‘Corruption’ Probe Meant Bidens, Impeachment Witnesses Say

Thursday, November 21st 2019, 8:03 am
By: News 9

What to know about Thursday's impeachment hearing

  • Fiona Hill and David Holmes will testify before the House Intelligence Committee starting at 9 a.m.
  • Hill is a former National Security Council official who raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani and efforts to pressure Ukraine.
  • Holmes is a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, who overheard EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland discussing investigations with President Trump the day after his July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.


The former top Russia adviser in the White House said she came to realize the U.S. Ambassador to the EU was sent on a "domestic political errand" to pressure Ukraine to investigate President Trump's political adversaries.

Fiona Hill, a former senior director for Russia on the National Security Council (NSC) and longtime authority on Russia, testified Thursday alongside David Holmes, a diplomat in the U.S. embassy in Kiev, at the House Intelligence Committee's last scheduled public hearing in the impeachment inquiry.

She said she realized on Wednesday, during Sondland's testimony, that they had been asked to pursue different goals.

"He was being involved in a domestic political errand. We were being involved in national security, foreign policy," she said, referring to herself and other NSC and embassy officials. "And those two things have just diverged."

Hill and Holmes also testified that they became increasingly alarmed by Rudy Giuliani and his escalating influence over Ukraine policy over the summer, with Hill recalling then-National Security Adviser John Bolton calling Giuliani a "hand grenade" who was "going to blow everybody up."

Hill was present for a meeting at the White House on July 10, in which Sondland raised the prospect of investigations into the 2016 campaign and a company tied to the Bidens with high-level Ukrainian officials. Hill said Bolton, her boss at the time, told her to report the incident to the top lawyer on the NSC, likening it to a "drug deal."

On Thursday she denounced suggestions that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 campaign, saying the idea is "a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

?Schiff's closing argument: "This president believes he is above the law"


4:19 p.m.: In an animated final speech, Schiff closed the last scheduled hearing of the impeachment inquiry by praising the witnesses and condemning Republicans on the committee for promoting the idea of a "Russia hoax."

He argued that Republicans who took umbrage at the suggestion they didn't take Russian interference seriously were silent when Mr. Trump himself has questioned Russia's involvement.

"They'll show indignation today, but they'll cower when they hear the president question the very conclusions our intelligence community has reached," Schiff said.

He condemned his Republican colleagues for criticizing Holmes' account of the call between Sondland and Mr. Trump, instead of Sondland's "indiscretion" in having the call over an unsecure line.

Schiff also sarcastically referenced the "secret depositions" that Republicans have slammed, noting that over 100 members of Congress have been privy to the closed hearings, and Republicans had equal opportunity to question witnesses in the hearings.

Schiff recapped what Democrats have gleaned from the open hearings, including details about the smear campaign against Yovanovitch and Mr. Trump's desire to have Ukraine investigate Burisma and the Bidens. Schiff said Republicans weren't disputing basic facts, but were instead raising conspiracy theories and attacking the character of the witnesses.

Schiff slammed Republican arguments, and said it was "clear to everyone" that aid was withheld from Ukraine on the condition of opening investigations into the Bidens. He also bashed the Republican argument that witness testimony was based on hearsay.

Schiff mocked the Republican claim that there could be no wrongdoing because Mr. Trump denied the existence of a quid pro quo.

"Well, I guess that's case closed, right?" Schiff said. "This is the 'I'm not a crook' defense. You say it, and I guess, that's the end of it."

Schiff concluded by saying that he came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry because Mr. Trump's call to Zelensky came the day after testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

"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," Schiff said. He quoted his late colleague, Congressman Elijah Cummings: "We are better than that." -- Grace Segers

?Hill: "Not credible" that Sondland didn't connect Burisma to Bidens

3:42 p.m.: Hill testified she finds it hard to believe Sondland didn't connect the Ukrainian energy company Burisma with the Bidens, as Sondland suggested. Sondland testified he didn't fully understand the connection until after the July 25 call summary was released in September.

