A former National Security Council official and a diplomat who says he overheard a conversation between President Donald Trump and ambassador Gordon Sondland are scheduled to testify Thursday in the week’s final impeachment inquiry hearing.
The testimony of Fiona Hill and David Holmes comes a day after Sondland offered explosive testimony in which he said he, Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry worked with Rudy Giuliani to pursue a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine, dangling a possible White House meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian president in exchange for an announcement that Ukraine was to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
According to Sondland, a second investigation into Ukraine-backed interference in the 2016 presidential election was also on the table.
Hill, who testified in a closed-door session that she had concerns about Giuliani, and Holmes, who told Ukraine charge d’affaires William Taylor that he overheard a phone conversation between Sondland and Trump, will testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence beginning at 9 a.m.
See the livestream below when the hearing starts.
The public hearings are over
4:20 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Schiff has gaveled the hearing closed, and, so far, there is no word on anymore scheduled public hearings. Congress will be on Thanksgiving recess next week. When they come back, Democrats are expected to decide on articles of impeachment.
3:50 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: The members of the committee have completed their questioning. Now, Nunes and Schiff will have closing statements.
Nunes is giving a timeline of attacks against Trump dating back to 2015.
Was there an investigation; did they meet?
3 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, thanks Hill for her comments about personal attacks she has been under.
Stefanik eventually asks Hill and Holmes if Ukraine received military aid. Yes, they both say. Was there an investigation into the Bidens? No, both answered. Did Trump meet with Zelensky at the U.N.? Yes, they said, though Holmes points out it was not in the Oval Office.
Hill answers Weinstrup
2:15 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: After a Rep. Brad Weinstrup, R-Ohio, talks about how divisive the country has become because of the hearings, Hill urges the members of the committee and the American people to put aside partisan issues. “We need to be together again in 2020 so the American people can make a choice about the future and make their vote without any fear” that foreign countries are interfering in the election, Hill says.
There wasn't a yelling match
1:45 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Sondland testified on Wednesday that a July 10 White House meeting had dissolved into a shouting match.
“There was no yelling or shouting,” Hill says. “That’s some embellishment... Sondland was in an exchange with Vindman... ‘we have an agreement to have a meeting’.”
“When I came in (to the Ward Room in the White House), Gordon Sondland was basically saying look, I have a deal with chief of staff Mulvaney that we have a meeting if the Ukrainians announce investigations of Burisma...
“I cut it off right there... it was clear then that Burisma was code for the Bidens...
“So I cut off this line and I said to Ambassador Sondland look... we have to properly prepare this... and we really shouldn’t be talking about this in front of our colleagues from Ukraine...
“We asked our colleagues to wait outside of the door in the corridor.
“I pushed back on ambassador Sondland.
“Ambassador Sondland then said OK, fair enough. Ambassador Volker didn’t say anything at this particular juncture.”
1:40 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Castor asks Hill about Tim Morrison’s testimony earlier this week that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s judgment was in question.
Vindman, while “excellent at his job,” did not have the political experience to handle the informal policy channel that was forming about Ukraine, Hill said.
“That does not mean in any way that I was questioning his overall judgment or his expertise. He is excellent... this is a very different issue.”
Does Holmes know Lutschenko?
1:20 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Nunes asks Holmes if he knows journalist and former legislator Sergey Lutschenko. Holmes says yes. Nunes asks if he knows that Lutschenko produced the “black ledger” which allegedly contained damaging information against Trump.
Holmes said, yes.
Nunes asks Holmes if the black ledger is credible. Holmes said it is. Nunes says Robert Mueller did not consider it credible.
Holmes: “I’m not aware that Bob Mueller did not find it credible,” but it was used as evidence in other criminal proceedings.
Nunes: Didn’t Lutschenko want to hurt Trump?
Holmes: “He has not said that to me. If he said that to you I’ll take your word for it.”
Who put you in charge?
1:15 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Castor asks her about Sondland. Hill said she dealt with him as she worked on Ukraine matters as EU and Ukraine matters overlap. “It was perfectly logical that Ambassador Sondland would play some kind of role” on Ukraine, she said.
However, Sondland seemed to be inserting himself in different matters, so she asked him what was going on.
“I asked him quite bluntly” about his role, Hill said. “He said he was in charge of Ukraine, and I said ‘who put you in charge?’ and he said ‘the president’.”
Nunes asks about the Steele dossier
1:09 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Nunes questions Hill and Holmes. He asks Hill if she knows Christopher Steele. Yes, she had met with him.
Did she know of the Steele dossier and had she seen it before it was published. Yes, she said, a colleague at the Brookings Institute shared it with her the day before it was published.
Did she know who paid for it? Fusion GPS, Hill said. Nunes asks if she actually knows who commissioned it. She said she knew through the media that the Democratic National Committee had paid Fusion GPS for it.
The hearing is set to resume
12:51 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: After an extended break allowing members to vote, the hearing looks set to resume.
The hearing is recessed for a break
11:05 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: They are taking a break to vote on the House floor.
