Fiona Hill and David Holmes delivered the message America needs to hear

Fiona Hill and David Holmes may have been the final two witnesses to appear in a week loaded with blockbuster testimony, but had they been the only witnesses, the case for the impeachment of Donald Trump would have still been utterly compelling.

Right from his opening statement, Foreign Service officer Holmes laid out the timeline of events in Ukraine from the perspective of someone on the ground in Kyiv. The result is narrative that should be required reading for every schoolchild being taught the history of his impeachment in the years and decades ahead.

That narrative starts with the appearance on the stage of a force that distorted policy and threatened the critical relationship between Ukraine and the United States.

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 being promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.

Through the remainder of his statement, Holmes details how that “cadre,” including Gordon Sondland, Giuliani, and the now-indicted founder of the company Fraud Guarantee, Lev Parnas, worked to twist arms in Ukraine, enforcing a policy of placing political demands above the security of either nation.

And Holmes’ narrative of a diplomatic mission hijacked for domestic political purposes was reinforced by the testimony of Fiona Hill, which provided the perspective of a career professional in the White House watching as the normal channels were torn apart.

Hill noted, “U.S. support for Ukraine—which continues to face armed Russian aggression—has been politicized.” Hill and Holmes, both apolitical professionals with no party affiliation and a history of service under both Republican and Democratic administrations, were the best examples of the people who had tried to hold together a critical relationship even as Giuliani and Sondland worked to collect on Trump’s thoughtless political demands. They were also the perfect witnesses to the events and how they were impacting not just the lives of diplomats, but America’s reputation and security.

Much of what they covered in their paired narrative—Giuliani’s monthslong effort to suborn testimony from former officials known to be corrupt, Trump’s demands that Ukraine cough up manufactured dirt on both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, repeated meetings in which the specific requirements of Trump’s political arm-twisting were made clear—had already been discussed by previous witnesses before the committee. But both Holmes and Hill were able to provide fresh details to explain areas that had been outside the view of previous witnesses, and to deepen the emotional impact of the events with their firsthand accounts. Trump lobbed a hand grenade. These were the people who watched the explosion and dealt with the aftermath.

Coming out of that hearing was even more information to show that what Trump did wasn’t “common” or “normal,” no matter how many times Republicans attempted to make it seem that way. 

No day in the hearing better framed the difference between Team Trump and Team America than sweating Republicans yelling at an utterly composed Fiona Hill, and Hill’s generous, thoughtful responses. On the one side were anger, chicanery, and nonsense; on the other, a professional who was willing to take it on the chin, and keep her chin up, to deliver the message America needs.

Now we can only hope America heard it.

The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Hill and Holmes testify #5

After a grueling day of testimony Wednesday, Thursday brings us testimony from former National Security Council Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes. Hill’s opening statement makes clear that this will be another day when Republicans take a beating from the facts, even though we’ve seen there’s no day of testimony so bad that they won’t try to declare victory.

Daily Kos will be following the proceedings all day.

Watch live:

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 8:04:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Swalwell points out multiple connections between Devin Nunes and “investigations” in Ukraine. Including a story that broke on Wednesday connection Nunes to now-indicted Lev Parnas, who also worked with Giuliani. Nunes former aid was also working in the White House, presenting himself to Trump as a Ukraine expert, and bypassing the NSC chain of command to access information.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 8:06:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes take the opportunity to swing back at earlier claims by Mike Turner—who ran away without allowing any questions—and defend Zelensky.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 8:08:51 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Republican Rep. Will Hurd, on the very last day, determines that the phone call wasn’t perfect … but then turns right around and defends the exact same conspiracy theories that Trump was going after, and demands the appearance of the whistleblower. Will Hurd, ladies and gentlemen, throwing away his last chance to demonstrate integrity.

The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Hill and Holmes testify #4

After a grueling day of testimony Wednesday, Thursday brings us testimony from former National Security Council Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes. Hill’s opening statement makes clear that this will be another day when Republicans take a beating from the facts, even though we’ve seen there’s no day of testimony so bad that they won’t try to declare victory.

Daily Kos will be following the proceedings all day.

Watch live:

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:07:22 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:19:59 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner Holmes was clearly thrown by Ratcliffe's questioning ... as in Ratcliffe insisting that "Good, what about Sweden?" was the most important part of the call between Trump and Sondland was so ridiculous, that it was hard to think of anything reasonable to say in response.

