More than a dozen witnesses confirmed that a quid pro quo took place — and the order to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election came directly from Trump. The information gathered during the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings laid the foundation for the House Judiciary Committee’s articles of impeachment that charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Now impeachment moves to the Senate, where Democrats will rely on the witness testimony as evidence for Trump’s conviction and removal.
Here are some of the most important takeaways from the bombshell witness testimony given before the House Intelligence Committee:
On Thursday, November 21, Fiona Hill, former Senior Director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, added their expert testimony regarding Trump’s bribery scheme.
Both Hill and Holmes corroborated what we’ve heard throughout the week:
- Hill directly tied both Ambassador Sondland and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to the bribery scheme, including that Sondland and Mulvaney met regularly.
- Holmes testified that he had a “clear impression” that Ukraine military aid was being withheld because there had not been an announcement of investigations.
- Both witnesses confirmed that everybody knew Burisma was code for the Biden investigations.
Holmes confirmed a top adviser to President Zelensky was contacted by “someone named Giuliani who said he was an adviser to the Vice President,” further tying Pence to the bribery scheme and suggesting the Ukrainians considered Giuliani to be an official agent of the U.S. government.
“By this point, my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”
— David Holmes, Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine
On Wednesday, November 20, we heard from E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland — a major Trump donor — who was expected to be a key GOP witness. Instead, he flipped and explicitly tied Trump to the Ukraine bribery scheme.
Here’s what he said:
- There was a “quid pro quo” (the Latin phrase for bribery)
- Sondland worked with Giuliani to pressure Ukraine “at the express direction of the president.”
- “Everybody was in the loop. It was no secret”: Sondland stated that Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and others in Trump’s inner circle knew about the effort to extort Ukraine.
- It was “abundantly clear” that military aid was contingent on the announcement of investigations. Sondland testified that Secretary Pompeo agreed that Ukraine announcing the investigations would “break the logjam” and release the aid.
Sondland’s account established a direct link between Trump and the plot to solicit a bribe from Ukraine in exchange for the release of military aid and a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president. The bribe Trump demanded? Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election in the form of announcing an investigation into the Bidens. His testimony shattered any remaining GOP defense of Trump.
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a “quid pro quo?” As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
— E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland
Later in the day, we heard testimony from Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and State Department official David Hale.
Here’s what happened:
- Cooper revealed that Ukrainian officials knew that aid was being withheld on July 25 — the same day as the now infamous call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.
On Tuesday, November 19, we heard from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs for the National Security Council, Jennifer Williams, the State Department official who serves as a special advisor to Vice President Pence on European and Russian affairs, Tim Morrison, former NSC top adviser for Russia and Europe, and Kurt Volker, an American diplomat who served as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO.
Here are the highlights:
- Vindman and Williams — who both listened in on Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian President — confirmed that Trump asked the Ukrainians to investigate his political rival. According to their testimony, they were alarmed by the call and found Trump’s demands “inappropriate.”
- Volker confirmed that a White House meeting was contingent on the launch of investigations into Trump’s political rivals. This further corroborates the towering pile of evidence about the bribery scheme.
- Morisson confirmed that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland conditioned the aid to Ukraine on an investigation into the Bidens.
Both Morisson and Volker were supposed to be the Republicans’ “star witnesses” — instead they provided testimony that confirms Trump broke the law and committed an impeachable offense.
On Friday, November 15, former Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch testified that she was removed from her position because she was seen as an obstacle to Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.
We also know:
- Trump attempted to smear Yovanovitch because it became clear she would not undermine U.S. foreign policy to do his bidding. He was threatened by her reputation as an anti-corruption crusader.
On Wednesday, November 13, public testimony began with former Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent. They set the stage for the hearings by confirming the crime at the center of the Ukraine scandal: Trump withheld military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.
Here are the main takeaways:
- Taylor confirmed the Ukrainians knew the military aid was withheld and felt pressure to cave to Trump’s demands to launch an investigation.
- Taylor revealed new information: a member of his staff overheard a phone conversation between Trump and Ambassador Sondland where the president was talking about the investigations. After the call, Sondland told Taylor that Trump was only interested in the Bidens when it came to Ukraine policy.
“…The directive had come from the president [of the United States] to the Chief of Staff to OMB. In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened. The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy.”
–– Bill Taylor, former Ukraine Ambassador