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The House Intelligence Committee ended a week of public hearings in their impeachment inquiry with testimony from two career foreign policy officials– Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser for President Trump, and David Holmes, a political counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. Hill discussed her frustration with Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the EU, who she said was involved in a “domestic political errand” in Ukraine that deviated from standard U.S. foreign policy. Sondland had testified the day before.
Here are six key moments from the hearing:
As tensions mounted over Sondland’s involvement in Ukraine policy, Hill testified that she “had a bit of a blowup” with him. She recalled pressing Sondland on who put him in charge of Ukraine, and he told her the president had. In a second heated exchange, Hill told lawmakers “what I was angry about, was that [Sondland] wasn’t coordinating with us.”
“I was upset with him that he wasn’t fully telling us about all the meetings he was having,” she later said. “And he said to me, ‘but I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing chief of staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?’” Hill added, “He was absolutely right, because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged.”
Answering questions from Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., Hill questioned Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday that he initially did not know that Trump’s interest in investigating the Ukraine energy company, Burisma, also meant investigating the Bidens. Former vice president Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, once sat on the board for Burisma.
“It is not credible to me at all that he was oblivious. He did not say ‘Bidens,’ however, he just said ‘Burisma.’”
Hill and Holmes each discussed growing concern in the national security community about the involvement of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in Ukraine policy. Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Hill about comments made by her boss, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton.
According to Hill, Bolton told her “Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.”
“Did you understand what he meant by that?” Goldman asked.
“I did, actually,” Hill said. “I think he meant that obviously what Mr. Giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case. He was frequently on television making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this. And that he was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us. And in fact, I think that’s where we are today.”
President Trump has raised concerns that officials in Ukraine attempted to undermine his 2016 election campaign. Hill said on Thursday that Russia hopes to sow discord in the U.S., including by promoting misinformation about who interfered in the U.S. elections.
“The goal of the Russians was really to put whoever became the president — by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale — under a cloud,” Hill said, answering questions from House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Thursday. “What we’re seeing here, as a result of all of these narratives, is this is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for. If they seed misinformation, if they seed doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate… that they would pit one part of our electorate against the other.”
In both his closed-door and public testimonies, Holmes discussed overhearing a cell phone conversation between Trump and Sondland.
“While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speaker phone, I could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone,” Holmes said. “The president’s voice was loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume.”
Holmes went on to say he could hear Trump ask whether Zelensky is “going to do the investigation.” Sondland, according to Holmes, replied yes, that Zelensky “will do anything you ask him to do.”
In his closing statement, Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, chronicles what he characterizes as a concerted effort by Democrats to push out Trump since he took office.
“What you’ve seen in this room over the past two weeks is a show trial, the planned result of three years of political operations and dirty tricks,” Nunes said. “Campaigns waged against this president. And like any good show trial, the verdict was decided before the trial ever began.”
MORE: 8 video moments to watch from Day 4 of the impeachment hearings
Candice Norwood is a former digital politics reporter for the PBS NewsHour.
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