David Holmes, a senior political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, said Ukrainian officials “came to understand what was required” to get military assistance and a meeting with President Trump, according to newly released testimony.

Democrats on Monday released the transcripts of last week’s depositions of Holmes and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs. They also announced that Holmes is expected to testify publicly Thursday.

Trump said earlier Monday that he will “strongly consider” testifying in writing as part of the impeachment inquiry at the outset of a week in which nine current and former officials are scheduled to publicly testify about his controversial actions regarding Ukraine.

In morning tweets, Trump said he might take up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a suggestion she made over the weekend. Trump also claimed that the rules of the inquiry had been “rigged” by Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).

Democrats are seeking to prove Trump leveraged military assistance and an Oval Office meeting in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and a debunked theory concerning purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to reporters in Kentucky on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he “can’t imagine a scenario” in which his chamber would vote to remove Trump if he is impeached by the House.

●Democrats release Holmes and Hale testimony.

●Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) says whistleblower’s sources “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

●House is investigating whether Trump lied to former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, its general counsel told a federal appeals court.

●How a CIA analyst, alarmed by Trump’s shadow foreign policy, triggered an impeachment inquiry.

3:15 a.m.
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Holmes ‘struck’ by how Ukrainians limited talk of investigations to informal diplomatic channel

By Elise Viebeck

Holmes said he was “struck, in retrospect” by how much the Ukrainians “seemed to not raise” the issue of investigations “with the embassy personnel.

“They confined that to a different track in which Mr. Yermak was very prominent,” Holmes said, referring to Andriy Yermak, a top Zelensky aide.

Republicans have argued that if Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky was under pressure from Trump to launch investigations in exchange for military aid, that he would have noted it in meetings with U.S. officials from the conventional diplomatic channel.

Holmes said Zelensky said there were “sensitive issues” that Trump brought up “three different times,” but that the Ukrainian president did not discuss them with him.

“He said, I would need to take them up in person with the president,” Holmes said.

3:10 a.m.
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Holmes drafted cable to Pompeo for Taylor

By Karoun Demirjian

Holmes drafted the first-person cable that acting ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo articulating “the importance of Ukraine to our national security, and the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine.”

They drafted the cable with the “clear impression” that the military aid was being withheld either because Trump wanted to express dissatisfaction with Ukraine for not agreeing to investigate the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings and the Bidens, or to pressure them to do so.

Holmes said he worried, for the first few days after the hold on military was lifted, that the Trump administration did so because Zelensky “potentially gave a commitment to do the interview” on CNN committing to the probes.

3:05 a.m.
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Holmes expected Sondland would tell investigators about Trump call

By Karoun Demirjian

Holmes said he thought that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland should have told Congress about his conversations with Trump, “especially if asked,” and that he didn’t come forward to tell Congress about it right away because he “was reasonably confident that what I knew was getting out” — until he realized it was not.

“It’s been weighing on me the last couple days… this discussion of first-hand information and of, you know, freelance and all that,” Holmes said last Friday. “I’m thinking, this might be relevant.”

Holmes testified that at the time, he shared the substance of Sondland’s call with Trump with his deputy chief of mission, Kristina Kvien, who was “shocked” by its contents. He did not recall ever discussing it again, however, with the other individuals who had been at the lunch where Sondland made the call.

Holmes also testified that Sondland would frequently speak as if he were doing so on behalf of Trump, saying “things in meetings like, ‘I know the president would agree with what you just said.’ … He would portray himself as having knowledge, direct knowledge, of the president’s priorities and interests.”

Holmes said he heard “other stories” about how Sondland worked with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — including on the letter of congratulations to Zelensky that initially offered a White House visit.

3:00 a.m.
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Prosecutor who met with Giuliani had been exposed as corrupt

By Greg Miller

The top anti-corruption prosecutor in Ukraine — an apparent contact of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — was regarded as so corrupt that U.S. Embassy officials refused to meet with him and urged him to resign, according to Holmes.

Holmes testified that the prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnitsky, had been caught when “someone planted a listening device in his aquarium in his office.”

“After that, the embassy …decided we couldn’t work with him anymore,” Holmes said. Giuliani, however, reportedly met in Paris in May of this year with Kholodnitsky, one of several Ukrainian officials widely seen as corrupt who became possible sources of information to Trump’s lawyer.

2:55 a.m.
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Holmes said Perry’s staff was ‘very aggressive’ on Ukraine matters

By Elise Viebeck

Holmes said aides to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry were “very aggressive in terms of promoting an agenda” in Ukraine, as well as in “excluding embassy personnel from meetings without giving explanations.”

The comment to lawmakers highlights the division between members of the informal diplomatic channel with Ukraine and the State Department as the former gained power.

