What to know about Thursday's impeachment hearing
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
"I did not feel that he had the political antenna to deal with something that was straying into domestic politics," Hill said, saying Vindman was "excellent on issues related to Ukraine."
"That does not mean in any way I was questioning his overall judgment. Nor was I questioning his substantive expertise," she said about Vindman. -- Grace Segers
1:40 p.m.: Hill said she became "irritated" with Sondland because he wasn't coordinating with other national security officials about what he was doing, leading to a "bit of a blow up" between the two.
"I was actually, to be honest, angry with him," Hill said, describing another meeting she had with Sondland.
"What I was angry about was that he wasn't coordinating with us. And I actually realize, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right -- that he wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing," she said.
"So I was upset with him that he wasn't fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having," Hill continued. "And he said to me, 'But I'm briefing the president, I'm briefing chief of staff Mulvaney, I'm briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I've talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?'"
She said she realized on Wednesday, during Sondland's testimony, that they were being 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. "And those two things have just diverged."
"I was irritated with him and angry with him that he wasn't fully coordinating. And I did say to him, 'Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up,'" Hill said. "And here we are." -- Stefan Becket
1:11 p.m.: Pressed by Republican counsel Steve Castor, Hill said Sondland had some "perfectly logical" involvement in Ukraine policy, but she was concerned when the scope of his involvement grew after Yovanovitch's ouster.
Hill said she confronted Sondland about her concerns directly.
"I asked him quite bluntly in a meeting that we had in June of 2019, so this is after the presidential inauguration, when I had seen that he had started to step up in a much more proactive role on Ukraine. You know, what was his role here?" Hill said. "He said that he was 'in charge' of Ukraine. And I said, 'Well, who put you in charge, Ambassador Sondland?' And he said, 'The president.' ... It did surprise me. We'd had no directive. We hadn't been told this."
Hill said president has the prerogative to remove an ambassador at any time for any reason, but she was unsettled by the maligning of Yovanovitch's reputation, on television and elsewhere, which she said was "completely unnecessary." -- Kathryn Watson
1:02 p.m.: Holmes and Hill returned to the hearing room to field questions from Nunes and the minority counsel after a break of about two hours. After Nunes' 45 minutes, the hearing will move to 5-minute rounds with members.
11:12 a.m.: Holmes said the Ukrainians would have assumed there was a connection between the delay in military aid and demands for investigations once they learned the aid was frozen.
"When they received no explanation for why that hold was in place, they would have drawn that conclusion," Holmes said.
The president's allies have argued that the Ukrainians could not have thought the delay was related to demands for investigations, since they were not aware of the hold until late in the summer. However, a Defense Department official testified Wednesday that the Ukrainian embassy in Washington was asking about the aid as early as July 25, the same day as the call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky. -- Grace Segers
11:03 a.m.: Schiff called for a recess after he and the Democratic counsel concluded their questioning, giving members a break to vote on the House floor.