House Democrats continued to make their case for impeaching President Donald Trump as Fiona Hill, a former top Russia expert for the White House, and David Holmes, a senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, testified during the fifth day of public hearings.
Hill blasted Republicans for attempting to spread a "fictional narrative" that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
“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,” Hill said in her opening statement.
She warned that the partisan fighting over Russian interference has only emboldened the Kremlin.
“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 said. “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
She defended her testimony, along with the testimony of her colleagues, telling Rep. Brad Wenstrup that they had a "moral obligation" to testify about what they saw and heard while working for President Trump.
"All of us who came here under a legal obligation also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came here as fact witnesses," she said. "We are here to relate to you what we saw, what we heard, and what we did and to be of some help to all of you to make a momentous decision here. We are not the people who make that decision."
Holmes provided testimony that he believed there was a quid pro quo for a White House meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Zelensky publicly announcing a corruption investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. He said that he became aware that a $400 million military aid package had been frozen on June 18 during a conference call with the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"The official said the order had come from the president and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further explanation," he said.
He then spoke about a phone conversation between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump. Holmes said that he “heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he's gonna do the investigation?’” and that "Ambassador Sondland replied that "he's gonna do it.'"
Holmes said that by September, he had come to believe the military aid was being withheld until Ukraine agreed to launch the investigations that Trump had asked for.
"By this point, however, my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so."
He said that he was "shocked" by the demand to have a foreign leader commit to investigating Trump's political rival.
“This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit, on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival,” Holmes said, adding, “I was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete.”
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