Fiona Hill and David Holmes testify at impeachment hearing
Washington -- Two pivotal witnesses testifying at the last public hearing in the impeachment inquiry before Congress leaves for the Thanksgiving holiday.
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Fiona Hill, a former senior director for Russia on the National Security Council (NSC), and David Holmes, a diplomat in the U.S. embassy in Kiev, are appearing together before the House Intelligence Committee.
Hill was present for a meeting at the White House on July 10, in which U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland raised the prospect of investigations into the 2016 campaign and a company tied to the Bidens with high-level Ukrainian officials. Hill testified earlier that her boss at the time, National Security Adviser John Bolton, told her to report the incident to the top lawyer on the NSC, likening it to a "drug deal."
In her opening statement, Hill 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."
Holmes overheard a conversation between Sondland and President Trump on July 26, a day after the president urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open the investigations. Holmes said Sondland told the president that Zelensky would do "anything you ask him to."
8:23 a.m.: In her prepared opening statement, Hill says the notion by some Republicans that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 campaign is a fiction.
"Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country -- and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did," she said. "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."
Hill said the "impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today."
"Our nation is being torn apart," she continued. "Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined."
She declines to rehash her earlier testimony in her opening statement, instead issuing a warning that "we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm." -- Stefan Becket
How Thursday's hearing will play out
7:15 a.m.: Thursday's proceedings will follow the same format as the previous hearings, and adhere to the rules adopted by the full House several weeks ago.
At the beginning of each hearing, Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes will deliver opening statements. The witnesses will then be sworn in and allowed to read a statement of her own.
Schiff and Nunes will then each control a period of 45 minutes, when they can ask questions or delegate to staff members to do so. Schiff has turned to Daniel Goldman, senior adviser and director of investigations on the committee, to ask question the witnesses. Nunes relies on Steve Castor, the counsel for the Republican minority.
After that, the hearing will move to questioning from individual members, alternating periods of five minutes between both parties. Schiff can add additional rounds at his discretion.
Witnesses can also request breaks in questioning if needed. -- Stefan Becket
Who is Fiona Hill?
6:30 a.m.: Hill is a former senior director and top Russia expert on the National Security Council who left her post in July, before the president's call with Zelensky.
In her closed-door testimony before House lawmakers in October, Hill testified about the July 10 meeting at the White House with Ukrainian officials where Sondland brought up investigations.
"Ambassador Sondland had basically indicated that there was an agreement with the chief of staff that they would have a White House meeting or, you know, a presidential meeting if the Ukrainians started up these investigations again," she told the committees in earlier testimony.
She said Bolton cut the meeting short and told her to "go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of this drug deal that Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," referring to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer on the NSC, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Hill testified that Bolton "described Giuliani as a bit of a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up" and "made it very clear that, you know, again, he didn't think anybody should be dealing with Giuliani."
-- Stefan Becket
Who is David Holmes?
5:45 a.m.: Holmes is a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Bill Taylor, the top diplomat at the embassy, first revealed in testimony last week that Holmes had overheard Sondland talking about investigations with Mr. Trump on July 26.
"So, he's gonna do the investigation?" Holmes said he heard Mr. Trump ask. "He's gonna do it," Sondland replied, adding he'd do "anything you ask him to."
Holmes said Sondland later told him that "the president did not 'give a s--t about Ukraine'" and that he only cares about "big stuff" like the "Biden investigation."