Live coverage: Impeachment spotlight shifts to Fiona Hill, David Holmes

The House impeachment inquiry will hear from Fiona Hill and David Holmes on Thursday.

Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, is expected to provide insight into then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report MORE’s actions as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiRudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden MORE pushed for the Ukrainian government to open investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFox News polls: Trump trails Biden in Ohio, Arizona and Wisconsin Kelly holds double-digit lead over McSally in Arizona: poll Obama calls for police reforms, doesn't address Trump MORE and his son Hunter and the 2016 election.

Holmes, an embassy staffer in Kyiv, testified behind closed doors earlier this month that he overheard U.S. Ambassador to the European Union 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 telling Trump over the phone at a restaurant that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "loves your ass."


Follow The Hill's complete coverage below.

Schiff says Trump's actions 'beyond anything Nixon did'

4:20 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) used his closing remarks in Thursday's hearing to lay out the case for impeaching Trump and pleaded for Republicans to look beyond their party, arguing that the president's actions toward Ukraine go "beyond anything Nixon did."

Schiff argued that Trump's abuse of power was clear and on a more significant scale than the Watergate break-in that eventually led to the impeachment of former President Nixon. 

"The difference between then and now is not the difference between Nixon and Trump, it’s the difference between that Congress and this one," Schiff said during a lengthy and impassioned speech. "And so, we are asking ... where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty?"

Schiff likened Trump's insistence that there was "no quid pro quo" to Nixon's infamous proclamation of "I'm not a crook." 

"What we’ve seen here is far more serious than a third-rate burglary of the Democratic headquarters," Schiff said, invoking Watergate. "What we're talking about here is the withholding of recognition in that White House meeting. The withholding of military aid to an ally at war. That is beyond anything Nixon did."


Democrats have alleged that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals. Republicans have largely decried the process surrounding impeachment, saying it is a partisan exercise intended solely to remove Trump from office out of hostility.

Schiff in his closing statement sought to knock down the Republican defenses of Trump's conduct one-by-one by recalling testimony from multiple witnesses. 

He argued there was in fact a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting to a request for investigations that Trump wanted and claimed that extended even to U.S. security assistance for Ukraine.

The chairman addressed GOP assertions that much of the testimony is based on "hearsay" by arguing that multiple witnesses provided direct and credible evidence and that their accounts should not be dismissed just because they weren't in the room with the president.  

“There is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law. And I would just say to people watching at home and around the world … we are better than that," Schiff said, emphatically gaveling the hearing to a close.

Hill and Holmes marked the final scheduled witnesses to appear before the committee. Eleven individuals testified publicly over the past nine days, and the panel does not currently have additional witnesses slated for next week.


Nunes calls impeachment inquiry hearings a ‘show trial’ in closing remarks

3:50 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin NunesDevin Gerald Nunes Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (R-Calif.) described the committee’s portion of the impeachment inquiry as a “show trial,” and condemned House Democrats for using their majority to “impose their absolute will” in pushing for impeachment.

Nunes said the impeachment inquiry was the “planned result of three years of political operations and dirty tricks and campaigns waged against this president, and like any show trials, the verdict was decided before the trial ever began.”

Nunes noted that Republicans on the committee did not know what the next steps of the Intelligence Committee would be when Congress returned from the Thanksgiving recess and criticized Democrats for pushing forward a partisan process.

“Is there a better example of the tyranny of the majority than the way this impeachment process has been run in the House of Representatives,” Nunes asked, as he wished his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee well in “fighting this travesty.”



Hill says Soros conspiracy theories are 'new Protocols of the Elders of Zion'

3:40 p.m.

Hill, while addressing conspiracy theories about Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanTrump pick for pandemic response watchdog pledges independence amid Democratic skepticism Federal officials fired by Trump face tough road in court Trump takes heat for firing intel watchdog during pandemic MORE, said during her testimony that conspiracy theories linked to billionaire philanthropist George Soros were anti-Semitic, likening them to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

The comments came after Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHouse subcommittee says Trump administration did not adequately screen travelers from Italy, South Korea for COVID-19 Lawmakers push for mental health funding for providers in next aid package FDA grants emergency approval to Swiss firm's coronavirus antibody test MORE (D-Ill.) questioned her about conspiracy theories about Vindman, who is of Ukrainian Jewish descent, promoted by Infowars's Alex Jones and longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDemocrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies Roger Stone to surrender to prison by June 30 Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase MORE, who was convicted on seven charges last week.