The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Hill and Holmes testify #3

After a grueling day of testimony Wednesday, Thursday brings us testimony from former National Security Council Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes. Hill’s opening statement makes clear that this will be another day when Republicans take a beating from the facts, even though we’ve seen there’s no day of testimony so bad that they won’t try to declare victory.

Daily Kos will be following the proceedings all day.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:17:12 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ratcliffe asks Holmes about what Trump said after he talked about investigations in Ukraine … then claims that the most important part of the conversation was that Trump said “Good, what about Sweden.” Ratcliffe, like Jordan, trying to paint Holmes as a liar.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:19:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner Holmes was clearly thrown by Ratcliffe's questioning ... as in Ratcliffe insisting that "Good, what about Sweden?" was the most important part of the call between Trump and Sondland was so ridiculous, that it was hard to think of anything reasonable to say in response.

Watch live:

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:02:59 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And we’re back with Nunes beginning his questioning of Hill and Holmes.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:07:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Not surprisingly, Nunes starts by asking Holmes about … Chalupa! And Nellie Ohr. And a whole string of names related to the 2016 conspiracy theory that Hill exploded this morning.

Now he’s asking about Hill meeting Christopher Steele, who used to have the same role as the Russia expert in British intelligence. Then asks a series of questions about the “Steele dossier,” because there is no bottom to Nunes’ attempts to make everything fit his skewed views.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:09:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill says she was surprised to learn about the July 25 call because she did not believe that a full agenda for a discussion was in place. Says she learned about the hold on assistance on July 18, a day before she left.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:11:11 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill, like others, praises Volker — which doesn’t mean Volker wasn’t completely lying about his failure to connect the dots between Burisma and Biden.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:14:01 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill recounts her meeting with Sondland from her perspective, recounting again Sondland’s claim that he had been put in charge of Ukraine by Trump.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:16:46 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

GOP council Castor asks Hill if she was comfortable with how things were going in Ukraine when she left her position in July, and seems surprised that she says she was not. Hill again talks about the divergence between the traditional group pursuing U.S. interest and the irregular group chasing down political favors — a point that Sondland tried to deny on Wednesday.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:21:25 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill talks about how she had previously opposed providing javelin anti-tank weapons out of a belief that Ukraine wasn’t in a position to use them well. Holmes testifies that the javelin missiles aren’t deployed at the front lines currently, but are used to as a deterrent. 

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:23:02 PM +00:00 · Laura Clawson

David Holmes is making clear in the most polite way that Nunes is asking him completely irrelevant questions. It’s fun, as much as anything can be fun when Devin Nunes is speaking.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:24:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Nunes presses Holmes on the “black ledger,” which was a document that included information on the under the table payments that were made to Paul Manafort. Nunes is clearly put off when Holmes states that these documents are not only valid, but have been used in criminal proceedings. This ledger has been dismissed as a political document created to harm Trump in right-wing conspiracy theories.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:30:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Nunes coming back to the 2015 request for an investigation into Burisma — the investigation which was blocked by Shokin, the guy who Joe Biden asked to be removed.

Nunes continues to ask the witnesses things that he knows they do not know about from anything other than newspaper accounts.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:33:17 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ukrainian officials expressing criticism of Trump is not "election meddling" and not at all connected to the conspiracy theory that Trump (and Nunes, and Barr) have been pushing which is based around the idea that Ukraine conspired with the DNC to fake the hacking.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:38:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill says she was upset with Sondland for not coordinating with people — and makes it absolutely clear that Sondland was coordinating on “domestic political policy” while she was carrying out diplomacy. This is some key testimony that will get revisited.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:41:15 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

What Nunes is saying here is little short of a confession, that Trump was concerned about “2016 election interference and Burisma” — in other words, in investigations into Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Nunes is now defending Trump’s use of the government to extract political advantage.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:46:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill makes it clear that her “concerns” about Vindman that Republicans had been playing up, were concerns that he wasn’t political enough for what was becoming a “highly charged political environment”, but was more focused on facts and policy. Says that Vindman was “justifiably alarmed” by the political aspects of the demands on Zelensky. 

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:50:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Schiff follows up by asking Hill about charges against Vindman that he might have “divided loyalties.” She does an admirable job of defending not just Vindman but other immigrants involved in U.S. government service.

Hill, Vindman, Yovanovitch — Immigrants, they get the job done.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:51:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:55:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill: “By this point it was clear that Burisma was code for the Bidens, because Mr. Giuliani was laying it out there.”

This was Hill talking about the statement by Sondland, who claimed he did not know what Burisman meant.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:58:29 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jordan yells at Holmes to ask why Ambassador Taylor didn’t talk about the lunch where Sondland talked with Trump.

