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State Dept. official confirms Trump-Sondland conversation on Ukraine probes: report
David Holmes, a State Department aide, reportedly confirmed in his closed-door testimony Friday that he overheard a conversation between President Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland regarding their efforts to convince Ukraine to open investigations that could politically benefit the president.
Holmes said he overheard Sondland on July 26 tell Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would do "anything you ask him to," and that he confirmed Kyiv was going to "do the investigation."
"Sondland told Trump that Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. "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 Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.'"
Holmes told House lawmakers Trump was speaking so loudly that he could overhear the conversation.
"While Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President's voice through the earpiece of the phone. The President's voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume," Holmes testified.
"Even though I did not take notes of those statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made."
Holmes also testified that he asked Sondland after the call if it was true that Trump "did not 'give a shit about Ukraine."
Holmes told investigators Sondland responded that Trump only cares about "big stuff."
"'Big stuff' that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani was pushing," Holmes said Sondland responded when he noted that the war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine was big.
The conversation between Trump and Sondland was first brought to Congress's attention Wednesday in the public testimony of William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Taylor said the conversation was relayed to him last week by a member of his staff and that it took place after Sondland met with a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, in Ukraine.
The revelation of the conversation between Trump and Sondland was one of the biggest headlines to come from Taylor's testimony, with some lawmakers pointing to it as proof that Trump was directing the effort to get Ukraine to open investigations that would benefit him.
House Democrats launched their impeachment investigation in September amid concerns that Trump may have leveraged $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a chief political rival, on unfounded corruption allegations.