He asked Hill if such conspiracy theories are anti-Semitic in nature, to which Hill said she believed the ones involving Soros were, comparing them to the Russian anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which was produced by the czar’s secret police in the early 20th century.

“This is the longest-running anti-Semitic trope that we have in history, and a trope against Mr. Soros was also created for political purposes, and this is the new Protocols of The Elders of Zion,” she added, calling them an “absolute outrage.”

The book, Hill noted, is still published to this day.


Hill earlier testified in a closed-door deposition that the conspiracy theories tying her and other diplomats, including Yovanovitch, to Soros “made me mad.”

“When I saw this happening to Ambassador Yovanovitch again, I was furious, because this is, again, just this whipping up of what is frankly an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about George Soros to basically target nonpartisan career officials, and also some political appointees as well, because I just want to say this: This is not indiscriminate in its attacks,” she said.

Soros has been a frequent target of conspiracy theorists, including Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to mailing explosive devices to him and several other liberal figures, including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden opens widest lead over Trump in online betting markets Trump, Biden battle to shape opinion on scenes of unrest Sessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines MORE, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump calls Mattis 'overrated' after ex-Defense secretary issues scathing rebuke Obama calls for police reforms, doesn't address Trump Watch live: Obama addresses George Floyd's death and police reform MORE and actor Robert De Niro.


Maloney says Hill endured ‘epic mansplaining’ from Turner

3:30 p.m.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) told Hill he thought Rep. Michael Turner’s (R-Ohio) “epic mansplaining” was inappropriate.


“Dr. Hill, first of all I thought that was some epic mansplaining that you were forced to endure by my colleague Mr. Turner and I want you to know some of us think it was inappropriate,” Maloney said. “But I appreciate your forbearance.”

Earlier in the hearing, Turner had told Hill she provided “probably the greatest evidence before us to illustrate the problem with hearsay.”

Turner called out Hill for her opening statement remarks in which she disputed Republican claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“You said based on questions and statements I have heard some of you on this committee — that’d be us — appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country,” Turner said, and then held up a report on Russian active measures that “was voted on by all of us.”

“A little small like effort on your part, Dr. Hill, and you would've known that what you said was not true,” Turner added.

Turner’s remarks during his time were not framed as a question and Hill did not respond.

During her opening statement Hill said, “I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.”

“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she added.


Hurd says Trump statements on Zelensky phone call were 'misguided foreign policy'

3:08 p.m.

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen GOP Rep. Will Hurd marches with protesters in Houston The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Johns Hopkins's Jennifer Nuzzo says America needs public health crisis insurance to pay for COVID-19 victims; Protests, pandemic continue to ravage America MORE (R-Texas) used his five-minute questioning period to note that while he had not heard any “evidence” that supported impeaching Trump, he did see some of Trump’s comments to Zelensky in a July phone call as “misguided foreign policy.”

Hurd specifically criticized Trump’s use of the phrase “do us a favor” in reference to the 2016 election and mentioning the word “Biden” in the July 25 phone call to Zelensky which kicked off the impeachment inquiry.

“I believe both statements are inappropriate, misguided foreign policy, and it certainly is not how an executive currently or in the future should handle such a call,” Hurd said.

Hurd, who announced in early August that he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term, emphasized that he had not heard any “evidence” that would support impeaching Trump.

“An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous, and it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said. “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion."

Hurd added that he “rejected” the belief that not supporting impeachment did not mean he was not concerned about Ukrainian policymaking issues.


Holmes disputes idea he 'embarrassed' Zelensky

3:05 p.m.

Holmes pushed back on Rep. Michael Turner's (R-Ohio) claim that he had embarrassed Volodymyr Zelensky with his testimony revealing that an American diplomat had told Trump that the Ukrainian president “loves your ass.” Turner had called the disclosure unnecessary.

“I have the deepest respect for President Zelensky,” Holmes said. “This is a guy of Jewish background from a post-Soviet industrial suburb in southern Ukraine who made himself one of the most popular entertainers in the country and somehow got elected president, and he’s not going to miss that opportunity.”

