true, you could never present any evidence in court unless the jury was also in the ward room (ph), that's absurd. They don't accept the documentary evidence, all the text messages about quid pro quos -- and are we really saying, and that's crazy. And my worst nightmare is the Russians will get it and I'll quit (ph).
They don't accept the documents, the few documents that we have from the State Department that weren't produced, by the way, by the State Department where Sondland communicates directly with the Secretary of State about this investigative interest of the president.
And they don't accept the documents either, I guess the documents are also hearsay. Now, it might be a little more convincing if they were joining us in demanding that the documents would be produced, but of course they're not.
And we know why not, because the documents are like that one we saw on the screen -- they implicate others including Secretary Pompeo. So of course Donald Trump and Secretary Pompeo don't want us to see those documents. But apparently it's all hearsay.
Even when you actually hear the President, Mr. Holmes, that's hearsay. We can't rely on people saying what the President said, apparently we can only rely on what the President says and there we shouldn't even rely on that, either.
We shouldn't really rely on what the President said in the call record, we should imagine he said something else, we should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption instead of what he actually said, which was I want you to do us a favor, though, I want you to look into this 2016 Crowdstrike conspiracy theory and I want you to look into the Bidens. I guess we're not even supposed to rely on that because that's hearsay. Well that's absurd.
That would be like saying you can't rely on the testimony of the burglars during Watergate because it's only hearsay or you can't consider the fact that they tried to break in because they got caught -- they actually didn't get what they came for so, you know, kind of no harm, no foul. That's absurd -- that's absurd.
But the other -- the other defense besides it failed, the scheme failed, they got caught, the other defense is the President denies it. Well I guess that's case closed, right? The President says really, quite spontaneously -- it's not as if he was asked in this way -- no quid pro quo. What do you want from Ukraine? No -- no quid pro quo. This is the I'm not a crook defense. You say it and I guess that's the end of it.
Well the only thing we can say is that it's not so much that the situation is different in turn of -- terms of Nixon's conduct and Trump's conduct, what we've seen here is far more serious than a third rate burglary of the Democratic headquarters. What we're talking about here is the withholding of recognition in that White House meeting, the withholding of military aid to an ally at war. That is beyond anything Nixon did.
The difference between then and now is not the difference between Nixon and Trump, it's the difference between that Congress and this one. And so we -- we are asking where is Howard Baker -- where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party, to look to their duty?
I -- I was struck by Colonel Vindman's testimony because he said that he acted out of duty. What is our duty here? That's what we need to be asking, not using metaphors about balls and strikes or our team and your team -- I've heard my colleagues use those metaphors. This should be about duty, what is our duty?
We are -- and this gets to Mr. Heck's point -- we -- we are the indispensable nation, we still are. People look to us from all over the world -- journalists from their jail cells in Turkey, victims of mass extrajudicial (ph) killing in the Philippines, people who gathered in Tahrir Square wanting a representative government, people in China who are Uyghurs, people in Ukraine who want a better future, they look to us.
They're not going to look to the Russians, they're not going to look to the Chinese, they can't look to Europe with all of its problems. They still look to us and increasingly they don't recognize what they see because what they see is Americans saying don't engage in political prosecutions and what they say back is oh, you mean like the Bidens and the Clintons that you want us to investigate? What they see, they don't recognize.
And that is a -- a terrible tragedy for us but it's a greater tragedy for the rest of the world. Now I -- I happen to think that when the founders provided a mechanism in the Constitution for impeachment, they were worried about what might happen if someone unethical took the highest office in the land and used it for their personal gain and not because of deep care about the big things that should matter, like our national security and our defense and our allies and what the country stands for. I happen to think that's why they put that remedy in the Constitution and I think we need to consult our conscience and our constituents and decide whether that remedy is appropriate here, whether that remedy is necessary here.
And as you know, notwithstanding what my colleagues said, I resisted going down this path for a long time but I will tell you why I could resist no more and it came down to this, it came down to -- actually came down to timing. It came down to the fact that the day after Bob Mueller testified -- the day after Bob Mueller testified that Donald Trump invited Russian interference -- hey Russia, if you're listening, come get Hillary's e-mails and later that day, they tried to hack her server, the day after he testified that not only did Trump invite that interference but that he welcomed the help in the campaign, they made full use of it, they lied about it, they obstructed the investigation into it and all of this is in his testimony and his report, the day after that, Donald Trump is back on the phone asking another nation to involve itself in another U.S. election.
That says to me this President believes he is above the law, beyond accountability, and in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical President who believes they are -- are above the law. And I would just say to people watching here at home and around the world, in the words of my great colleague, we are better than that. Adjourned.
This transcript is provided by ASC Services LLC on behalf of Bloomberg Government.