READ IT: David Holmes's opening statement implicating Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine scandal
Olivier Douliery/AFP/David Holmes, a State Department official, arrives Friday afternoon for a closed-door deposition

David Holmes described the infamous Trump phone call with Gordon Sondland in testimony offered in House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry on Thursday. In his statement, the State Department official fingered Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.


Read the full text of Holmes's opening statement below.

STATEMENT OF

DAVID A. HOLMES

U.S. EMBASSY KYIV, DEPARTMENT OF STATE

BEFORE THE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE

CONCERNING

THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY

PRESENTED ON

NOVEMBER 21, 2019

I.

Introduction

Good morning Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Nunes, and Members of the Committee.

My name is David Holmes, and I am a career Foreign Service Officer with the Department of

State. Since August 2017, I have been the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,

Ukraine. While it is an honor to appear before you, I want to make clear that I did not seek this

opportunity to testify today. Since you determined that I may have something of value to these

proceedings and issued a subpoena, it is my obligation to appear and tell you what I know.

Indeed, as Secretary Pompeo has stated, “I hope everyone who testifies will go do so truthfully,

accurately. When they do, the oversight role will have been performed, and I think America will

come to see what took place here.” That is my goal: to testify truthfully and accurately to

enable you to perform that role. And to that end, I have put together this statement to lay out

as best I can my recollection of events that may be relevant to this matter.

II.

Background

By way of background, I have spent my entire professional career as a Foreign Service

Officer. Like many of the dedicated public servants who have testified in these proceedings, my

entire career has been in service of my country. I am a graduate of Pomona College in

Claremont, California, and received graduate degrees in international affairs from the

University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of

Public and International Affairs. I joined the Foreign Service in 2002 through an apolitical,

merit-based process under the George W. Bush administration, and I have proudly served

administrations of both parties and worked for their appointees, both political and career.

Prior to my current post in Kyiv, Ukraine, I served in the political and economic sections

at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia. In Washington, I served on the National Security

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Council staff as Director for Afghanistan and as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of

State. My prior overseas assignments include New Delhi, India; Kabul, Afghanistan; Bogotá,

Colombia; and Pristina, Kosovo.

As the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, I lead the Political Section covering

Ukraine’s internal politics, foreign relations, and security policies, and serve as the senior policy

and political adviser to the Ambassador. The job of an embassy political counselor is to gather

information about the host country’s political landscape, report back to Washington, represent

U.S. policies to foreign contacts, and advise the Ambassador on policy development and

implementation.

In this role, I am a senior member of the Embassy’s Country Team and continually

involved in addressing issues as they arise. I am also often called upon to take notes in

meetings involving the Ambassador or visiting senior U.S. officials with Ukrainian counterparts.

For this reason, I have been present in many meetings with President Zelenskyy and his

administration, some of which may be germane to this inquiry.

While I am the Political Counselor at the Embassy, it is important to note that I am not a

political appointee or engaged in U.S. politics in any way. It is not my job to cover or advise on

U.S. politics. On the contrary, I am an apolitical foreign policy professional, and my job is to

focus on the politics of the country in which I serve so that we can better understand the local

landscape and better advance U.S. national interests there. In fact, during the period that we

will cover today, my colleagues and I followed direct guidance from Ambassador Yovanovitch

and Ambassador Taylor to focus on doing our jobs as foreign policy professionals and to stay

clear of Washington politics.

III.

Policy Objectives in Ukraine

I arrived in Kyiv to take up my assignment as Political Counselor in August 2017, a year

after Ambassador Yovanovitch received her appointment. From August 2017 until her removal

from post in May 2019, I was Ambassador Yovanovitch’s chief policy advisor and developed a

deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency, and professionalism. During this time

we worked together closely, speaking multiple times per day, and I accompanied Ambassador

Yovanovitch to many of her meetings with senior Ukrainian counterparts.

Our work in Ukraine focused on three policy priorities: peace and security, economic

growth and reform, and anti-corruption and rule of law. These policies match the three

consistent priorities of the Ukrainian people since 2014 as measured in public opinion polling,

namely, an end to the conflict with Russia that restores national unity and territorial integrity,

responsible economic policies that deliver European standards of growth and opportunity, and

effective and impartial rule of law institutions that deliver justice in cases of high-level official

corruption. Our efforts on this third priority merit special mention because it was during

Ambassador Yovanovitch’s tenure that we achieved the hard-fought passage of a law

establishing an independent court to try corruption cases. These efforts strained Ambassador

Yovanovitch’s relationship with former President Poroshenko and some of his allies, including

Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who resisted fully empowering truly independent anti2

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corruption institutions that would help ensure that no Ukrainians, however powerful, were

above the law. Despite this resistance, the Ambassador and the Embassy kept pushing anticorruption and the other priorities of our policy toward Ukraine.

IV.

Emergence of a Political Agenda

Beginning in March 2019, the situation at the Embassy and in Ukraine changed

dramatically. Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support

for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political

agenda being promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials

operating with a direct channel to the White House.

That change began with the emergence of press reports critical of Ambassador

Yovanovitch and machinations by then-Prosecutor General Lutsenko and others to discredit

her. In mid-March 2019, an Embassy colleague learned from a Ukrainian contact that Mr.