“We’d ask what, you know, [what] they plan to say in the meetings, for instance, these preparatory sessions. They would say, we want to say this. And we’d say, why would you say that? We don’t understand your rationale. ... It was clear they knew what they wanted to do and were not — they were not giving us explanations for it.”

2:50 a.m.
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Holmes said Giuliani interview ended possibility of Pence inauguration trip

By Elise Viebeck

Holmes told lawmakers that Vice President Pence was seen as the most “likely” leader of a U.S. delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration prior to an interview in which Giuliani said there were “enemies” of Trump in Zelensky’s orbit.

“It was not yet fully agreed to,” Holmes said of the possibility of Pence attending the inauguration. “And so we were anticipating that to be the case. And then the Giuliani event happened, and then we heard that [Pence] was not going to play that role.”

Holmes said he believed the interview was with the New York Times.

“[Giuliani] gave an interview basically saying that he had planned to travel to Ukraine, but he canceled his trip because there were, quote, unquote, enemies of the U.S. President in Zelensky’s orbit.”

Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, told lawmakers this month that she was never given a reason why the plan changed.

“My understanding from my colleague — and, again, I wasn’t there for the conversation — was that the President asked the Vice President not to attend,” she testified.

2:40 a.m.
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Officials discussed statements of support for and by Yovanovitch

By Ellen Nakashima

Hale testified that in the March-April timeframe he was in favor of the department issuing a statement of support for then-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and also a statement coming from Yovanovitch herself, the idea being that there would be “two parallel statements.”

Hale said that Yovanovitch “had misgivings about whether to do it on camera or a written statement.” But in general, he said, “she was very much prepared to do a statement.”

Then, after the White House released the July 25 call transcript in which Trump derided Yovanovitch as “bad news” and said “she’s going to go through some things,” senior State Department officials again discussed issuing a statement of support for the ambassador.

On Sept. 28, Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Pompeo, emailed senior officials, including Hale, proposing a “strong” public statement of support for Yovanovitch, who had already left her post, Hale testified.

He said he agreed “with the content” of McKinley’s proposed statement, but “it just seemed to me extremely unlikely that that statement was going to be issued.” But, he said, “I had no concern about proposing it.”

2:35 a.m.
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Russia could have been monitoring Trump-Sondland call, Holmes says

By Karoun Demirjian

Holmes testified that there were significant security concerns about Sondland’s call to Trump, as Sondland placed the call on his mobile phone.

Two of the three cell service providers in Ukraine are Russian-owned, Holmes explained, adding that “we generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored.” In the past, Russians had picked up on phone calls from former assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and released them publicly.

As for the call itself, Holmes testified that Sondland “winced and moved the phone away from his ear” because Trump spoke so loudly — and that then he stopped doing that. Sondland told Trump that “President Zelensky loves your ass,” that “President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to,” and that “he’s going to do it,” meaning the investigations.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Holmes added. “Someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language.”

Holmes then employed colorful language of his own, asking Sondland if it was true that the president “doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine” — because, he said, “it had been very difficult for us to get the president interested in what we were trying to do in Ukraine.”

Sondland said Trump “only cares about big things,” Holmes testified. He added that Sondland then clarified that he meant “big stuff that matters to him, like this Biden investigation that Giuliani is pushing,” and not Ukraine’s war with Russia.

2:30 a.m.
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Hale says he was unaware of efforts to pressure Ukraine

By Greg Jaffe

Hale testified that he and his fellow ambassadors at the most senior levels of the State Department had no knowledge of the effort to pressure the Ukrainians to open investigations that would be politically advantageous to the Trump administration.

“The information that was revealed about the conduct — what people were allegedly pursuing with Ukrainian officials, it did surprise me,” Hale said. “I didn’t know any of that was happening.”

Hale’s ignorance of the efforts to strong arm the Ukrainians seem to demonstrate that senior civil servants in the Pentagon and State Department were kept in the dark regarding the machinations of a handful of aides reporting directly to Trump and Mulvaney.

2:20 a.m.
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Sondland accused Giuliani of causing havoc in U.S. relationship with Ukraine

By Greg Miller

During meetings in Kyiv, Sondland complained that Giuliani was a disruptive force in the effort to secure cooperation from Ukraine sought by Trump.

“Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and ‘effs’ everything up,” Sondland said, according to Holmes, who accompanied Sondland during his visit on July 26.

Sondland made the remark during meetings with Ukraine officials at a Hyatt hotel one day after Trump’s phone call with Zelensky. This would have coincided with another vent witnessed by Holmes: a conversation in which Sondland relayed to one of Zelensky’s top aides that a sought-after meeting with Trump in Washington would not happen until Ukraine committed to investigating Trump’s political adversaries.