“This is a Ukrainian patriot, this is a tough guy and frankly he withstood a lot of pressure for a very long time and he didn’t give that interview. I have the deepest respect for him, the Ukrainian people also have the deepest respect for him, they’ve chosen him to deliver the full measure of promise of their Revolution of Dignity, and I think he merits all of our respect,” Holmes added. 


Hill calls for political unity ahead of 2020 elections

2:38 p.m.

Hill called for Americans to come “together again” ahead of the 2020 elections and not be divided in order to prevent meddling that occurred in 2016 from having the same effect in the upcoming elections.

“We need to be together again in 2020 so the American people can make a choice about the future and make their vote in a presidential election without any fear that this is being interfered in from any quarter whatsoever,” Hill said.

Hill made these comments in response to a statement from Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Sen. Coons says US needs to invest in vaccine manufacturing now; uncertainty looms over states reopening The Hill's Coronavirus Report: U.S. reaches grim milestone of 50,000 deaths; UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba says COVID-19 crisis creates opportunity with Iran The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Pfizer's Mikael Dolsten says vaccine development timeline being cut in half; House poised to pass 4 billion relief package MORE (R-Ohio), who said at the end of his questioning of Hill that “coups create division, and it is time for this phase of the publicly announced and proclaimed Democrat coup to end.”

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff then gave Hill the chance to respond to Wenstrup’s statement, something Wenstrup and other Republicans objected to.

Hill thanked Wenstrup for his “powerful” statement, describing it as “very eloquent.”


Hill says Yovanovitch was an ‘easy target as a woman’ for attacks

2:30 p.m.

Hill testified that former Ambassador 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 was an “easy target” for attacks as a woman, despite the former ambassador being one of the top officers serving in Ukraine.

“Again as we’ve all made clear, Ambassador Yovanovitch, and you saw for yourselves in her deposition, is a person of great integrity. She’s one of our finest foreign service officers,” Hill said.

Hill said that it’s well within the president’s right to remove or replace an ambassador. But she said it was the accusations and attacks fired at Yovanovitch that were “dispiriting."

“We all firmly believe that Mr. Giuliani and others ... had for some reason decided that Ambassador Yovanovitch was some kind of personal problem for them, and that they had then decided to engage in just the kinds of things we had been discussing about,” Hill said.

“And frankly, she was an easy target as a woman.”

Hill added that she was “very sorry” to hear about attacks being focused on Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.).

“I think this just illustrates the point and the problem that we’re dealing with here today,” Hill said.


Turner: Holmes testimony 'embarrassed Zelensky'

2:27 p.m.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) blasted Holmes for testifying that Sondland had told Trump that Zelensky “loves your ass” and “will do anything you want him to,” accusing him of embarrassing Zelensky in Ukraine with the testimony.

“Mr. Holmes, that information had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of any of these hearings. It was anecdotal. It was extraneous. Your statements that you were protecting Ukraine are very dubious when you embarrass President Zelensky by making those statements you didn’t have to make,” Turner said.

“Who cares that Ambassador Sondland said that? And you didn’t embarrass Ambassador Sondland, you embarrassed Zelensky, because you know that he got asked that question in his own country, and people are hearing that statement as if it’s true, and it’s totally dubious of you to do that,” he added.

Turner ended his questioning without asking either Hill or Holmes a question.


Hill: Other countries said ‘hurtful things’ about Trump without effect on security assistance

2:05 p.m.

Hill agreed with Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats debate how and when to get House back in action Democrats get assurances from Cuccinelli on immigrants, coronavirus care Gaetz wears gas mask on House floor during vote on bill to fight coronavirus MORE (D-Conn.) that Russian interference in the 2016 election cannot be compared to individual Ukrainian officials’ comments about Trump, but conceded some of those comments had been “hurtful.”

“I don’t know what my colleagues believe but I do have a pretty good sense of what the effects are of creating ambiguity, of lacking clarity and conviction around the Russian attack on the election of 2016,” Himes said.

“A day does not go by in which ranking member Nunes does not speak of the ‘Russia hoax’ and this is an area in which context is pretty important,” he added, noting Trump has suggested Russia did not interfere in the election.

“Ambiguity, a failure to name and shame the Russians for the attack in 2016, that is not in the service of our national security, is it?” he asked.

“It is not,” she responded.

“Have you seen any evidence at all that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?” he asked.

Hill did not answer in the affirmative but pointed to comments made about Trump, then a candidate, by the Ukrainian ambassador, saying “I would say that it’s probably not the advisable thing to do for an ambassador because you never know who’s going to win.