"I think from listening to him and his depositions and what I've read of what he deposed, he made it very clear that he was surprised we had some kind of objection," Hill said.

When Democratic Representative Sean Maloney interrupted Hill on that point, and asked her if it was believable Sondland was in the dark about the connection all summer, Hill responded: "It is not credible to me that he was oblivious." -- Kathryn Watson

?Holmes: Sondland "showed indiscretion" by calling Trump


3:22 p.m.: Republican Congressman Mike Conaway pressed Holmes to explain why he divulged his recollection of the July 26 phone call between Mr. Trump and Sondland to multiple people, accusing Holmes of "regaling" others with his account of the call.

Holmes replied that he told only those who needed to know about it, and that he thought it was Sondland "who showed indiscretion" in having the call in a public location on an unsecured device.

"Sir, I think it was Gordon Sondland who showed indiscretion by having that conversation over a public phone line," Holmes said. -- Grace Segers

?Swalwell brings up Daily Beast story about Nunes connection to indicted Giuliani associate

3:03 p.m.: Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell brought up a Daily Beast report that Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who has been indicted on campaign finance charges, helped set up calls and meetings for Nunes in Europe last year. Parnas' lawyer confirmed the connection to CBS News.

Swalwell entered the story into the record and said Nunes might be "projecting."

"He may be the fact witness if he is working with indicted individuals around our investigation," Swalwell said. -- Kathryn Watson

?Hill confirms viral story about putting out fire with her hands as a child

2:56 p.m.: Hill confirmed a detail that appeared in a New York Times profile on Thursday.

"The daughter of a coal miner and a midwife, she had a hardscrabble childhood in northeast England -- a childhood that bred toughness, her friends say," the story read. "Once, when she was 11, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test. She put the fire out with her hands, and finished the test."

Representative Jackie Speier asked Hill about the anecdote, which had circulated widely on Twitter.

"It is a true story. I was a bit surprised to see that pop up today. It's one of the stories I occasionally tell. Very unfortunate consequences afterwards. My mother gave me bowl haircut," Hill said. "I looked like Richard III." -- Grace Segers

?Hill emphasizes importance of service and non-partisanship


2:39 p.m.: After Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup used his five minutes of questioning to condemn Democrats for attempting a "coup" against the president, Hill asked if she could respond.

"Could I actually say something?" she said, after Wenstrup stopped speaking. She said that she agreed about the dangers of partisanship, and expressed her disappointment that Republican Congressmen Mike Turner and John Ratcliffe had left the hearing room.

Hill noted that those who testified are "fact witnesses" who aren't there to decide impeachment, and said she agreed with Wenstrup in urging everyone to come together to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 campaign. She said witnesses felt they had a "moral obligation" to testify. -- Grace Segers

?Hill says she's received threats

2:28 p.m.: Hill testified that unknown people have posted her home address to Twitter and threatened physical harm in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.

Her staff, Hill testified, has had to monitor the social media website to ensure her safety. -- Grace Segers

?Hill says Ukrainian officials "bet on the wrong horse" in 2016

2:07 p.m.: Hill pushed back against Republicans' assertions that Ukrainian officials' preference for Hillary Clinton in 2016 amounted to election interference. Hill acknowledged that the Ukrainian ambassador at the time had written an "ill-advised" op-ed which challenged Mr. Trump, and said many officials "bet on the wrong horse."

However, Hill continued, "there was little evidence of a top-down effort by Ukraine" to interfere in the 2016 election, unlike the effort by the Russian government.

"Many officials from many countries, including Ukraine, bet on the wrong horse," Hill said, adding that several officials had said "hurtful" things about the president.

"I can't blame him for feeling aggrieved about them," Hill said about the comments. However, she said the "unpleasant statements" by officials in other countries hadn't affected Mr. Trump's stance toward those countries, or caused a delay in aid.

"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 would have been a lot of people he wouldn't have met with," Hill said. -- Grace Segers

?Hill says it was clear Burisma "was a code for 'the Bidens'" by July 10 meeting


1:57 p.m.: Hill described the July 10 meeting from her point of view, where Sondland raised the prospect of launching investigations to Ukrainian officials, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton abruptly ended the meeting in response.