It was not clear what triggered Sondland’s remark about Giuliani, but the statement came during a stretch of testimony that focused on Giuliani’s unusual role in U.S.-Ukraine relations.

Holmes testified that statements by senior Ukrainian officials to U.S. Embassy officials indicated the Ukrainians saw Giuliani as an important player with possible influence over U.S. policy toward the country.

“The Ukrainians viewed him as an important representative of American interests,” Holmes said.

2:10 a.m.
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Republicans get Hale to affirm that a president recalling an ambassador is not unusual

By Ellen Nakashima

Republican lawyer Stephen Castor sought to portray as normal Trump’s desire to have Yovanovitch recalled. He asked Hale, “The president can bring home an ambassador at any time, for any reason or no reason, right?” To which Hale replied: “That is correct.”

Castor followed up by getting Hale to agree that Trump has sometimes asked people to leave their jobs. “So the concept of a president, this president, deciding to bring someone home or relieving somebody of their duties is certainly not unusual, correct?” he asked.

Hale affirmed: “Correct.” He added: “You know, I have been an ambassador three times. We all know that we serve at the pleasure of the president.”

He later remarked that a factor in the discussion about Yovanovitch’s removal was the fact that Ukraine was about to have a transition from one presidential administration to another and that “afforded an opportunity to have a fresh team there.”

2:00 a.m.
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Pompeo spoke to Giuliani twice as State Department was deciding not to issue statement of support for Ukraine ambassador

By Rosalind S. Helderman

Hale told congressional investigators that he had reviewed records and determined that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had two phone calls with Giuliani in March 2019, as the State Department was deciding whether to issue a statement of support for Yovanovitch.

Hale testified that as the most senior career official at the State Department, he had asked Yovanovitch in March to extend her intended term in Ukraine, which began in 2016, into 2020.

Later that month, the Hill opinion section published an interview with Ukraine’s top prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, making allegations against Yovanovitch. Conservative figures in the United States, including Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., soon began agitating for her removal. Hale testified that he found the campaign confusing and at first was disbelieving that Giuliani would be involved. Yovanovitch quickly requested that that the State Department issue a statement defending her work and making clear that she continued to represent U.S. interests.

Hale said that Pompeo said he would take no action to remove Yovanovitch without some evidence that she had engaged in wrongdoing or was bad-mouthing Trump, as had been alleged. Hale testified that he understood that Pompeo planned to call Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, who had aired the allegations, and press him for any proof. Yovanovitch testified that she’d been told Pompeo planned to call Hannity; the Fox host has denied any involvement.

Hale said he understood the call took place, and that Hannity had no proof to provide.

In addition, Hale said he reviewed records and determined that Pompeo spoke to Giuliani twice in this period, on March 28 and March 29. He said he did not know what they discussed but that, ultimately, the State Department decided not to issue the statement of support that Yovanovitch had requested. “The impression we had was that it would only fuel further negative reaction. And our plan at that point was to try to contain this and wait it out,” he said.

1:30 a.m.
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Hale describes discussions in April on removing Yovanovitch

By Ellen Nakashima

Hale said that during a meeting on April 25, officials discussed the fact that Trump had “lost confidence” in Yovanovitch and how they could remove her in a way that “limited the controversy, and … the damage that might do the ambassador’s own reputation and to the State Department and to the embassy in Kyiv.”

So, he said, the decision was made to bring her back to Washington to discuss with her “how best to achieve that.”

He said he was not aware of any evidence to support the allegations against Yovanovitch. “No one to my knowledge believed that they had seen anything that would suggest that the ambassador had done anything wrong,” he said.

In fact, he said, “I felt she had been doing an exceptional job.”

The “gist” of the plan, he said, was that Yovanovitch would return to Kyiv, pack up her personal effects, meet with her staff and find “a graceful way to leave.” And then, he said, the department would and did issue a statement that “just said that she was rotating out of Ukraine.”

The press statement said she was leaving “as planned.” Hale said he asked that those two words be deleted, but they were not and he did not know why. “My guess is that I was too late,” he said. “You know, press guidance has to go. Sometimes you just have to get it out. And it just went forward without my input.”

1:15 a.m.
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Democrats release transcripts of Holmes, Hale testimony

By Felicia Sonmez

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released the transcripts of last week’s closed-door testimony by Holmes and Hale.

Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and acting House Oversight Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Holmes testified about the July 26 phone call he overheard between Trump and Sondland.

“Mr. Holmes testified that he felt obligated to come forward to rebut the unfounded claim by the president and his allies that ‘certain senior officials may have been acting without the president’s knowledge in their dealings with Ukraine,’” they said in their statement.