Hill said that while there was “little evidence of a top-down effort by Ukraine” akin to Russia’s, Ukraine was one of many nations that “bet on the wrong horse” in the 2016 election.

As a result, Hill said, representatives of many nations, including allies “said some pretty disparaging things about President Trump and I can’t blame him for feeling aggrieved about them … an awful lot of senior officials in allied governments said some pretty hurtful things about the president.”

However, she noted, “that hasn’t had any major impact on his feelings toward those countries,” nor did it affect security assistance to them or meetings with their leaders, whereas Trump has publicly accused Ukraine of trying to “take me down.”


Jordan, Holmes clash in tense exchange

1:50 p.m.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (R-Ohio) clashed with Holmes during a particularly testy exchange in Thursday's hearing in which the congressman repeatedly interrupted the witness and at one point prompted an eye-roll from Holmes.

Jordan pressed Holmes on why diplomat William Taylor did not bring up that Holmes had overheard the president talking to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about investigations in a phone call.

"You said this was extremely distinctive experience, one of the most remarkable events of my life," Jordan said, recounting Holmes's description of the call.

Holmes was captured by cameras in the room rolling his eyes as Jordan spoke, and he could be seen holding back a smile as the congressman listed off the numerous other conversations Taylor brought up to lawmakers.


Jordan suggested that if the call was as damaging as Holmes asserted, Taylor would have brought it up during his own testimony to lawmakers a week earlier.

But Holmes explained that he told a different supervisor about the Trump-Sondland call at the time, and did not inform Taylor about it himself until after he came back from a weeklong vacation. He came to believe that Taylor was already aware of the contents of the conversation by the time they spoke.

"Did I go through every single word in the call?" Holmes said. "No, because everyone by that point agreed. It was obvious what the president was pressing for."

Jordan tried to cut in multiple times as Holmes spoke, prompting him to shake his head and leading Committee Chairman Schiff to gavel down Jordan multiple times and implored him to let Holmes speak.

"Mr. Jordan, you may not like the witness’s answer but we will hear it," Schiff said.

Jordan was added to the Intelligence Committee just before the public impeachment hearings began. He is viewed as one of Trump's most loyal allies and a strong attack dog for questioning witnesses and pushing GOP arguments.


Schiff tells witnesses to 'be cautious' in statements of facts within questions

1:45 p.m.

Schiff instructed committee members to ensure they did not misrepresent facts in setting up their questions before member questioning began.

“Be a bit cautious when members represent ‘are you aware of this fact, are you aware of that fact, do you know that so and so testified to this or testified to that,’” Schiff said.

“If you have personal knowledge of it, that’s fine, and I’m not saying this is deliberate, because sometimes committee members get it wrong,” he added.

As an example, he noted earlier questioning had suggested that Vice President Pence canceled his trip to Zelensky’s inauguration due to a conflict with a trip to Canada, when in fact Williams testified “the president had decided the vice president would not be attending the inauguration.” 


Hill defends Vindman

1:43 p.m.


Hill defended the judgment and expertise of previous impeachment inquiry witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Thursday, saying the only concerns she had with his involvement in Ukrainian policymaking issues were his lack of political experience.

Hill said that Vindman, who testified earlier this week and who serves as a Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council, is “excellent” on issues related to Ukraine and a few other Eastern European countries, and that any concerns she related about him to Tim Morrison were due to his lack of political experience as Ukraine because of a domestic policy issue.

“I did not feel that he had the political antenna to deal with something that was straying into domestic politics, not everyone is suited for that,” Hill told GOP counsel Steve Castor when asked about concerns Morrison had said Hill had related about Vindman. “That does not mean in any way that I was questioning his overall judgment, nor was I questioning in any way his substantive expertise.”

Hill noted that Morrison, who also gave testimony and is the outgoing top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, “knew politics inside and out.”

In comparison, Hill was “concerned” about how Vindman would handle an issue “that was becoming a highly charged and potentially partisan issue, which it had not been before.”


White House brushes aside Hill, Holmes testimony

1:08 p.m.

The White House dismissed Thursday's witnesses, saying they provided no firsthand knowledge of why $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine was withheld. 

