/Trump’s former Russia aide closes out impeachment hearings

Trump’s former Russia aide closes out impeachment hearings

Alongside Hill will be David Holmes, a minor player in the inquiry but one who supplied key evidence. Holmes overheard a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, during which Trump audibly asked about the status of his desired investigations.

Neither witness is expected to produce the type of testimony that Sondland provided Wednesday, when he told lawmakers that Trump, through Giuliani, had authorized a quid pro quo with Ukraine, denying the country’s new president a White House meeting until he announced an investigation targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Sondland also indicated that a slew of senior officials knew about the effort, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Pompeo and Perry on Wednesday pushed back on Sondland’s claim.

Hill’s closed-door testimony represented a crucial break for Democrats in the nascent stages of the investigation. She revealed that her boss, former national security adviser John Bolton, worried about a “drug deal” that Mulvaney and Sondland were involved in. He also called Giuliani a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” over his efforts to smear the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, in the spring, according to Hill.

Trump removed Yovanovitch from her post in May and attacked her during a phone call with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25.

Hill also testified about Sondland’s conduct, alleging that he attended meetings about Ukraine that were not in his purview. And she says she confronted him after a July 10 White House meeting during which Sondland raised the prospect of Trump’s investigations directly with Ukrainian officials.

Hill also called Sondland a counterintelligence risk, noting that he often used his personal cellphone for official business.

She could also prove to be a colorful witness.

During her closed-door testimony last month, she fought back when some Republicans sought to turn the conversation to allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Hill rejected the assertion and said evidence that some low-level bureaucrats got involved was being weaponized to distract from Russia’s massive interference operation, approved by Vladimir Putin and carried out by Russian intelligence services.

Hill had heated exchanges about the matter with Republican lawmakers, who have argued that Trump’s deep skepticism of Ukraine is warranted because some government officials criticized his positions on Russia policy during the 2016 campaign.

Holmes, meanwhile, told investigators behind closed doors last week that he overheard Sondland speaking by phone with Trump at a restaurant in Kyiv, during which Trump asked about the status of “the investigations.” According to Holmes, Sondland replied that the Ukrainians were “gonna do it,” and that Zelensky “loves your ass.”

Holmes also said it was possible that the Russians intercepted the phone call, which took place at an outdoor cafe on an unsecure cellphone. According to Holmes, Sondland told him that Trump only cares about “‘big stuff’ that benefits the president, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Giuliani was pushing.”

Sondland said Wednesday he had no reason to doubt Holmes’ account, but he could not recall specifically mentioning the Bidens.

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