The ‘drug deal’ quote
11 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Hill said she was told by Bolton after a July 10 meeting that she needed to go to John Eisenberg, White House counsel, and tell him that he, Bolton, was in “no way a part of this ‘drug deal’ that Sondland and Mulvaney had cooked up.”
‘A hand grenade'
10:50 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Hill, who worked closely with former chief of staff John Bolton, said she talked to him about Yovanovitch’s dismissal, with the help of Giuliani.
“Ambassador Bolton had looked pained, indicated with body language that there was nothing he could do about it” then said, “Mr. Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everyone up.”
Goldman asked her what that meant.
“That Mr. Giuliani was pushing views that would probably come back to haunt us, and that’s where we are today,” Hill said.
‘Predicated on other issues’
10:40 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Hill is asked about the July 25 call and notes that she left the White House before the call took place. However, she said, “In the months leading up” to it, “it became very clear the White House meeting itself was being predicated on other issues, namely investigations and the questions about the election interference in 2016.”
She said she found the call ‘surprising.”
Hearing the phone call
10:30 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Goldman asks Holmes about the phone call and how Holmes was able to hear it. Holmes describes the call that happened on the terrace of a restaurant in Kyiv.
Holmes said he heard Trump’s loud and distinctive voice and that Sondland held the phone out from his ear because the volume was so loud.
What did he hear, Goldman asked. “He clarified whether he (Sondland) was in Ukraine... he said, ‘is he gonna do the investigation.”
“You heard that,” Goldman asked.
“What was Sondland’s response?”
“He said oh yeah, he’s gonna do it, he’ll do anything you ask.”
Was the phone unsecured, Goldman asked. It was, said Holmes.
Hill warns of Russian interests10:15 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” Hill said.
“I say this not as an alarmist, but as a realist. … Right now, Russia’s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them.
In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
The aid and the phone call
10 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Holmes said he agrees with Taylor and Yovanovitch’s testimony.
He goes on to talk about the hold on military aid. “My clear impression was that the hold was intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction … or as an attempt to increase the pressure on them to do so.”
The phone call he said he heard happened on July 26. He said about it: “During the lunch, Ambassador Sondland said that he was going to call President Trump to give him an update. Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone, and I heard him announce himself several times, along the lines of: Gordon Sondland holding for the President.
“It appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistants. I then noticed Ambassador Sondland’s demeanor change, and understood that he had been connected to President Trump.
“While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speaker phone, I could hear the President’s voice through the ear piece of the phone. The President’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume.
I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote, unquote, loves your ass.
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,” adding that President Zelensky will quote, “Do anything you ask him to.”
Giuliani took ‘active role’
9:50 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Holmes said of Sondland, “He made clear that he had direct and frequent access to president Trump and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.” He went on to say that Giuliani took an active role when it came to Ukraine. “Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani had a direct influence on the policy that the three amigos (Sondland, Rick Perry, and Kirk Volker) were executing on the ground in Ukraine,” Holmes said.
Holmes goes first
9:40 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Holmes gives his opening statement first and says he did not seek to testify but was subpoenaed. He said his goal is to testify truthfully.
He talks about his work. "My entire career has been in the service of my country," he says.
He was Marie Yovanovitch's top political adviser. He says a political agenda by Rudy Giuliani "dramatically changed" the atmosphere at the U.S. embassy.
He talks about the effort to remove Yovanovitch from her post. He again blames Giuliani for promoting falsehoods about Yovanovitch. He also talks about Giuliani's comments about Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and the Bidens.
9:30 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Nunes calls for a "minority day of hearings."
The hearing has started
9:07 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Schiff is giving his opening statement. He immediately begins to talk about Gordon Sondland's testimony.
“Trump put his personal and political interest above the United States," Schiff said.
Nunes claims it's the Democrats who got caught doing something wrong, not President Trump.
"They got caught trying to obtain nude photos of President Trump from Russian pranksters," he said.
Ready to go any moment
9 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: The committee members are getting into place and the hearing room is filling up. Just waiting for Hill and Holmes to take their seats.
8:45 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: The hearing will begin in 15 minutes. Hill and Holmes have arrived on Capitol Hill.
8:30 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: There will be opening statements from Hill, Holmes, committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, who is the committee’s ranking member. Then, there will be 45 minutes for the committee’s counsel – Steve Castor for the Republicans and Daniel Goldman for the Democrats. Then, the members of the committee will have five minutes each to question Hill and Holmes.
What will they be asked about
8:15 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Both Hill and Holmes have testified in closed-door sessions. Hill will likely be asked about a July 10 meeting where EU ambassador Gordon Sondland suggested that there should be investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden and the 2016 presidential election.
Holmes says he overheard a cellphone conversation between Sondland and Trump on July 26.
Let’s get started
8 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2019: Good morning and welcome to live updates from the fifth public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The hearing begins in an hour, at 9 a.m. ET. Testifying today will be former National Security Council official Fiona Hill and David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.
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