"As has been the case throughout the Democrats' impeachment sham, today's witnesses rely heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions," White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPence names new press secretary McEnany: Prayer 'made a lot of difference' in 2016 election McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation MORE said.
"These two witnesses, just like the rest, have no personal or direct knowledge regarding why U.S. aid was temporarily withheld. The Democrats' are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election. The American people deserve better,"  she said.

Hill: Sondland told me Trump put him "in charge of Ukraine"

12:58 p.m.

Hill said Sondland told her Trump had placed him in “charge of Ukraine” after she noticed the EU ambassador started to take a more involved role after Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had been “pushed out of her position.”

Hill said she had some concerns at the time.

“I asked him quite bluntly in a meeting we had in June of 2019, so this is after the presidential inauguration when I had seen he had started to step up in much more of a proactive role on Ukraine, what was his role here? And said he was in charge of Ukraine,” Hill testified.

“And I said, ‘who put you in charge, Ambassador Sondland?’ And he said the president,” Hill said.

She added that it’s “perfectly logical” for Sondland, as ambassador to the European Union, to have some involvement in matters related to Ukraine, but she said his answer that he had been put in charge surprised her.

“We’d had no directive; we hadn’t been told this. Ambassador Bolton had never indicated in any way that Ambassador Sondland was playing a leading role in Ukraine,” Hill said.


Pelosi: We're not waiting for courts to decide on witness holdouts

12:45 p.m.

It remains unclear if Thursday's hearing will mark the end of the public investigation phase of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry. But if there was any lingering question whether Democrats might suspend the process while the courts decide the fate of the holdout witnesses refusing to testify, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi scoffs at comparison between Trump and Churchill: 'I think they're hallucinating' Republicans stand by Esper after public break with Trump Pelosi joins protests against George Floyd's death outside Capitol MORE (D-Calif.) put it to rest halfway through the Holmes-Hill hearing.  

"Absolutely not," she told reporters in the Capitol. "We cannot be at the mercy of the courts."

Behind Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats have been largely successful in winning the cooperation of requested witnesses, even as the White House has sought to prevent any member of the administration from participating in the process.

But a number of high-profile figures have refused to testify — including John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser; Charles Kupperman, Bolton's former deputy; 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, the president's acting chief of staff.

Kupperman has asked a federal court to decide which competing government power carries more weight in the tug-of-war over requested testimony: the congressional subpoena or presidential claims of executive immunity. Final arguments in that case are scheduled for Dec. 10.

The notion of securing testimony from those top officials gained steam on Wednesday, when Sondland testified that all of the senior national security figures in Trump's orbit — including Bolton, Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports MORE — were aware of the president's campaign to pressure Ukrainian leaders to find dirt on his political adversaries.

"Everyone was in the loop," Sondland said.

Yet Schiff, in leading the Ukraine investigation, has veered sharply from the Judiciary Committee's strategy of pursuing disputed witnesses in the courts as part of the panel's ongoing examination into Russia's meddling in the 2016 elections. Instead, Schiff said he'll consider any White House stonewalling to be evidence of obstruction of Congress — a charge that may ultimately become a separate impeachment article — while forging ahead with the probe.

Pelosi on Thursday endorsed that tack unequivocally. While the courts might have ruled by the time the impeachment process reaches the Senate, she said, the House has no intention of waiting that long.

"We're moving at the pace the truth takes us. And when more evidence unfolds, if that requires more time, that's when we'll go," Pelosi said. "[But] we're not going to wait 'til the courts decide ... because, again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress. So, we cannot let their further obstruction of Congress be an impediment to our honoring of our oath of office."


Hill: Sondland had agreement with Mulvaney about Ukraine

11:06 a.m.

Hill told lawmakers that Sondland said following a July 10 meeting that he had an agreement with White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that the Ukrainians would get a White House meeting if they pursued investigations involving Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.


Hill and Holmes both say they believe Burisma was code for Biden

11 a.m.

Hill and Holmes both testified that they believed Trump officials used the word “Burisma” as “code” for referring to the Bidens when asked during Democrats’ first round of questioning whether this was apparent to them. 

“Yes,” said Holmes when asked about such matters.

Hill also answered in the affirmative, saying it was “very apparent” to her.


Hill: Bolton suggested Giuliani's actions would 'come back to haunt us'

10:48 a.m.