Hill said that by July 10, "'Burisma' had become code for 'the Bidens.'" She added that "Giuliani was laying it out there."

Hill's account disputes testimony from both Volker and Sondland, who said that they were unaware of a connection between Burisma and the Bidens until September. -- Grace Segers

?Jordan presses Holmes on why he didn't disclose call sooner

1:56 p.m.: Republican Representative Jim Jordan criticized Holmes for not coming forward about the July 26 call sooner.

Jordan ran through a timeline of opportunities in which he suggested Holmes could have told the top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who first disclosed the call last week.

"Nowhere is there a, 'Holmes tells Taylor what the president of the United States told Sondland,'" Jordan said.

Holmes said he did disclose details of the call to a superior, the deputy chief of mission.

Holmes noted he believed Taylor was aware of that call by the time Holmes returned from a vacation. But Holmes believed by that point his colleagues were well aware that the president was pushing for an investigation of Burisma and the Bidens.

"Maybe the ambassador thought there was nothing new here. But shazam -- last week, you come forward," Jordan said.

"Everyone by that point, agreed, that it was obvious what the president asked for," Holmes countered. Jordan repeatedly attempted to interrupt Holmes during his answer, where he said that it was common knowledge that the president wanted to investigate the Bidens. -- Kathryn Watson

?Hill defends herself and Vindman against allegations of dual loyalty

1:49 p.m.: Schiff launched the five-minute rounds of questioning from each committee member by asking Hill to respond to criticism from some Republicans that she and Vindman, both immigrants, were not fully loyal to the United States.

"I think it's very unfortunate. This is a country of immigrants," Hill said. "This is what, for me, really does make America great."

While she was born in the United Kingdom, she stressed she is a fully naturalized citizen of the U.S.

"My loyalty is here, to the United States. This is my country and the country I serve," Hill said, adding that it's "deeply unfair" to question immigrants' loyalty. -- Grace Segers


?White House says Hill and Holmes rely "heavily on their own presumptions"

1:43 p.m.: In the middle of the witnesses' testimony, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement that did not dispute any of the testimony from Holmes and Hill, but claimed thWhat to know about Thursday's impeachment hearingey rely "heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions."

She also said Democrats are motivated by a "rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election."

"As has been the case throughout the Democrats' impeachment sham, today's witnesses rely heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions," Grisham said in a statement. "These two witnesses, just like the rest, have no personal or direct knowledge regarding why U.S. aid was temporarily withheld. The Democrats' are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election. The American people deserve better." -- Kathryn Watson


Hill says she didn't question Vindman's judgment

1:42 p.m.: Hill pushed back against Tim Morrison's testimony on Tuesday that she had expressed concerns about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who also testified on Tuesday morning.

"I said that I was concerned about the way things were trending in Ukraine policy," Hill said she told Morrison, adding that she believed Vindman was a "highly distinguished and decorated military officer." However, she expressed concern that he was not necessarily equipped to deal with political issues, as a military official.

When the hearing resumes, Nunes and the GOP counsel will control 45 minutes for their questions.

Hill and Holmes say they knew Burisma was linked to Bidens

10:58 a.m.: Hill and Holmes disputed testimony from Volker and Sondland, who each said they did not realize Mr. Trump's desire to investigate Burisma was meant to target the Bidens. Hill said "it was very apparent to me" that Giuliani wanted a Burisma investigation to go after the Bidens.

Democratic counsel Dan Goldman asked whether Holmes understood Burisma was "code" for the Bidens.

"Yes," Goldman replied. He also agreed that anyone working on Ukraine policy in the spring and summer would have understood that a request to investigate Burisma was also one to investigate the Bidens. -- Grace Segers

Hill says Bolton recognized Giuliani "would come back to haunt us"

10:55 a.m.: Hill reiterated she was well aware of the campaign to smear Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. She said then-National Security Adviser John Bolton looked "pained" when she brought up the attacks on Yovanovitch's reputation.