Except Taylor wasn’t at the lunch. 

Jordan is clearly accusing Holmes and Taylor of lying. Or at least making enough of a flurry that he can later make that claim to Fox.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 6:59:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Answer turns out to be that the day it happened, William Taylor was on the front lines between Ukraine and Russia — how unhandy of him.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:02:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jordan shouting at Holmes is peak Jim Jordan. Note that Jordan was seriously interested in yelling at Holmes for his evening appearance on Fox, but not interested in allowing Holmes to give an answer.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:06:09 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 7:11:40 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Asked about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, Hill has with her two articles that Nunes pointed out—but also says that she, as part of her job, collected documents showing that 50+ countries said bad things about Trump.

David Holmes: Giuliani’s ‘political agenda’ overshadowed support for Ukraine against Russia

Foreign service officer David Holmes testified in his opening statement in Thursday's impeachment hearing that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani's efforts undermined the U.S. State Department's efforts to support Ukraine. "Beginning in March 2019, the situation at the Embassy and in Ukraine changed dramatically," he testified in his opening statement.

"Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials working with the White House." That change began, he said, "with the emergence of press reports critical of Ambassador Yovanovitch and others to discredit her" and a concerted effort on the part of Giuliani and team to suggest that "Yovanovitch improperly used the embassy to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party." He said that the "allegations directed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, a career Ambassador, is unlike anything I have seen in my professional career."

He said it became clear that the "Three Amigos," consisting of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Ambassador Kurt Volker, would "take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement" with the new administration of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. He said that Sondland "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 the group."

He goes on to relate how it became clear that the Trump political team, which included ambassadors, was pushing the Burisma/Biden investigation as a "precondition for an Oval Office meeting" and security assistance. He testified that he learned from an Office of Management and Budget official that the order to withhold military aid "had come from the President and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney."

In this opening statement, which included the infamous overheard phone conversation between Sondland and Trump on July 26, Holmes lays out the entire impeachment case against Trump. Watch the video below.

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The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Hill and Holmes testify #2

After a grueling day of testimony Wednesday, Thursday brings us testimony from former National Security Council Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes. Hill’s opening statement makes clear that this will be another day when Republicans take a beating from the facts, even though we’ve seen there’s no day of testimony so bad that they won’t try to declare victory.

Daily Kos will be following the proceedings all day.

Watch live:

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:14:58 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Fiona Hill begins reading from her relatively brief introductory document — which undermines 90% of what Devin Nunes has been pushing all week. Hill may describe her British accent as “working class,” but a lot of Americans probably hear it as “really damn charming.”

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:18:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Devin Nunes pushing a copy of his half-assed report on Russian interference on Fiona Hill is the subject of today's Great Moments in Man-splaining.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:22:32 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Schiff opens his questioning by giving Hill a chance to elaborate on her concerns about the Russian efforts—successful efforts—to generate doubt in the United States. Differentiates the “individuals in many countries who had harsh words” for candidates from a state-run dedicated effort to generate “chaos.”

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:23:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:26:33 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Reports coming out of the closed-door testimony of Holmes indicated that Republicans were downcast. But at the time it seemed like he was only there to testify to the lunch he had with Sondland. Nope, Holmes’ testimony is a red-hot poker through the GOP defense of Trump.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:27:12 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:31:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner Republicans had better seriously hope that America has tuned out this morning, because Hill and Holmes are a devastating tag-team. Check those TV ratings, Devin. Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:32:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes provides some feedback on how the Trump-Zelensky phone call was taken from the Ukrainian end; a perspective we haven’t heard before.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:36:16 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes confirms his testimony that Trump asked Sondland about the investigations, and that Sondland assured Trump that Zelensky would do the investigations.

Holmes then follows up by testifying, as he did in his opening statement, that Sondland explicitly mentioned an investigation into the Bidens. Which should be the ball game, right there.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:43:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes reveals that the embassy knew that Lutsenko knew was meeting with “an American journalist” (John Soloman? Ken Vogle?) to get out his claims weeks before the wave of articles promoted by Giuliani. Which suggests that journalist might have also had contact with the embassy … and ignored their cautions.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:45:28 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill makes it explicit that the “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory in Trump’s phone call to Zelensky was exactly the hatched-in-Russia theory that she warned against being generated directly by the Russia security service.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:48:11 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Side note: the conspiracy theory which Hill has pointed out as being generated by the Russian security service explicitly for the purpose of driving a wedge between the U.S. and Ukraine, as well as creating internal political strife, is exactly the theory that William Barr has been supporting in his overseas travels and “investigation.”