Hill testified Thursday during the impeachment inquiry that former national security adviser John Bolton told her that Rudy Giuliani was saying and doing "explosive" things that would "come back to haunt us."

Hill said Bolton described Giuliani as “a hand grenade” who would “blow everyone up.” She said that his comments about Giuliani were made in relation to what Hill described as a “smear campaign” launched against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. 

Asked to clarify what she thought Giuliani meant, Hill said, “I think he meant that obviously what Mr. Giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case, he was frequently on television making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this, and that he was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would probably come back to haunt us, and in fact that is where we are today."

In response to Hill’s concerns against the attacks on Yovanovitch, she testified that Bolton “looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much we could do about it, and he then in the course of that discussion said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade who was going to blow everyone up.”

When Goldman asked her if she understood what Bolton meant by this, Hill said that she did.

Yovanovitch testified last week that she was a subject of a “smear campaign” to force her out of her position as ambassador to Ukraine, and that she felt “kneecapped” in her ability to do her job due to this campaign.


Hill confirms Trump's 'Crowdstrike' reference was part of Ukrainian interference conspiracy theory

10:45 a.m.

Hill confirmed that Trump’s reference to “Crowdstrike” and “the server” on the call with Zelensky were in reference to a conspiracy theory about the Democratic National Committee server being in Ukraine.

“Dr. Hill, is this a reference to this debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interference in the 2016 election that you discussed in your opening statement as well as with Chairman Schiff?” Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Hill.

“The reference to Crowdstrike and the server, yes, that’s correct,” Hill responded, also confirming that there was “no basis” for the theory and that several senior Trump advisors had told the president as much.

“So is it your understanding then that president trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials and instead listened to Rudy Giuliani’s views?” Goldman asked.

“That appears to be the case, yes,” Hill replied.

Asked whether Trump was “adopting Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHow Russia benefits from America's crisis Trump says inviting Russia to G7 'a question of common sense' EU foreign policy chief says US can invite Russia as 'guest' to G-7 MORE’s view over his own senior advisors and officials,” Hill responded, “I think we have to be very careful about the way that we phrase that,” noting that while the conspiracy theory was popular among Russian actors, it had also gained traction in the U.S.


Holmes: Ukraine felt pressure to stay in Trump's good graces

10:28 a.m.

Holmes acknowledged to Schiff that Ukraine understood there was implicit pressure inherent in Zelensky’s need to stay in the United States' good graces.

“You’re acknowledging, are you not, that Ukraine very much felt pressured to undertake these investigations that the president or Rudy Giuliani or Ambassador Sondland and others were demanding?” Schiff asked Holmes.

“Yes, sir, although the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted, there were other things [Ukraine] wanted that they weren’t getting, including a meeting with the president in the Oval Office,” Holmes responded.

“Whether the security systems hold continued or not, the Ukrainians understood that was something the president wanted, and they still wanted important things from the president, and I think that continues to this day," he added. “I think they’re being very careful, they still need us now going forward.”

For example, he said, Zelensky is currently in the process of attempting to arrange his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“He needs our support, he needs President Putin to understand that America supports Zelensky at the highest levels, so this doesn’t end with the lifting of the security assistance hold,” Holmes said.


Hill says Russian interference efforts are meant to ‘delegitimize’ presidency

10:20 a.m.

Hill testified that Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections were part of an effort to “delegitimize our entire presidency” and noted that impeachment inquiry disagreements could give more “fodder” to their anticipated interference efforts in 2020.

Hill made these comments in response to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asking her what the Russians are “pushing” with interference efforts in U.S. elections. Hill noted that if the Russians “seed misinformation, if they seed doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of the presidential candidate.”

According to U.S. intelligence agencies, to the Senate Intelligence Committee and to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, Russian agents attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections through both disinformation campaigns on social media and through hacking operations.

Hill cautioned that members of Congress be careful “not give [the Russians] more fodder that they can use against us in 2020,” referring to the divisions in society that Russians could use to spread disinformation.

Both Schiff and Hill pushed back against the idea that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 elections, something that committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had earlier said occurred along with Russian interference.

Schiff emphasized that “a tweet here, and an op-ed here, and a newspaper story here” in regards to accusations that Ukraine interfered should not be equated with the “systemic intervention that our intelligence agencies found Russia perpetrated in 2016.”


Holmes said overhearing call was a ‘distinctive experience’

10:20 a.m.