Bolton suggested there was nothing that could be done to stop the character attacks, Hill testified. She said she understood what Bolton meant when he described Giuliani as a "hand grenade" who was going to "blow everybody up."

"I think he meant obviously that was Mr. Giuliani was saying was explosive" and was "pushing issues and ideas that would come back to haunt us," Hill testified.

"And I think that's where we are today," she added. -- Kathryn Watson 

?Holmes explains how he overheard portion of Trump call

10:33 a.m.: Holmes, who has faced skepticism from some Republicans and the president about how he was able to overhear the July 26 conversation between Mr. Trump and Sondland, explained that both Sondland and Mr. Trump spoke very loudly.

"When the president came on, he sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear," Holmes said of Sondland, gesturing accordingly. "He did that for the first few exchanges."

Holmes said he has a clear recollection of the call, which he said was a "very distinctive experience" featuring "colorful language."

"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 said. -- Grace Segers

?Holmes says Ukrainians remain "very careful" not to imperil U.S. support

10:28 a.m.: Holmes testified Ukraine is still wary of becoming embroiled in U.S. domestic politics, given the continued need for military aid to fend off Russian aggression.

"They still need us now going forward ... He needs our support," Holmes said of Zelensky. "He needs President Putin to understand that America supports Zelensky at the highest level."

The release of U.S. aid in September didn't mean everything is back to normal, Holmes testified, a point that could undermine Republicans' arguments downplaying the impact of the delay.

Holmes also pointed out Zelensky has yet to get an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump.

"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," he said. "So I think that continues to this day. I think they're being very careful. They still need us now going forward. In fact, right now." -- Kathryn Watson

Schiff says some GOP colleagues took "umbrage" with Hill's opening statement

10:18 a.m.: Schiff, after praising Hill's immigrant story and contributions to the country, highlighted Hill's point that some on the committee believe the inaccurate narrative that Ukraine was responsible for election meddling in 2016.

"My colleagues took some umbrage with your opening statement," Schiff said, noting that some Republicans on the committee have equated a couple questionable Ukrainian officials with the extensive, documented Russian disinformation campaign in 2016.

The U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia interfered extensively in the last presidential election, and former special counsel Robert Mueller detailed that interference earlier this year. Russia, Hill agreed, wants to taint Ukrainians as untrustworthy. -- Kathryn Watson

?Hill says Russia and Putin "operate like a super PAC"

10:15 a.m.: In her opening statement, Hill pushed back against arguments that Ukrainian officials sought to interfere in the 2016 election, saying they were promoting a Russian talking point. She said the Russian government spreads disinformation by operating "like a super PAC."

"These fictions are harmful even if they are 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," Hill said. "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 American people in our democracy."

Republicans on the committee have repeatedly tried to legitimize Mr. Trump's concern that Ukraine was against him by arguing that Ukrainian officials opposed him during the 2016 campaign. -- Grace Segers

?Holmes explains why he came forward after impeachment inquiry began

10:10 a.m.: Holmes explained why he came forward with his recollection of the July 26 call after his boss, Bill Taylor, testified in a closed hearing on October 22. Taylor testified publicly last Wednesday that Holmes had informed him of the call the previous Friday.

Over the past few weeks, Holmes said, he had read reports suggesting top U.S. officials may have been "freelancing" on Ukraine policy, and had "read reports noting the lack of 'first-hand' evidence in the investigation and suggesting that the only evidence being elicited at the hearings was 'hearsay.'"

"I came to realize I had first-hand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 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 our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a criminal investigation against President Trump's political opponent," Holmes said. -- Grace Segers

?Holmes was "shocked" by demand Zelensky give interview about investigations

10:04 a.m.: By the beginning of September, Holmes said he and others became increasingly concerned by the delay in military aid.

"My clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so," Holmes said.

He said learned from top diplomat Bill Taylor on September 8 that the "Three Amigos" were insisting Zelensky give an interview to CNN to announce investigations. Holmes said he was "shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete."

