- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2019

State Department official David Holmes told the impeachment inquiry that he thought Ukraine leaders got the message that President Trump wouldn’t provide military aid until they met his demands.

According to transcripts of his closed-door interview with lawmakers, Mr. Holmes was alarmed by Mr. Trump’s efforts in Ukraine that he believed were politically motivated, particularly the holdup of nearly $400 million of military aid.

“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,” he said in the closed-door deposition.

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House Democrats released the transcript of the deposition on Monday, hours after announcing that Mr. Holmes would testify at a public hearing Thursday.

Mr. Holmes, who worked as a political analyst at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, emerged as a key witness for Democrats when it was revealed that he overheard a conversation in which Mr. Trump voiced his single-minded focus on getting Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump hinges on his use of the military aid as leverage to force Ukraine to conduct investigations that would provide political benefit to the president.

Mr. Holmes told lawmakers that he was in a restaurant with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and overheard him on the phone with Mr. Trump.

He heard Mr. Trump ask whether Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky would launch the investigation of the Bidens, according to his testimony.

He said he could hear Mr. Trump say, “So, he’s going to do the investigation?”

Mr. Sondland responded that Mr. Zelensky “loves your a—” and would do “anything you ask him to.”

House Democrats view Mr. Homes’s testimony as key evidence that Mr. Trump’s policies in Ukraine were completely self-serving.

The restaurant phone call occurred a day after Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

The inquiry committees also released a transcript of the deposition of State Department official David Hale.

His testimony focused largely on the ouster of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who he initially asked to extend her tenure before Mr. Trump abruptly removed from the position in May.

Ms. Yovanovitch testified in a public hearing last Friday that the smear campaign, led by the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and some Ukrainian officials, convinced President Trump to remove her from Ukraine and ultimately set a dangerous precedent for other ambassadors.

Mr. Hale suggested — based on allegations from Ukrainian journalists that were passed along — that the false rumors about Ms. Yovanovtich traced back to the president himself, as a “roundabout way” to get rid of her.

He told lawmakers that he strongly advocated for the State Department to issue a statement of support for Ms. Yovanovitch’s long career of service as well as allow her to publicly reaffirm her support for the president and the country.

“I think the judgment was that it would be better for everyone, including the Ambassador, to try to just move past this,” he said.

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