Embassy official says he heard Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine ‘investigations’
A State Department official told the House impeachment inquiry on Friday that he heard President Trump talking with E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland about “investigations” in Ukraine.
David Holmes, the political counsel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, testified behind closed doors that he was at a restaurant in Kiev on July 26 when Sondland spoke to Trump over the phone, a day after Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In his opening statement, posted online by CNN and confirmed by Fox News, Holmes said that Trump was talking so loudly that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear, which allowed others to hear.
Holmes said Sondland told Trump that Zelensky “loves your ass” to which Trump responded: “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?
“He’s gonna do it,” Sondland replied.
The testimony relates to the claim by House Democrats that Trump had attempted a quid pro quo for military aid by urging Zelensky to “look into” alleged Ukraine interference in the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden’s conduct in the country — particularly the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating an energy company on which Hunter Biden sat on the board.
Trump has denied such a quid pro quo, and allies have noted that the military aid was eventually released — and that Zelensky did not know that the aid was being withheld at the time of the call.
According to Holmes, Sondland said immediately after the July 26 call that the president did not “give a sh** about Ukraine” and only cared about “big stuff” like the “Biden investigation.”
Holmes was brought to the inquiry’s attention when Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that a staff member told him they overheard the phone call.
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor said in his opening statement on Wednesday. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said Holmes’ testimony counters the claims by Republicans that the inquiry has been based on hearsay.
“He has firsthand knowledge of the conversation between Ambassador Sondland and the president of the United States,” Lieu told The Associated Press. “He overheard the conversation.”
But Republicans brushed off the testimony.
“Someone loves your ass — we’re going to impeach a President over that? OK,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., told CNN.
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.