Holmes said overhearing Sondland’s call with Trump was a “very distinctive experience.”

His answer came in response to Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman’s question over how Holmes was able to have “such a specific and clear recollection” of the conversation.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career,” Holmes said, adding that it was unusual for someone to be at a lunch in a restaurant making a call to the president on a cellphone.

He said he was able to hear Trump’s voice, a point that Trump tried to refute this morning on Twitter.

“It’s a pretty distinctive personality we’ve all seen on television,” Holmes said, of recognizing Trump’s voice.

“Very colorful language was used. They were directly addressing something I had been wondering about — working on for weeks, and even months, a topic that had led to the recall of my former boss, the former ambassador. And so here was a person who said he had direct contact with the president, and had said that over the course of time, here he is actually having that contact with the president,” Holmes added.


Holmes: Sondland painted himself as having direct knowledge of Trump's interests

10:18 a.m.

Holmes and Hill shed more light on Sondland's role in handling Ukraine matters.

Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Hill and Holmes whether they understood Sondland to have authority over Ukraine policy. Both witnesses said they did, with Hill specifying that Sondland claimed he got that authority from the president.

"Did he hold himself out as having direct contact and knowledge of the president's priorities interests?" Goldman asked.

"Yes, sir," Holmes replied.


Schiff praises witnesses' 'immigrant stories' during testimony

10:15 a.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) thanked Hill for testifying and sharing her “powerful” story of immigrating to the U.S.

He said her story reminded him of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Vindman testified earlier this week.

“The few immigrant stories we’ve heard just in the course of this hearing are among the most powerful I think I’ve ever heard,” Schiff said.

“You and Col. Vindman and others are the best of this country and you came here by choice. And we are so blessed that you did.”

Hill was born in the northeast of England and became a U.S. citizen in 2002. During her opening statement she said she is an “American by choice.” She mentioned the “deep ties” her home region and family has to the U.S., including being from the same region as President George Washington’s ancestors.


Holmes testifies he heard Trump ask about 'investigation'

10 a.m.

Holmes on Thursday described a conversation he overheard between Trump and Sondland during which the president followed up on an “investigation” related to former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I sat directly across from Ambassador Sondland,” Holmes, a top U.S. embassy official based in Kyiv, said during his opening remarks at a public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry. “The president’s voice was loud and recognizable.”

Holmes told lawmakers that he heard Sondland tell Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “loves your ass.”

“So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” Trump asked, according to Holmes’s account.

“Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to,’” Holmes continued.

Holmes described his recollection of the July 26 conversation, which he overheard while at a lunch with Sondland at a restaurant in Kyiv, as “clear” and also said that his colleagues at the table also knew that Sondland was speaking with Trump.

“Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made,” Holmes said.

Immediately after the phone call, Holmes said that Sondland told him that Trump did not “give a shit about Ukraine” and only cares about “‘big stuff’ that benefits the President." Holmes said Sondland specifically named the “Biden investigation” sought Giuliani.

Holmes has already recounted the conversation at a private deposition last week in connection with the inquiry.


Trump seeks to cast doubt on State official's claim
9:37 a.m.

Trump sought to cast doubt on Holmes's allegation that he overheard a call between the president and Sondland, tweeting about the difficulty of eavesdropping on phone conversations not on speakerphone. 

"I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life. My hearing is, and has been, great," Trump tweeted just before Holmes made his opening statement.

"Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation," Trump continued. "I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!"

The tweet was an indication that Trump is tuned in to Thursday morning's proceedings in the House impeachment inquiry. It is the fifth day of public testimony.


Nunes requests ‘minority day of hearings’ for other witnesses

9:21 a.m.

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) requested in his opening remarks on Thursday that Schiff schedule a “minority day of hearings” to hear from witnesses Nunes claimed Schiff had “continuously blocked.”

“Republican members transmit our request to convene a minority day of hearings,” Nunes said. “To date, you have blocked key witnesses that we have requested testify as part of this partisan impeachment inquiry.”

While Nunes did not mention any witnesses by name, during previous impeachment inquiries Nunes had repeatedly called on Schiff to allow the anonymous whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify.

“We look forward to the chair promptly scheduling an agreed-upon time for the minority day of hearings so we can hear from key witnesses that you have continually blocked from testifying,” Nunes said.

