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Saturday June 6th, 2020 3:28AM

The Latest: Sondland on ‘domestic political errand’

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the House impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Former White House adviser Fiona Hill says Ambassador Gordon Sondland was “being involved in a domestic political errand” while she and her team were “involved in national security policy.”

Hill told House impeachment investigators about a confrontation she had with Sondland about his role in Ukraine policy.

She says Sondland told him that President Donald Trump had put him in charge of Ukraine, and that that “shut me up.”

Hill said she feels as if she was a bit rude to Sondland because she says she appreciates that he was doing what he believed the president asked him to do.

___

1:45 p.m.

Former White House adviser Fiona Hill says it was very clear that there was a second channel of policy on Ukraine that was different from the one she was in, “one that was domestic and political in nature.”

Testifying in a House impeachment hearing, Hill confirmed what other diplomats have described as an “irregular” channel led by President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as the president urged Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

Along with other witnesses, Hill said she had concerns about the removal of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Hill said the circumstances around her removal were “completely unnecessary.”

___

11:40 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there is clear evidence that President Donald Trump has used his office for his personal gain. She says doing that “undermined the national security of the United States.”

The California Democrat says lawmakers involved in the House impeachment inquiry haven’t decided what charges they might bring against Trump. She says they don’t know if they’ll try hearing from additional witnesses.

Pelosi also says she doesn’t want to hold up the inquiry to wait for federal courts to decide whether some witnesses can testify. She says the House investigation “cannot be at the mercy of a court.”

Democrats have sought testimony from people like former White House national security adviser John Bolton. But these potential witnesses have filed court cases to determine if they must appear.

___

11:30 a.m.

A former White House national security aide says a July 10 meeting of U.S. and Ukrainian officials was so alarming that her boss told her to call a lawyer.

Fiona Hill says a key moment was when European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland said he and Trump’s acting chief of staff had worked out a deal for Ukraine’s president. Under the deal, Volodymyr Zelenskiy would visit the White House in exchange for opening investigations.

Hill says her boss, national security adviser John Bolton, stiffened. She says it was “unmistakable body language that got my attention.”

He later told her to call a lawyer and make clear that “I am not part of whatever drug deal” that Sondland and Trump’s acting chief of staff were cooking up.

Hill is testifying Thursday before lawmakers in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Lawmakers are investigating whether Trump wrongly withheld critical security aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his Democratic rival.

___

11:15 a.m.

An impeachment witness is describing in detail a phone call that he overheard between President Donald Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The July 26 call took place from an outdoor terrace of a Kyiv restaurant. David Holmes, political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, was at lunch with Sondland and overheard it.

He says he heard Trump ask Sondland if Ukraine’s president was “gonna do the investigation,” and Sondland replied that he was.

Holmes says he asked Sondland if it was true that Trump didn’t care about Ukraine. He says Sondland replied that he only cared about the “big stuff.” He says the “big stuff” included the Biden investigation.

Sondland has said he had no recollection of having discussed the Bidens with Holmes.

___

11:10 a.m.

A Foreign Service officer says he understood that the use of the word “Burisma” was code for “Bidens.”

David Holmes is testifying before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Other witnesses testified they did not realize that when Trump allies and others mentioned they were seeking an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, that they meant an investigation into the Bidens. The son of former Vice President Joe Biden sat on the board of Burisma.

But Holmes says others working on Ukraine issues would recognize the connection between the two.

The inquiry is centered on whether Trump wrongly held up military aid for Ukraine until the new president agreed to investigate the Bidens and a debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election.

___

11:05 a.m.

A former National Security Council adviser says the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been making “incendiary” remarks on television about Ukraine.

Fiona Hill is testifying Thursday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Investigators are trying to determine whether Trump wrongly held up critical military assistance unless Ukraine’s new president publicly said he’d investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son.

She was asked why Ambassador John Bolton would call Giuliani a “hand grenade.” She said that Bolton was referring to Giuliani’s many TV appearances floating conspiracy theories on the 2016 election and the Bidens.

She says that Giuliani was “clearly pushing forward” issues that would “probably come back to haunt us.”

And she says: “That’s where we are today.”

___

10:40 a.m.

A former White House national security aide is testifying at a House impeachment hearing that Russia’s goal in 2016 was to put whomever was elected president “under a cloud.”

Fiona Hill is an expert on Russia. She says increased partisanship is “exactly what the Russian government was hoping for.”

She says it is “absolutely the case” that it is to Russia’s benefit to blame Ukraine for intervention in the U.S. election. And that falls into “a long pattern of deflection” by Russia.

President Donald Trump and other Republicans have pushed the theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election while U.S. intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally that it was Russia.

Hill told the committee in her opening statement that Republicans should quit pushing a “fictional” narrative about Ukraine.

10:10 a.m.

A Foreign Service officer says that former White House national security adviser John Bolton mentioned critical security aid to Ukraine will be held until the new president could “favorably impress” President Donald Trump

David Holmes is testifying Thursday before lawmakers in the House impeachment inquiry into Trump. Lawmakers are investigating whether Trump wrongly withheld critical security aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his Democratic rival.

