After former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s explosive testimony on Friday, another State Department official testified privately and told impeachment investigators he overheard a phone call between US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and President Donald Trump during which the president asked whether Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had agreed to investigate his political rivals, the Bidens.
A leaked copy of Holmes’s opening statement, obtained by CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, implicated Trump in very clear terms and blew up the Republican talking point that the only evidence Democrats had was “hearsay.” Holmes told congressional investigators that he heard Sondland tell the president that Zelensky was willing to do “anything you ask him to” and that Zelensky committed to “do the investigation.”
Holmes heard this while at a restaurant with Sondland when the ambassador took a phone call from the president and overheard the call because Trump was speaking loudly, Holmes said. “I could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The president’s voice was very loud and recognizable,” Holmes told investigators.
“Zelensky loves your ass,” Sondland told the president, according to Holmes.
“So, he’s going to do the investigation?” Trump asked.
The ambassador answered, “He’s gonna do it,” adding, “Zelensky’s going to do anything you ask him to.”
While Holmes admitted he did not take notes contemporaneously, he told other embassy officials about the call and said that he had “a clear recollection that these statements were made.” He also said that his colleagues sitting at the table also knew Trump was on the phone.
The call then moved, somewhat hilariously, to the topic of A$AP Rocky, a rapper currently jailed in Sweden, but Holmes said at that point, he could only hear Sondland’s side of the call. Sondland told Trump that the rapper was “kind of fucked” here and should have pled guilty. “You can tell the Kardashians you tried,” Sondland said, implying that the celebrity family had been lobbying for his release.
After the call, Sondland remarked that the president was in “a bad mood,” which he said was typical early in the morning. Holmes said he “took the opportunity” to ask Sondland what the president thought of Ukraine, and Sondland replied that Trump doesn’t “give a shit about” Ukraine and only cares about the “big stuff” — namely, “the Biden investigation” that could help the president and that was being pursued by the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland is scheduled to testify next week.
So not only did Holmes render moot the GOP talking point that all the evidence thus far was “hearsay,” he told investigators that was one of his reasons for coming forward. He said his recollection of events was “generally consistent” with others’ testimony and said he had read media reports “noting the lack of first-hand evidence in the investigation and suggesting that the only evidence being elicited at the hearings was ‘hearsay.’ I came to realize I had first-hand knowledge regarding certain events… that had not otherwise been reported.”
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