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:55:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Questioning of Hill includes a brief visit to Kashyap Patel, the Trumpster within the NSC who presented himself as a Ukraine expert despite no background, and who apparently served as a conduit to ferry information to Trump without following the NSC chain of command.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:59:12 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This has been an important day for destroying the Republican attempts to support the conspiracy theories Trump was pushing all along—interesting that on this same day the Republicans have employed a parliamentary maneuver in an effort to generate a hearing explicitly designed to bolster those same dis-proven conspiracy theories.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 4:03:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill describes the meeting in Bolton’s office, describing how Sondland’s attempt to extract an investigation from Ukraine exacerbated an already somewhat tense situation and brought on the end of the meeting. Hill says that in the later meeting Sondland explicitly made it clear that the investigation he wanted was into Burisma.

Hill then recounts that Bolton directly instructed her to go to NSC counsel John Eisenberg, and that he “didn’t want to be involved in this drug deal that Sondland and [Mick] Mulvaney were cooking up.”

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 4:04:03 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 4:04:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

On an early break to allow a House vote.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 4:08:29 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Something new in Hill’s testimony about Sondland’s statement to Ukrainian officials was that Sondland directly mentioned Mulvaney in saying that there would be a White House meeting when the investigations were launched. Which explains why Bolton later says that the “drug deal” is something being cooked up by Sondland and Mulvaney.

And just another reason why Mulvaney should be the owner of a subpoena. 

The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Hill and Holmes testify #1

After a grueling day of testimony Wednesday, Thursday brings us testimony from former National Security Council Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes. Hill’s opening statement makes clear that this will be another day when Republicans take a beating from the facts, even though we’ve seen there’s no day of testimony so bad that they won’t try to declare victory.

Daily Kos will be following the proceedings all day.

Watch live:

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:09:42 PM +00:00 · Laura Clawson

Here is Dr. Fiona Hill’s opening statement:

Dr. Fiona Hill's openin... by Jen Hayden on Scribd

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:10:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hill’s opening statement blows massive holes right through the narrative that Devin Nunes has been repeating each day, and which other Republicans have pushed throughout the hearings. How they react is going to be just damn fascinating.

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 has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:19:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Adam Schiff’s morning recaps before the hearings are not as good as the stellar closing remarks he has made this week, but he’s gotten very good at giving a narrative that presents the important points and preserves the impact without seeming as if he’s trying to be overly dramatic.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:22:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Interesting that Nunes is retreating to the idea of there being “no impeachable offense,” which is all on its own a place Republicans have been trying not to go.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:29:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Nunes attacks Hill’s opening statement, claiming he’s never disputed Russian interference into the election, hands out his Trump-clearing “report” and launches back into his claims that Ukraine also meddled. This … is going to be interesting.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:37:53 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes, who is probably the least familiar face in these hearings, starts off by making it clear that he’s not ecstatic about being there, quotes Pompeo, and comes off as somewhat hostile to the inquiry. Then, after giving a brief resume and describing his role in Kyiv, makes it clear that he’s an “apolitical foreign policy professional” who doesn’t take part in U.S. politics. He’s coming across forcefully as someone who is kind of angry about being jerked out of the field.

Then, BOOM. Holmes does a good job of explaining the genuine anti-corruption policies pushed by former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and explains how efforts to actually deal with corruption were blown up by … Rudy Giuliani.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:41:26 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes provides details of the smear campaign that was conducted by Giuliani and former Ukrainian prosecutor Lutsenko, These claims are the same ones that are in the articles that Nunes has been pushing — the ones that were published by John Solomon and which Nunes had entered into the record.

What Holmes is really demonstrating, is that Nunes has been continuing the smear campaign of a corrupt former official. And Holmes is making it very clear that Giuliani was very, very explicit in talking about Biden — which makes it impossible to believe either Gordon Sondland or Kurt Volker when they claim to not understand that the Bidens were the target of Trump and Giuliani’s demands for investigations.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:46:23 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes opening statement gives the best view of actual events in Ukraine that we’ve had from anyone — and undercuts statements from Volker and Sondland. This looks like the definitive timeline of events. Holmes turns out to be the mother lode of information on what Giuliani and Trump were genuinely doing in Ukraine.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:50:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This opening statement from Holmes is really the first view we’ve had of just how much damage the Trump / Giuliani scheme caused across the board in Ukraine, and in the relationship between Ukraine and the United States. There was no area of the relationship that avoided being thrown into turmoil by the efforts to force Ukraine to carry out corrupt acts on the part of Trump.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:53:34 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

It’s genuinely astounding that Holmes was only brought into this hearing because he chanced to overhear a phone call between Sondland and Trump. So far, even before the first question is asked, he’s by far the most persuasive and damning witness of the whole inquiry. This is unexpected, and devastating testimony.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 2:58:24 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The expanded details of the conversation between Holmes and Sondland only make it more damaging to Trump, and Giuliani, and to Sondland.