He also pushed back against claims by Hill in her opening statement that “some of you on this committee” do not believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Nunes pointed to the report from the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee on Russian interference efforts put out in 2018 as proving that this was not the case.

“It is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries, regardless of which campaign is the target,” Nunes said. 


Trump lashes out ahead of hearing

9:20 a.m.

President Trump tweeted repeatedly at the outset of Thursday’s hearing, lashing out at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), calling the impeachment inquiry a “hoax” and bashing the media for what he described as unfair coverage of witness testimony the day prior.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought my name would in any way be associated with the ugly word, Impeachment! The calls (Transcripts) were PERFECT, there was NOTHING said that was wrong. No pressure on Ukraine. Great corruption & dishonesty by Schiff on the other side!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

He also claimed that Republicans were dealing with “human scum” on the part of the Democrats and repeatedly urged the public to read the transcripts of his calls with Ukraine.

“The Republican Party, and me, had a GREAT day yesterday with respect to the phony Impeachment Hoax, & yet, when I got home to the White House & checked out the news coverage on much of television, you would have no idea they were reporting on the same event. FAKE & CORRUPT NEWS!” Trump tweeted.  


Schiff lays out how Hill's and Holmes's testimonies weave into Ukraine affair

9:20 a.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used his opening remarks to summarize how Holmes and Hill, in their closed-door depositions, described their growing concern over the hold in releasing U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Schiff laid out how Holmes was the staffer who overheard Trump in a private phone call with Sondland — who testified publicly on Thursday — inquire about the “investigation,” which Sondland allegedly later told Holmes was about former Vice President Joe Biden.

“In conditioning a meeting with Zelensky and then military aid on securing an investigation of his rival, Trump put his personal and political interests above those of the United States. As Ambassador Sondland would later tell career Foreign Service Officer David Holmes immediately after speaking to the President, Trump ‘did not give a expletive’ about Ukraine,” Schiff said in his opening remarks.

Schiff also detailed how Hill repeatedly raised alarm about Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine foreign policy, particularly his campaign to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled in May of this year. She also voiced concern about the effort by Trump officials to press Ukrainian representatives for investigations.

“In early 2019, Dr. Hill became concerned by the increasing prominence of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer,” Schiff highlighted at the start of the hearing.

At one point, former national security adviser John Bolton directed Hill to report Sondland to a National Security Council (NSC) legal adviser after he raised the need for a public statement on the investigations in a meeting with Zelensky representatives.

“Bolton directed Dr. Hill to report this to NSC legal advisor, John Eisenberg, telling her, ‘You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go ahead and tell him what you’ve heard and what I’ve said,’” Schiff read in his opening remarks.


Schiff gavels in hearing
9:06 a.m.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) gaveled in the hearing shortly after Hill and Holmes arrived and took their seats. 


Impeachment witness Fiona Hill to knock Republicans over 'fictional narrative' of Ukraine election meddling

8:33 a.m.

Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, is expected to fiercely dispute GOP claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election and warn that Russia is benefiting from the spread of this “fictional narrative.”

Hill is expected to directly address members of the committee who she says appear to believe that Ukraine, not Russia, carried out a campaign to sow discord during the 2016 election.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill will say, according to a copy of her opening statement.


Trump: It was a 'GREAT' day for GOP and me in Wednesday's impeachment hearings

7:52 a.m.

President Trump on Thursday claimed that the round of public impeachment hearings on Wednesday represented a "great" day for him and the Republican Party, arguing that the "fake" and "corrupt" media weren't covering the event in a fair way.

"The Republican Party, and me, had a GREAT day yesterday with respect to the phony Impeachment Hoax, & yet, when I got home to the White House & checked out the news coverage on much of television, you would have no idea they were reporting on the same event," Trump said on Twitter, echoing comments he's made throughout the House impeachment inquiry. "FAKE & CORRUPT NEWS!"


Catch up with our previous coverage

7 a.m.

On Wednesday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that there was a quid pro quo between Ukraine conducting politically motivated investigations and getting a meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Sondland said the connection between these two issues was widely known throughout the administration.

Read more from The Hill:

Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony

Laura Cooper later told lawmakers that Ukraine was aware of potential issues with U.S. security assistance in July, earlier than previously known.

The deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine told the House Intelligence Committee that her staff received emails on July 25 in which the State Department said the Ukrainian Embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee were “asking about security assistance.”