U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told State Department officials and staffers in Kyiv that President Trump didn’t “give a shit about Ukraine” and only cared about the country launching an investigation into 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
That’s according to a newly released transcript from the deposition of David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat based in Kyiv who testified before House impeachment investigators last week.
During the Nov. 15, closed-door hearing, Holmes told investigators that he accompanied Sondland and two other department staffers to a restaurant in Kyiv where he asked the EU ambassador about President Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine.
“In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not give a shit about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give a shit about Ukraine,” Holmes said.
Holmes told House investigators he then pressed further asking, “why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated, the President only cares about, quote, unquote, ‘big stuff.’ Sondland replied that he meant, quote, unquote, ‘big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the, quote, unquote, ‘Biden investigation.’”
For the past several weeks President Trump and other officials loyal to him have peddled the idea that the administration was attempting to correct wrongs with Ukraine policy—that it was trying to fight corruption in the country—when it dealt with the incoming administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky. But the comments from Sondland at the restaurant in Kyiv point to President Trump’s real ambition: getting President Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
Sondland is set to testify Wednesday in front of lawmakers about his work on Ukraine and will likely face a slew of questions about his communications with President Trump on the issue of a Biden investigation. Holmes is set to testify Thursday.
Before the lunch in Kyiv, Holmes said he attempted to join Sondland in a meeting with a top aide to Zelensky, Andriy Yermak. Holmes said he had been asked to attend that meeting and take notes but that he was told by Yermak’s assistant that “Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yenmak had insisted that the meeting be held one-on-one with no notetaker.”
Holmes told House investigators that over a bottle of red wine he, Sondland and the other State staffers talked about business plans for the ambassador’s hotel business. Soon after, Sondland took out his phone and called President Trump to brief him on the meeting with Yermak, Holmes said.
Holmes said he heard the conversation between Sondland and the president transpire.
Sondland told Trump Zelensky “loves your ass,” Holmes testified.
“I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he's going to do the investigation?’ unquote. Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He's going to do it,’” Holmes recalled.
Later on in the summer, Holmes said the issue of engaging the president on Ukraine became increasingly difficult. He said that he and Sondland discussed ways to “frame the importance of Ukraine in ways that would appeal to the president and to try to move forward on the scheduling of a White House visit by President Zelensky.”
That meeting never took place, but Trump did meet with Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.