Holmes says that Bolton told him that a meeting between Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw would be crucial. But Trump pulled out of the meeting.

___

10 a.m.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is telling impeachment investigators that he came forward with evidence about a phone call he overheard between President Donald Trump and a U.S. diplomat because he believed it was firsthand information relevant to the probe.

David Holmes testified Thursday that he realized that those events bore on the question of whether Trump had knowledge that senior officials “were using the levers of our diplomatic power” to urge Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats.

Holmes testified that he overheard Trump and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland talking about those investigations.

Holmes said he reminded the top U.S. official in Ukraine, William Taylor, about the overheard call. Taylor relayed that information to impeachment investigators last week, and they then called on him to testify.

___

9:55 a.m.

A Foreign Service officer says he overheard a phone call between President Donald Trump and a U.S. ambassador in which they discussed investigations requested of Ukraine.

David Holmes is testifying Thursday in a House impeachment inquiry into whether Trump wrongly held up military aid to Ukraine until the president committed to investigating Trump’s Democratic political rival.

Holmes says he was at a lunch with Ambassador Gordon Sondland and others and Sondland got on his mobile phone to speak with the president.

Holmes says he overheard Sondland talking with Trump about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Trump’s voice was loud.

He overheard him ask about “doing the investigation.” And Sondland told him Zelenskiy would do it and would do “anything you ask him to.”

Trump tweeted during Holmes’ testimony that he has never been able to overhear anyone talking through a phone. He said: “I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!”

___

9:50 a.m.

A witness in the House impeachment inquiry is expressing his concerns about the role of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine policy.

David Holmes is a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

He says he recognized last spring that the embassy’s priorities had become overshadowed by a political agenda driven by Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, “and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

He says that cadre included Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker. The group referred to itself as “The Three Amigos.”

The campaign by Giuliani involved public statements attacking the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as well as a push for Ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Bidens.

___

9:30 a.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says Democrats will decide “in the coming days” what response is appropriate after hearing from a dozen witnesses in seven House impeachment hearings.

The seventh hearing began Thursday morning with witnesses Fiona Hill, a former White House national security aide, and David Holmes, a foreign service officer serving in Kyiv. Democrats are investigating President Donald Trump’s dealings in Ukraine as he pushed the country to investigate Democrats and withheld military aid.

Republicans have argued that Trump did nothing illegal. California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, said Thursday “marks the merciful end of this spectacle.”

___

8:55 a.m.

A former White House national security adviser testifying before a House committee in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says that Russia and its proxies have geared up for 2020 election interference.

In prepared testimony, Fiona Hill cautioned against getting sidetracked by other narratives on election interference, as Republican members of the committee continue to push a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Hill will tell lawmakers: “We are running out of time to stop them.”

The House committee is looking at whether Trump wrongly conditioned critical military aid for Ukraine on a public statement by their new president to look into the son of Trump’s potential Democratic rival Joe Biden and his ties to a Ukrainian gas company, as well as the 2016 elections.

___

8 a.m.

A former National Security Council aide will tell the House impeachment hearing that one of the central Republican talking points — that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — is a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

In prepared testimony Thursday, Fiona Hill stressed that she is a “nonpartisan foreign policy expert” who has served Republican and Democratic administrations. She says the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election “is beyond dispute.”

She adds, “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

Hill says the impact of the 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. She says, “Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned.”

Hill was a top aide to then-national security adviser John Bolton. She’s appearing before the House panel looking into President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats and rival Joe Biden.

Hill says, “I have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction, except toward the truth.”

Trump denies doing anything wrong.

___

7:55 a.m.

A former White House national security aide will tell lawmakers they should not let domestic politics get in the way of defending against "foreign powers who truly wish us harm."

Fiona Hill is a former official on the National Security Council who’s testifying Thursday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Hill says in her prepared remarks that "if the president, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic or political affairs," it is worth the lawmakers’ attention.

But Hill says they cannot lose sight of the foreign powers, such as Russia, that truly wish to do harm to the United States.

Hill took aim at the lawmakers who do not believe Russia meddled in elections, telling them it was a “fictional narrative.”

Hill was an aide to former national security adviser John Bolton. She is testifying before a House panel looking into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats and political rival Joe Biden.

Trump has denied doing anything wrong.

___

12:45 a.m.

House impeachment investigators will hear from two key witnesses Thursday who grew alarmed by how President Donald Trump and others in his orbit were conducting foreign policy in Ukraine.

David Holmes, a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, says he was having lunch with Ambassador Gordon Sondland this summer when he heard Trump on the phone asking the envoy about the investigations he wanted from the Ukranian president. The colorful exchange was like nothing he had ever seen, Holmes said in an earlier closed-door deposition.

Fiona Hill says her National Security Council boss, John Bolton, cut short a meeting with visiting Ukrainians at the White House when Sondland started asking them about “investigations.”

The two witnesses set to appear Thursday are the last scheduled for public hearings.

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