"This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit, on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump's political rival," he said.

Aid to Ukraine was only released on September 11, "after significant press coverage and bipartisan congressional expressions of concern about the withholding of security assistance," Holmes said.

"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," Holmes noted. "We had several indications that the interview would occur."

On September 13, Holmes testified, he and Taylor ran into a top aide to Zelensky, Andriy Yermak, coming out of a meeting with Zelensky.

"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 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. The interview ultimately did not occur," Holmes testified. -- Kathryn Watson

?Holmes describes phone call between Trump and Sondland

9:55 a.m.: In his opening statement, Holmes repeated his recollection of overhearing a July 26 phone call between Mr. Trump and Sondland, where Sondland told Mr. Trump that Zelensky "loves your ass."

"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 said. He said the conversation then turned to A$AP Rocky, a rapper detained in Sweden, which Sondland corroborated in his testimony on Wednesday.

Holmes said after the call he asked Sondland for his "candid impression" on the president's opinion of Ukraine.

"In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not 'give a s--t about Ukraine.' Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not 'give a s--t about Ukraine.' I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about 'big stuff,'" Holmes said.

"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," Holmes continued.

In his testimony on Wednesday, Sondland disputed that he would have told Holmes about the "Biden investigation," as he did not know at the time that the request for an investigation into the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma would mean an investigation into the Bidens. -- Grace Segers

?Holmes: Zelensky said Trump raised "some very sensitive issues" 3 times on July 25 call

9:45 a.m.: The day after the July 25 call between Zelensky and Mr. Trump, Holmes attended a meeting with Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials in Kiev.

"During the meeting, President Zelensky stated that during the July 25 call, President Trump had 'three times' raised 'some very sensitive issues,' and that he would have to follow up on those issues when he and President Trump met 'in person,'" Holmes testified. "Not having received a readout of the July 25 call, I did not know what those sensitive issues were."

On the July 25 call, Mr. Trump urged Zelensky to investigate supposed interference in the 2016 campaign and the Bidens. -- Stefan Becket

?Holmes: Yovanovitch allegations "unlike anything I have seen in my professional career"

9:42 a.m.: Holmes, in his opening statement, said his "only goal" is to lay out the facts "truthfully and accurately."

Holmes emphasized he is not a political actor or "engaged in U.S. politics in any way.

"I am an apolitical foreign policy professional, and 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," Holmes said, adding that he would try to "stay clear of Washington politics."

Holmes, who worked closely with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, outlined the smear campaign which led to Yovanovitch's dismissal.

"The barrage of allegations directed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, a career ambassador, is unlike anything I have seen in my professional career," he said.

Holmes also referred to the "Three Amigos" formulating U.S. policy toward Ukraine: Sondland, special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Holmes said he became aware the president's personal attorney, Rudy 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 inauguration delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine," Holmes said. "My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, 'Damn it, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f---s everything up.'"

Holmes said it was important to the newly elected Zelensky to have a meeting with Mr. Trump in the White House because it would demonstrate to Russia that he had U.S. support, but said State Department officials "became concerned that even if a meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky could occur it would not go well." -- Grace Segers

?Trump questions how Holmes overheard phone call

9:30 a.m.: Mr. Trump criticized Holmes without naming him in a tweet on Thursday morning, saying he didn't understand how Holmes could overhear a phone call between him and Sondland that wasn't on speakerphone:

I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life. My hearing is, and has been, great. Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I've even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
?Schiff and Nunes kick off hearing with opening statements
9:23 a.m.: The final open hearing of the week began with opening statements from Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes. The two struck familiar notes in their opening remarks, with Schiff condemning Mr. Trump's request that Ukraine open investigations into a political rival, and Nunes slamming Democrats for an impeachment process Republicans consider illegitimate.

Schiff highlighted Hill's earlier testimony that Bolton considered Giuliani to be a "hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up" and Bolton's comparison of the effort to pressure Ukraine to a "drug deal." He emphasized the importance of the July 10 meeting at the White House, during which Sondland raised the prospect of investigations with Ukrainian officials.

