House concludes week of public impeachment hearings
Photo credit: Stephanie Sundier
House concludes week of public impeachment hearings

The US House Intelligence Committee on Thursday conducted their final public impeachment inquiry before Congress heads out for the Thanksgiving holiday. The committee heard testimony from Fiona Hill, a former top Russian adviser to the Trump administration, and David Holmes, a diplomat in the US embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.

During his opening statement Holmes highlighted his observations while attending meetings with high Ukrainian officials. Particularly, he took note of Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky stating that US President Donald Trump had cited three sensitive issues on a July 25 call. Holmes discussed his observation of the core of the Ukrainian policy team being replaced with the “three amigos” who were supposedly more reliable to pressure Kiev. The three amigos include Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU; Kurt Volker, assigned to peace negotiations; and Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary.

Notably, Holmes contributed to direct observations of the growing involvement of Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani at the embassy.  Holmes heard Giuliani publicly alleging that Zelensky was “surrounded by enemies of the [US President].”  The most damaging contributions are from the phone call that Holmes heard Trump asking if Zelensky would “do the investigation.”

Holmes overhead the July 26 call between Sondland and Trump. During this call, Holmes testified that he could hear the president asking if the Ukrainian president was willing to help. Sondland replied that Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to.” Holmes testified that he found this phone call particularly peculiar in the fact that an ambassador received a phone call, on an unsecured cell phone, at a public restaurant, from the president. Holmes testified that in all of his years in Foreign service that he had never seen something as odd as this. Holmes was even more astounded about the sensitive issues being discussed on this unsecured line. The day after the July 26 call, the president pressured Zelensky to open investigations in to the Bidens.

Hill used her opening statement to rebut the claims that Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2016 US elections. Hill said, “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.” Hill emphasized this is nothing more than Russian intelligence officials seeking to misinform and misguide.

Hill testified on her observations during a meeting at the White House on July 10. During this meeting she testified that Sondland raised the topic of investigations in the company tied to the Bidens with high-level Ukrainian officials.

Members on both sides of the aisle have indicated that there will not be any more “fact-finding” depositions. Most analysts expect the next steps will be for the Republicans and Democrats to prepare reports and hand them over to House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, which will trigger the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.