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 TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America 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 SondlandTop Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans are prioritizing big chains in coronavirus relief  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 BidenBiden campaign cancels fundraiser with Mueller prosecutor Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation 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 SwalwellGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state 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 GiulianiSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden Democrats launch probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog, Pompeo MORE, Gordon Sondland and Mick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic 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 YovanovitchJim Jordan requests documents from Pompeo regarding Hunter Biden, Burisma  Trump taps new ambassador to Ukraine America's diplomats deserve our respect 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.