Again: this inquiry should not end without perjury charges against both Sondland and Volker.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:03:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner Honestly, just remove any existing document, insert Holmes’ opening statement, stamp it "the case against Donald Trump" and ship it to Judiciary. Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:06:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Holmes’ opening statement.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:07:08 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Statement of David A Holmes by Jen Hayden on Scribd

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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 · 3:11:21 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner Holmes: “At a time of shifting allegiances and rising competitors in the world, we have no better friend than Ukraine–a scrappy, unbowed, determined, and above all dignified people who are standing up against Russian authoritarianism and aggression. They deserve better.”

Thursday impeachment hearing: NSC official Fiona Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes

Over the course of this week, it would seem that testimony from former State Department special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland laid the last solid planks on the bridge to a certain impeachment of Donald Trump. But the week is not over. On Thursday morning, the House impeachment inquiry will hear from former National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill and from foreign service officer David Holmes.

Holmes, who serves as the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, entered the news only recently as one of those who overheard a phone conversation between Sondland and Trump in which Trump insisted on investigations as the price of assistance to Ukraine. Following that conversation, Holmes also reports Sondland spoke to him about how those investigations included looking into Joe Biden—a claim that contradicts Sondland’s testimony that he didn’t connect the investigations that Trump was requesting with a desire to manufacture dirt on a political opponent.

But the more important witness could well be Fiona Hill. Hill, who served as supervisor to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman until just days before Trump’s July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is expected to testify both to the July 10 meeting held in John Bolton’s office, and to broader concerns about Trump’s policies in Ukraine. In her earlier closed-door testimony, Hill reported her concerns about the smear campaign against former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and the influence of Rudy Giuliani.

The July 10 meeting—in which Ukrainian officials visited the White House and were met by a team of officials from both the State Department and NSC—has been the subject of some disputed testimony. While both Sondland and Vindman reported that the meeting ended after Sondland brought up Trump’s request for investigations, Vindman testified that this end came abruptly because the demand upset Bolton. Sondland reported that the meeting ended normally. Then, in a meeting-after-the-meeting, Vindman reported that Sondland was more direct about requesting those investigations, including directly mentioning investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma—the barely there code for investigations into Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Hill should be able to talk to some of those events, and also to the follow-up in which Bolton referred to the “drug deal” being cooked up by Sondland and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

The hearing gets underway at 9 AM ET.

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GOP lawmakers ‘shaken’ by testimony directly tying Trump to efforts to extort Ukraine

The private testimony of a U.S. embassy official who overheard a cell phone conversation directly implicating Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal has reportedly 'shaken' some GOP lawmakers, according to CNN.

David Holmes, set to testify publicly Thursday morning, is the U.S. diplomat revealed to have witnessed a loud conversation on July 26 between Trump and Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, who is due to testify Wednesday afternoon. Holmes testified privately last week that Sondland placed a cell phone call to Trump while dining with several embassy staffers in which Trump could be heard asking Sondland explicitly about "investigations" into his political rivals.

"So, he's gonna do the investigation?" Trump asked Sondland of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Holmes testified. "He's gonna do it," Sondland replied, telling Trump that Zelensky would do "anything you ask him to." When Holmes later asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine, Sondland reportedly said that Trump didn't "give a shit about Ukraine" and that Trump was only interested in "big stuff" like "this Biden investigation that Giuliani is pushing."

The testimony blows several GOP talking points out of the water, including the notion that Trump was somehow interested in corruption more broadly and not simply the Biden probe. 

But Republicans were reportedly particularly flummoxed by the fact that the call, witnessed by multiple people, directly tied Trump to efforts to pressure Ukraine into launching the investigations Trump sought. Naturally, Republicans aimed their ire at Sondland for making such a public phone call. But in the end, it was no accident that Sondland got patched through directly to Trump—Trump was clearly interested in hearing from Sondland. 

But Holmes was in agreement with Republicans about the extraordinary nature of the call.

"I've never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly," Holmes testified. Indeed.


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