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Good morning & welcome back to the #impeachmentinquiry. Today we hear testimony from Fiona Hill, the former senior Russia expert on the National Security Council; and diplomat David Holmes, political counsel for the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Testimony kicks off at 9AM ET.
The sun is shining on the Longworth Building this morning. Inside, spectators are already lined up, waiting for their chance to witness history in the making.
Live-tweet session begins at 9AM ET.
POTUS refers to duly elected Representative Adam Schiff, and safe to assume, all Democrats or people who do not agree with his perspectives, as human scum this morning.
In her opener, Fiona Hill addresses lawmakers who believe Russia didn't interfere in elections & it was Ukraine instead:
"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."
@CourthouseNews Powerfully stated from Hill.
"The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign
remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart.
Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert
career foreign service is being undermined."
cc: @KlasfeldReports
@CourthouseNews @KlasfeldReports We will be underway very shortly.
@CourthouseNews @KlasfeldReports Chairman Schiff begins with an opening statement.
He begins by reflecting on Gordon Sondland's testimony and the investigations Trump sought: probes into Joe Biden and a probe pursuing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in 2016.
@CourthouseNews @KlasfeldReports "In conditioning a meeting with Zelensky and securing an investigation of his rival, Trump put his personal and political interests above the United States," Schiff says.
@CourthouseNews @KlasfeldReports On David Holmes, Schiff recalls Holmes private testimony where he said: "Following the Zelensky inauguration, Sondland and Perry took a very active and unconventional role in formulating our priorities for the new Zelensky administration.
And that included personally reaching out to President Zelensky and his senior team.”
Schiff notes one remarkable exchange between Hill and Gordon Sondland from June 18, according to Hill private testimony: When Sondland told Hill he was in charge of Ukr. policy, Sondland got "testy," she said. She asked who put him in charge.
His answer?
"The President."
Schiff is going through the key points in Holmes testimony. Tracing the timeline:
Following a meeting with Zelensky, Holmes accompanied Gordon Sondland to a separate meeting w/one of the Ukrainian president’s top advisors, Andriy Yermak.
But Holmes was not allowed into the meeting and waited for thirty minutes while Sondland and the Ukrainian met alone – without any note-takers to record what was said.
After the meeting, Sondland, Holmes and two other State Dept. staff went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. At some point during the meal, Sondland pulled out his cell phone, placed a call to the White House and asked to be connected to the President
When Trump came on the line, Holmes could hear the President’s voice clearly. Holmes recalled that “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.”
Sondland said he was calling from Kiev. He told the Pres. “that Pres. Zelensky ‘loves your ass.’” Holmes then heard Trump ask: So he’s going to do the investigation? Amb. Sondland said that ‘he’s going to do it,’ adding that Pres. Zelensky will, ‘do anything you ask him to.’ “
Nunes decries Democrats and carries the President's water, saying it is not Trump who "got caught" it was the Democrats. He calls the impeachment process a sham etc.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California says the inquiry is an attempt to "overthrow the President" and says Dems have "poisoned the mind of fanatics who actually believe the entirety of bizzare accusations against the President."
Nunes addresses an item from Hill opening remarks, where she will say some lawmakers deny Russia meddled in 2016 election.
Good photo op: Holding up a copy of the 240-page:
"As I noted on Wed., in March 2018, Intel Republicans published the results of a year long ivnestigation into Russian meddling."
Both Hill and Holmes are sworn in.
@CourthouseNews "I became aware Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy." - David Holmes says.
His full opening remarks available here:
@CourthouseNews Holmes: It's important to understand that a WH visit was critical to President Zelensky. President Zelensky needed to show US support at the highest levels in order to
demonstrate to Putin that he had US backing, as well as to advance his ambitious anti-corruption reforms at home
@CourthouseNews Holmes; Over the following months, it became apparentGiuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine.
In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine.
My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, “Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f---s everything up."

