Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council staffer who advised President Trump on Russia, took aim at Republican House members in the impeachment inquiry for pushing what she called a ‘fictional narrative’ that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
A theory ranking member Devin Nunes has supported repeatedly during the hearings.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REP.
DEVIN NUNES, SAYING: “Russian hoax!...Republicans have cited numerous indications of Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIONA HILL, SAYING: “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.
This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” Hill described butting heads with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, over what she saw as two diverging diplomatic efforts in Ukraine (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIONA HILL, SAYING: "What I was angry about is that he wasn't coordinating with us.
And I actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right.
That he wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing he wasn't doing...He was being involved in a domestic political errand and we were being involved in national security foreign policy...I did say to him, 'Ambassador Sondland, I think this is all going to blow up,' and here we are." David Holmes, a U.S. embassy official stationed in Kiev - testified that in the spring, U.S. officials in Ukraine struggled and failed to convince Trump of Ukraine’s importance to the U.S..
And that America’s anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine were stymied by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID HOLMES, SAYING: “The three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support, for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.” Holmes testified that he was shocked that the US withheld military aid to Ukraine and said he eventually came to realize that aid was held up to punish or pressure Kiev into opening politically beneficial investigations that Trump wanted.
Holmes also described a July 26 phone call Trump had with Ambassador Sondland, during which Trump asked directly about the investigations.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID HOLMES, SAYING: “I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he’s gonna do the investigation?'
Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he’s gonna do it,' adding that President Zelenskyy will do 'anything you ask him to.'… Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not 'give a s--t about Ukraine.'
I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about 'big stuff.'
...Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the President, like the “Biden investigation” that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.” His account ties Trump directly to an effort to get Ukraine to launch an investigation.
It was when Republicans pressed Holmes about his recollection that lead to one of the more dramatic moments of the hearing.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REP.
JIM JORDAN, SAYING: "You told everybody!
Yet their star witness, their first witness, Ambassador Taylor, when he came here he related thirteen different conversations he had between July 18th, when the air was frozen, and September 11th, when it's released.
Thirteen different conversations never once mentioning this call!" (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID HOLMES, SAYING: "I believe Ambassador did already know when I briefed him when I returned from vacation on the sixth.
It was not news to him that the president was pushing for a Biden investigation...I refer to the call, and everyone is nodding.
Of course that's what was going on!
Of course the president is pressing for a Biden investigation before he'll do the things the Ukrainians want.
There is nodding agreement.
So did I go through every single word of the call?
Because everyone by that point agreed.
It was obvious what the president was pressing for." This comes a day after Ambassador Sondland testified he was following the president’s orders as he worked to pressure Ukraine to open up the investigations in exchange for an official presidential meeting at the White House.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: “We knew these investigations were important to the president.” And that the most senior leadership in the administration knew about the campaign.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: “Everyone was in the loop." The president vented on Twitter Thursday, calling Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff “human scum” and writing “I never in my wildest dreams thought my name would in any way be associated with the ugly word, Impeachment!”