A second witness in the impeachment inquiry has testified that President Trump was overheard inquiring about “investigations” in Ukraine in a phone conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who reportedly reassured Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was willing to do “anything” Trump asked him to do.
David Holmes, a State Department aide who worked under U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, testified in a closed-door hearing before Congress on Friday about the “political agenda being promoted by Rudy Giuliani” in Ukraine and the apparent pressure campaign to strong-arm Ukrainian authorities into investigating Joe Biden and his son.
In addition to backing up the testimony of Taylor, who testified earlier this week that Trump had been overheard asking Sondland about the investigations, Holmes' testimony included several other highlights.
TRUMP WANTED AN UPDATE ON ‘THE INVESTIGATION’
Holmes said he had decided to speak up after realizing he could shed light on the question of whether or not Trump personally knew that some officials were “using the levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a particular criminal investigation.”
According to him, one “incident” in particular in late July had “acquired greater significance” in light of the debate over Trump’s involvement—and it was when Trump himself was overheard apparently checking up on the status of the investigation into his political rival.
According to Holmes' statement to lawmakers obtained by CNN, Sondland told the president that Zelensky “loves (his) ass” in a phone call at a restaurant in Kyiv.
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to,’” Holmes reportedly told lawmakers.
While Sondland did not put the president on speakerphone, Holmes said he heard the conversation transpire because he heard Trump's voice through the phone's earpiece.
“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,” Holmes reportedly said.
SONDLAND MET ONE-ON-ONE WITH A TOP UKRAINIAN AIDE
The phone conversation between Sondland and Trump is said to have taken place just after Sondland met privately with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president. Holmes said he was supposed to join the meeting between Yermak and Sondland but had arrived to be told by Yermak's assistant that the two had “insisted that the meeting be one-on-one, with no note-taker.”
Holmes also said he asked Sondland at one point if it was true that Trump didn't “give a s—t about Ukraine,” to which Sondland allegedly replied that the president only cared about the “big stuff.”
Sondland then explained that Trump only cared about the “‘big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing,” according to Holmes.
BOLTON SAID AID Hinged on ZELENSKY ‘IMPRESSing’ TRUMP
Holmes also described efforts by State Department officials to explain the importance of security assistance to Ukraine after it had become clear that military aid was suspended, and their frustrations with Giuliani’s involvement.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, who is said to have objected to the anti-Biden crusade being conducted by Giuliani, at one point indicated that the hold on military aid wouldn’t be lifted unless Zelensky managed to “favorably impress” Trump at a meeting in Warsaw in September, according to Holmes.
Trump wound up canceling his Warsaw trip, and the hold on military aid was not lifted until nearly two weeks later.