@CourthouseNews Color from inside the chambers: I just watched a public spectator - who is also a mom - lovingly tuck her son's scarf around his neck. It warmed my cold, tired heart.
Holmes was "deeply disappointed" that Trump didn't discuss the established US initiatives, instead raised Biden/Burisma:
Details from the phone call Holmes overheard between Trump/Sondland. But not just revealing on Ukr. issue. Reveals how optics used and how people are often mere pawns to the powerful.

On A$AP Rocky:
Let him get sentenced. Play the race card and later, give him a ticker tape.
Holmes: On September 8, Amb. Taylor told him, “now they’re insisting Zelenskyy commit to the investigation in an interview with CNN,” which Holmes took to refer to the Three Amigos.
Holmes: "I was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete. While we had dvised our Ukr.
counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law & generally investigating credible corruption allegations...
"This was a demand that Zelensky personally commit on a cable news to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival," Holmes said.
Holmes over last few weeks has read press reports expressing that certain senior officials were acting w/o Trump knowledge and "freelancing" dealings w/Ukraine.
Holmes: "At the same time, I also read reports noting the lack of “first-hand” evidence in the investigation and suggesting that the only evidence being elicited at the hearings was
“hearsay.” I came to realize I had first-hand knowledge regarding...
"...certain events on July 26 that had not otherwise been reported, and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the President did, in fact, have knowledge that those sr officials were using the
levers of our diplomatic power...
"to induce the new Ukrainian President to announce the opening of a criminal investigation against President Trump’s political opponent," Holmes testified.
"It is at that point that I made the observation to Ambassador Taylor that the incident I had witnessed on July 26 had acquired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony last week and is what
led to the subpoena for my appearance here today."
Born in England, Hill is the child of immigrants and first became a U.S. citizen in 2002.
She has served under three administrations, including Republican and Democratic presidents.
"[I] can say with confidence that this country has offered me opportunities I never would have had in England. I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent,” Hill said.
But this “never” set her back in America, she told lawmakers.
Hill: “For the better part of three decades, I have built a career as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional focusing on Europe and Eurasia and specially the Soviet Union."
Hill: The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign
remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart.
Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert
career foreign service is being undermined.
Hill continues: "U.S. support for Ukraine—which continues to face armed Russian aggression—has been politicized.
The Russian government’s goal is to weaken our
country—to diminish America’s global role and to
neutralize a perceived U.S. threat to Russian interests."
"President Putin and the Russian security services aim to
counter U.S. foreign policy objectives in Europe,
including in Ukraine, where Moscow wishes to reassert
political and economic dominance."
Fiona Hill: "I say this not as an alarmist, but as a realist. I do not think long-term conflict with Russia is either desirable or inevitable. I continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with Moscow even as we counter their efforts to harm us."
Hill: 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.
A plea from the former senior Russia expert on the National Security Council: "In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests."
cc: @KlasfeldReports
@KlasfeldReports @CourthouseNews Schiff remarks how we have heard a number of "immigrant stories" over the course of televised hearings. Hill, Vindman and others came here by choice and Schiff says "we are so blessed that you did. Welcome."
@KlasfeldReports @CourthouseNews Why are the Russians pushing the Ukraine meddling narrative?
Hill says that serves Russia's interest because it delegitimizes the entire presidency.
The goal of the Russians was to put whoever became the president, by trying to tip one side of the scale, under a cloud.
Fiona Hill testifies that if @HillaryClinton had been elected, "as indeed, many expected, she too would have had major questions about her legitimacy."
@HillaryClinton There are many players that try to game the outcome of an election. Fiona Hill says Russians were "making their bets but what they wanted was a spread" with a variety of chaotic outcomes possible.
cc: @KlasfeldReports
@HillaryClinton @KlasfeldReports Schiff made this note last night and he is revisiting it today: it's the hypocrisy that sticks out to him. The hypocrisy of asking Ukraine to beat back corruption meanwhile the White House is involved in this corrupt political plot.
@HillaryClinton @KlasfeldReports Schiff asks if Holmes believes Ukraine felt pressured to conduct the investigations sought by POTUS?
Holmes: Yes, sir. Ukrainians understood this was something the president wanted... I think that this continues until this day.
Zelensky has his first face-to-face with Putin soon.
Holmes: "This doesn't end with lifting a security assistance hold."

