AP

Diplomat says of Trump Ukraine call: ‘I remember it vividly’

Nov 18, 2019, 8:00 PM
David Holmes, a career diplomat and the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, a...
David Holmes, a career diplomat and the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Washington, to testify before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The phone call State Department official David Holmes overheard between President Donald Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland lasted just two minutes. But it won’t be easily forgotten.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Holmes told Trump impeachment investigators, “someone calling the President from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There’s just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly.”

Holmes’ first-hand account of the conversation heard over lunch in Kyiv provides a key piece of the impeachment inquiry. He is among the only witnesses testifying so far to show Trump personally seeking investigations into Democrats and his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden that are central to the probe.

A transcript of Holmes’ closed-door testimony was released Monday. Holmes, a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is scheduled to testify publicly Thursday.

The conversation between the president and the ambassador came one day after the July 25 call when Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor with the investigations. At the time, the Trump administration was withholding $391 million in military aid to the ally in what Democrats say amounts to “bribery.” Trump says he did nothing wrong. A whistleblower’s complaint about it led the House to launch the impeachment inquiry.

Holmes joined Sondland and others during the lunch meeting and told investigators Trump was talking so loudly he could hear the president clearly on the ambassador’s phone.

“I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’” Holmes testified. “Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will, quote, ‘do anything you ask him to.’”

Holmes said he didn’t take notes of the conversation he overheard between Trump and Sondland but remembers it “vividly.”

Pressed during the closed-session interview if anyone helped him recall the details, Holmes said, “that wouldn’t have been needed, sir, because, as I said, the event itself was so distinctive that I remember it very clearly.”

A transcript was also released late Monday from an interview with David Hale, the State Department’s No. 3 official.

Hale was questioned earlier this month about the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who delivered chilling testimony last week about her ouster amid a “smear” campaign by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

As the undersecretary of State for political affairs, Hale said he repeatedly pushed for a State Department statement defending the ambassador, who spent a 33-year career in the foreign service. But that effort failed.

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “most likely would have been the person” to make the decision not to publicly support Yovanovitch.

Hale provided new information with call records showing Pompeo and Giuliani had been in touch twice, on March 28 and March 29, around the time of her ouster. Hale is set to testify publicly Wednesday.

The impeachment inquiry is bringing to light the oversized role Giuliani is playing in Trump’s Ukraine policy, in what other diplomats have suggested amounts to a shadow diplomacy, outside of official channels.

Holmes said it became clear Giuliani was pursing the investigations Trump wanted.

“Mr. Giuliani was promoting the investigations issue,” Holmes testified. “I guess I would say that Giuliani was sort of meddling in Ukrainian affairs by asking them to open an investigation that would — could be perceived as meddling in U.S. politics.”

After meetings in Kyiv, Holmes joined Sondland and others for lunch at an outside restaurant.

It was surprising, he testified, when Sondland called Trump even though “we generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored.” He said at least two of the three — and maybe all three — mobile networks in Ukraine are owned by Russian companies.

“In my experience, generally, phone calls with the President are very sensitive and handled accordingly,” he testified.

He asked Sondland about Trump’s views on Ukraine. Sondland told him Trump does not “give a shit” about Ukraine, saying he only cares about “big stuff.” Holmes noted Ukraine is, in fact, at war with Russia. But Sondland told Trump was more concerned with the “big stuff that matters to him, like this Biden investigation that Giuliani is pushing.”

Holmes said, “I think the Ukrainians gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something in exchange for the meeting and the security assistance hold being lifted.”
__
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
3 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
4 days ago
Trump pictured. A lawsuit against Trump was just filed in new york...
Associated Press

NY attorney general sues Donald Trump and his company

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization.
5 days ago
el helicoide caracas...
RODRIQUE NGOWI, GISELA SALOMON and CLAUDIA TORRENS Associated Press

Surprise is key part of migrant travel from Florida, Texas

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — The chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was wrapping up work when she looked outside to see 48 strangers at her office with luggage, backpacks and red folders that included brochures for her organization. The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday […]
7 days ago
school classrooms...
Collin Binkley Associated Press

Reading, math scores fell sharply during pandemic, data show

WASHINGTON (AP) — Math and reading scores for America’s 9-year-olds fell dramatically during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a new federal study — offering an early glimpse of the sheer magnitude of the learning setbacks dealt to the nation’s children. Reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years, while math […]
11 days ago
FILE - Roger Federer of Switzerland waves to spectators as he leaves the court after he lost to Ale...
HOWARD FENDRICH ASSOCIATED PRESS

Roger Federer says he is retiring from professional tennis

(AP) — Roger Federer announced Thursday that he is retiring from professional tennis at age 41 after winning 20 Grand Slam titles. This decision comes just days after the end of the U.S. Open, which is expected to be the last tournament of 23-time major champion Serena Williams’ career, and signals the real end of […]
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Diplomat says of Trump Ukraine call: ‘I remember it vividly’