Nunes, calling the hearings "bizarre," said Democrats have struggled to find a footing in the hearings.

"The offense itself changes depending on the day," he said, saying Democrats have shifted their accusations from a quid pro quo, to bribery, to extortion, and back to a quid pro quo. He said Democrats are accusing the president of a "thought crime."

Nunes also said military aid to Ukraine has been "much more robust" under Mr. Trump than under Obama, and wondered how the president's actions rise to the level of an impeachable offense, given that Zelensky has suggested he was not pressured by Mr. Trump. -- Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson

In opening statement, Hill denounces "fictional narrative" that Ukraine interfered in 2016

8:23 a.m.: In her prepared opening statement, Hill says the notion by some Republicans that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 campaign is a fiction.

"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," she said. "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

Hill said the "impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today."

"Our nation is being torn apart," she continued. "Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined."

She declines to rehash her earlier testimony in her opening statement, instead issuing a warning that "we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm." -- Stefan Becket

How Thursday's hearing will play out

7:15 a.m.: Thursday's proceedings will follow the same format as the previous hearings, and adhere to the rules adopted by the full House several weeks ago.

At the beginning of each hearing, Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes will deliver opening statements. The witnesses will then be sworn in and allowed to read a statement of her own.

Schiff and Nunes will then each control a period of 45 minutes, when they can ask questions or delegate to staff members to do so. Schiff has turned to Daniel Goldman, senior adviser and director of investigations on the committee, to ask question the witnesses. Nunes relies on Steve Castor, the counsel for the Republican minority.

After that, the hearing will move to questioning from individual members, alternating periods of five minutes between both parties. Schiff can add additional rounds at his discretion.

Witnesses can also request breaks in questioning if needed. -- Stefan Becket

Who is Fiona Hill?
6:30 a.m.: Hill is a former senior director and top Russia expert on the National Security Council who left her post in July, before the president's call with Zelensky.

In her closed-door testimony before House lawmakers in October, Hill testified about the July 10 meeting at the White House with Ukrainian officials where Sondland brought up investigations.

"Ambassador Sondland had basically indicated that there was an agreement with the chief of staff that they would have a White House meeting or, you know, a presidential meeting if the Ukrainians started up these investigations again," she told the committees in earlier testimony.

She said Bolton cut the meeting short and told her to "go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of this drug deal that Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," referring to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer on the NSC, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Hill testified that Bolton "described Giuliani as a bit of a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up" and "made it very clear that, you know, again, he didn't think anybody should be dealing with Giuliani."
-- Stefan Becket

Who is David Holmes?

5:45 a.m.: Holmes is a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Bill Taylor, the top diplomat at the embassy, first revealed in testimony last week that Holmes had overheard Sondland talking about investigations with Mr. Trump on July 26.

"So, he's gonna do the investigation?" Holmes said he heard Mr. Trump ask. "He's gonna do it," Sondland replied, adding he'd do "anything you ask him to."

Holmes said Sondland later told him that "the president did not 'give a s--t about Ukraine'" and that he only cares about "big stuff" like the "Biden investigation."

Sondland disputed that portion of Holmes' deposition at his own hearing on Wednesday, claiming he never mentioned the Bidens in the context of investigations. -- Stefan Becket

What happened at Wednesday's hearing
5:00 a.m.: At Wednesday's first hearing, Sondland told the committees he worked with Rudy Giuliani to pursue a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine, luring the prospect of a White House meeting with Zelensky in exchange for the Ukrainians announcing the investigations.

Sondland said his efforts were known and supported by officials at the highest level of government, including by officials at the NSC and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He also said he raised concerns about a delay in U.S. military aid to Ukraine with Vice President Mike Pence directly. Both Pompeo and Pence denied Sondland's account on Wednesday.

"The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false," Sondland said, citing emails that "show that the leadership of State, [National Security Council] and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts" beginning as early as May.

"Everyone was in the loop," Sondland said. -- Stefan Becket

First published on November 21, 2019 / 5:05 AM

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