Ukraine is still fighting a hot war today
Dem counsel Goldman asks Holmes to describe the scene at the restaurant where he overheard Sondland talking to Holmes.
They were at the first tables on the terrace, immediately outside the interior of the restaurant. Doors were wide open, tables for 2 were pushed together.
Holmes was across from Sondland, close enough they could share an appetizer between them. Two staffers off to their right at the very next table.

Holmes says he could hear Trump through the phone, though not on speaker, because he was speaking so loud.
Holmes mimics how Sondland cringed at the high volume.
Holmes also notes that he has spoken on phone with POTUS before, and his loud volume is typical.
Sondland told Holmes that Trump "doesn't really care about Ukraine."
Goldman: Did he use more colorful language?
Holmes: Yes
Goldman: Did he explain what he does care about?
Holmes: Big stuff.
Goldman asks what the "big stuff" is.
Holmes says Sondland meant Burisma, Bidens
How is Holmes recollection so clear?
Holmes: This is my experience, if someone has lunch and takes a call from POTUS - very distinctive voice, very distinctive personality, very colorful language - they were directly addressing something I had been working on for weeks & months
He continues: They were addressing "a topic that led to the recall of my former boss, the former ambassasdor. And here was someone [Sondland] who said he had direct contact with POTUS and here is, now talking to the POTUS, talking about this investigation I've been hearing about"
Dem counsel opens a line of Q that is dancing around it a bit, but is about Putin's influence on Trump and getting him to sour on Ukraine.
The groundwork: Goldman notes Trump's phone call with Putin in May and the meeting in mid-May with Hungary Pres. Orban and Putin which happened inbetween time Zel elected and his inaug.
Goldman builds out more of the Pence aspect to this.
Is it true Trump asked Pence to attend the inaug after his phone call w/Zel on Apr 21?
Hill isn't sure and wasn't in "any meeting where that took place" but she reaffirms how badly NSC wanted Pence involved w/Ukr.
"I can say myself and others at NSC were quite keen and eager to have Pence go to Ukraine to represent the U.S.," she says.

I know I am a broken record, but this is a bone I just can't let go of - I want to see Keith Kellogg, Pence's nat sec adviser, subpoaened.
Goldman to Hill: Was it apparent that Trump/Giuliani or anyone else pushing for investigation into Burisma, the reason why they wanted it, was because it was related to the Bidens?
Hill: It was very apparent to me that is what he intended and he said this to me repeatedly.
Hill testified that the WH meeting was conditioned on the investigations sought by Trump into Burisma/Biden/2016.
Why were Sondland/Volker/Perry incl. in meeting with 2 Ukr. officials about nat sec matters?
Initially, Hill testifies, they weren't going to be included.
Then there was a request to include Sondland and Volker, coming "directly from their offices" and given important role Perry was playing in energy matters in Ukr., Hill says "We decided it would be best to include all three."
It's easy to explain why Sondland has diff. expalnation for how this came to be. She recalls:
The meeting was initially scheduled for 45 mins to 1hr. It was in the wrap up phase of the meeting, they went through a series of dsicussions about how to form NSC w/Ukrainians.
"It was important for Ukr. to get energy sector reform underway. We knew that Ukr. would have on agenda, the inevitable question about a meeting," she says, referring to the WH meeting.
As they're wrapping up, Zel's frmr nat sec adviser Oleksandr Danylyuk asks about WH meeting.
"He's not in charge of scheduling, so it's not Bolton's role to start pulling out the schedule to see what works. And he doesn't like to discuss details of meetings. He prefers to leave them to appropriate staff. It was already an uncomfortable issue," she says.
Then Sondland leans in and says, "Well, we have an agreement, there will be a meeting, specific investigations discussed."
That's when she saw Bolton stiffen, she says as she mimics how Bolton's body tensed.
It was "unmistakable body language," she says.
Goldman asks what Hill understood the "drug deal" comment from Bolton to mean?
"I took it to mean investigations for Burisma," Hill testifies.
Goldman: Did you speak to the lawyers {at NSC]
Hill: I certainly did.
And she relayed it precisely then as she did today.
We are on a break while lawmakers vote. Live-tweet resumes shortly.
Story updated but will continue to develop. courthousenews.com/trumps-ukraine…
The #impeachmentinquiry hearings will resume close to 12:30PM ET.
@CourthouseNews We will be underway momentarily. Both Hill and Holmes have returned. If watching you will shortly notice that the minority has created yet another poster that is out of context and factually inaccurate. This one says "0 Days Since Adam Schiff Followed House Rules"
@CourthouseNews The rules were established, the rules were voted on. I've been following along pretty closely and my observation is that the inquiry rules have not been broken.
Background: courthousenews.com/house-nails-do…
@CourthouseNews Just like that, away we go. Nunes begins. He wants to "get a bunch of facts on the table" with Holmes and Hill.
Nunes asks if they have met with Alexandra Chalupa, Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr, Glenn Simpson. Holmes has met none.
Hill has met Bruce Ohr years ago, unrelated to this &
She met with Christopher Steele in 2016. He had retired from British Intelligence Services in 2009. She doesn't recall the date they met.

