New witness claims firsthand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes

House impeachment investigators on Friday heard from a new witness claiming firsthand knowledge of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE's effort to enlist Ukrainian leaders to dig up dirt on his domestic political opponents.

David Holmes, a State Department veteran now based in Kyiv, testified privately that he overheard a July phone conversation between Trump and Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandCongress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in which the president sought an update on "the investigation" and Sondland delivered the news Trump wanted, according to the opening remarks obtained by The Hill.

"So, he’s gonna do the investigation?" Trump asked, according to Holmes's testimony.

"He’s gonna do it," Sondland replied.

The call, Holmes said, occurred at a restaurant in Kyiv on July 26, one day after the now-famous phone conversation in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for "a favor" in the form of investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination Meghan McCain to Joy Behar: 'You guys have done a piss-poor job of convincing me that I should vote for a Democrat' MORE and the 2016 elections.

Both of those probes could have helped Trump politically, and the Democrats' impeachment inquiry is focused on whether Trump abused his office by recruiting a foreign leader for help in a U.S. election.

Trump's Republican allies have criticized many of the witnesses who've testified in the investigation, saying their accounts lean too heavily on secondhand or thirdhand information and are therefore unreliable. Holmes's account was purportedly firsthand, and Democrats hailed his arrival in the Capitol.

"We always learn more when witnesses come in, and today we learned a lot more," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellChris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again McCarthy says Trump did not interfere in Roger Stone case House intelligence briefing on worldwide threat assessment delayed MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday night as he left the closed-door deposition.

"The arrows continue to point in the direction of a shakedown scheme, led by the president of the United States, operated by agents like Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiWe should listen to John Bolton The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE, Gordon Sondland and Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request Scaramucci thanks John Kelly for speaking up against Trump Trump lashes out over Kelly criticism: 'He misses the action' MORE," he continued.

On the July 26 call, Holmes testified, Sondland told Trump that Zelensky would do anything the president asked, including comply with the investigation requests, because the Ukrainian leader "loves your ass."

Holmes also testified that he asked Sondland after the call if it was true that Trump "did not 'give a shit about Ukraine.'"

Sondland responded that Trump cared only about "big stuff," Holmes testified. Holmes said he noted that plenty of big things happening in Ukraine, including a five-year-old war with Russia in the east.

"He meant 'big stuff' that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing," Holmes said, paraphrasing Sondland.

Holmes said Sondland's cellphone was not on speaker mode but that he could nonetheless hear Trump's words because "the president's voice was very loud and recognizable."

The account was the latest twist in the fast-developing impeachment inquiry into Trump's handling of foreign policy in Ukraine. Just days ago, the Trump-Sondland phone conversation was not widely known, but on Wednesday, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified publicly that Holmes relayed the story to him last week.

Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is one of Taylor's top staffers in Kyiv.

Holmes was the 16th witness to be interviewed behind closed doors in the Capitol basement since Democrats began the private depositions on Oct. 3.

His appearance came on the heels of the testimony of another witness, Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchDemocrats worried about Trump's growing strength Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment MORE, who appeared in public before the Intelligence Committee for roughly five hours earlier Friday.

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Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was deposed privately last month but returned to Capitol Hill as the third witness to testify as part of the public hearing phase of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

The former ambassador, who was removed abruptly from Kyiv in May, painted a bleak picture of career diplomats fighting to salvage U.S.-Ukraine relations in the face of a shadow foreign policy, led by Giuliani, to secure business deals and political favors at all costs.

"How could our system fail like this?" she testified. "How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?"

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.

Updated 11:45 a.m.