In her depo, Hill confirmed she saw Steele Dossier day before it was published in BuzzFeed.
She called the dossier a "rabbit hole."
Nunes - is that still your testimony?
That's correct.
Nunes asks if she knows who paid Steele.
Hill said she didn't know until media reported that it was GPS Fusion.
Now we are onto GOP counsel questions from Steve Castor.
Did she know a call was going to be scheduled for July 25, what was the thinking at NSC about such a call?
Hill: I've learned from other depositions that there may be a call.
She also said Sondland indicated to Tim Morrison that there would be a call and she learned of it that way.

She learned about the freezd on military assistance on July 18.
Castor back to point discussed several times: the normalcy of holds on military aid.
It happens and it is permitted. But the aspect of this that is often avoided during GOP rounds is whether the proper protocol for rescinding hold took place.
WH Press Secy Grisham blasts out a statement as we are just minutes into this hearing. Grisham says Dems rely on witness "presumptions and opinions without direct knowledge."

This is false. For example, Holmes heard the call between Sondland and Trump first hand.
Was she encouraged on her last day that U.S. policy toward Ukr. was "headed in the right direction"?

"I was not," she Hill says.
The removal of the ambassador was a red flag, for one. Hill also says she understands that POTUS can remove ambs. at any time for any reason. But she says she was concerned about circumstances that left Yovanovitch reputation maligned repeatedly. "That was completely unnecesary."
Pence continually on periphery of this.
Castor asks if the delegation that went in Pence's place was a "good size group." It was.
"This was on the taxpayer's dime and it's pretty expensive getting people there. If we had longer lead time, perhaps we would have made better arrangements."
On Secy Perry's involvement -
Hill: It made perfect sense given his role as energy secy and deep role of energy industry.

Just a note - Perry announced his plan to resign as soon as the Ukraine scandal broke wide open. It was "planned," he said. But for your own edification.
*Deep role in, not of.

Regret the typos.
Nunes to Hill: Did you ever brief POTUS or Bolton about any concerns through 2017-18 concerning '16 election meddling or Burisma concerns?
Hill: The briefing proces doesn't work in way you're suggesting. If POTUS asked about it, it would be provided for him.
Hill: Ukraine was not a top foreign policy during this period in the same way many others were like Syria/Turkey.
"Things take place when there is a scheduled meeting," Hill said.
GOP counsel asks Sondland about his "namedropping" of POTUS - Castor asks about a so-called coffee meeting Sondland had with Hill on her last day.
Hill explains: during her last week in office, it wasn't a scheduled meeting, they ran into each other, it was a very informal. They sat down with dir. of EU and Colonel Vindman and an assistant brought over from State by Sondland.
He conflated this mtg with another one
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