Lutsenko had complained that Ambassador Yovanovitch had “destroyed him” with her refusal

to support him until he followed through with his reform commitments and ceased using his

position for personal gain. In retaliation, Mr. Lutsenko made a series of unsupported

allegations against Ambassador Yovanovitch, mostly suggesting that Ambassador Yovanovitch

improperly used the Embassy to advance the political interests of the Democratic party.

Among Mr. Lutsenko’s allegations were that the Embassy had ordered the investigation

of a former Ukrainian official solely because that former official was allegedly the main

Ukrainian contact of the Republican Party and of President Trump personally, and that the

Embassy had allegedly pressured Lutsenko’s predecessor to close a case against a different

former Ukrainian official, solely because of an alleged connection between that official’s

company, Burisma, and former Vice President Biden’s son. Mr. Lutsenko also claimed that he

had never received $4.4 million in U.S. funds intended for his office, and that there was a tape

of a Ukrainian official saying he was trying to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election. Finally,

Mr. Lutsenko publically claimed that Ambassador Yovanovitch had given him a “do not

prosecute list” containing the names of her supposed allies, an allegation that the State

Department called an “outright fabrication,” and that Mr. Lutsenko later retracted. Mr.

Lutsenko said that, as a result of these allegations, Ambassador Yovanovitch would face

“serious problems” in the United States. Public opinion polls in Ukraine indicated that

Ukrainians generally did not believe Mr. Lutsenko’s allegations, and on March 22, President

Poroshenko issued a statement in support of Ambassador Yovanovitch.

Following Mr. Lutsenko’s allegations, Mr. Giuliani and others made a number of public

statements critical of Ambassador Yovanovitch, questioning her integrity and calling for her

removal from office. Mr. Giuliani was also making frequent public statements pushing for

Ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related to Burisma and the

Bidens. For example, on May 1, 2019, the New York Times reported that Mr. Giuliani had

“discussed the Burisma investigation, and its intersections with the Bidens, with the ousted

Ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor.” On May 9, the New York Times

reported that Mr. Giuliani said he planned to travel to Ukraine to pursue investigations into

2016 election interference and into the involvement of former Vice President Biden’s son in a

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Ukrainian gas company. Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets,

asking “why Biden shouldn’t be investigated,” attacking the “New Pres of Ukraine” (Zelenskyy)

for being “silent” on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about the

New York Times attacking him for “exposing the Biden family history of making millions . . .

from Ukraine criminals.”

Around this same time, the Ukrainian presidential election was approaching, and

political newcomer and entertainer Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had played a president on

television, was surging in the polls, ahead of Mr. Lutsenko’s political ally, President Poroshenko.

On April 20, I was present for Ambassador Yovanovitch’s third and final meeting with thencandidate Zelenskyy ahead of his landslide victory in the runoff election the next day. As in her

two prior meetings that I also attended, they had an entirely cordial, pleasant conversation and

signaled their mutual desire to work together. However, the negative narratives about

Ambassador Yovanovitch had gained currency in certain segments of the United States press,

and on April 26, Ambassador Yovanovitch departed for Washington, DC, where she learned she

would be recalled early. The barrage of allegations directed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, a

career ambassador, is unlike anything I have seen in my professional career.

V.

Zelenskyy’s Inauguration and the “Three Amigos”

Following President-elect Zelenskyy’s victory, our attention in the Embassy focused on

getting to know the incoming Zelenskyy administration and on preparations for the

inauguration scheduled for May 20, the same day Ambassador Yovanovitch departed Post

permanently. It quickly became clear that the White House was not prepared to show the level

of support for the Zelenskyy administration that we had originally anticipated.

In early May, Mr. Giuliani publicly alleged that Mr. Zelenskyy was “surrounded by

enemies of the [U.S. President],” and cancelled a visit to Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, we

learned that Vice President Pence no longer planned to lead the Presidential Delegation to the

inauguration. The White House then whittled down an initial proposed list for the official

Presidential Delegation to the inauguration from over a dozen individuals to just five: Secretary

Perry as its head, Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker representing the

State Department, National Security Council Director Alex Vindman representing the White

House, temporary acting Charge d’Affaires Joseph Pennington representing the Embassy, and

Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. While Ambassador Sondland’s mandate

as Ambassador accredited to the European Union did not cover individual member states, let

alone non-member countries like Ukraine, he made clear that he had direct and frequent access

to President Trump and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and portrayed himself as the conduit to

the President and Mr. Mulvaney for the group. Secretary Perry, Ambassador Sondland, and

Ambassador Volker later styled themselves the “Three Amigos,” and made clear they would

take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelenskyy Administration.

Around the same time, I became aware that Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a

direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy. On April 25, Ivan Bakanov, who was Mr. Zelenskyy’s

childhood friend and campaign chair, and was ultimately appointed head of the Security

Services of Ukraine, indicated to me privately he had been contacted by “someone named

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Giuliani who said he was an advisor to the Vice President.” I reported Mr. Bakanov’s message

to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Over the following months, it became

apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the

Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, at one point during a

preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr.

Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador

Sondland stated, “Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f---s everything

up.”

The inauguration took place on May 20, and I took notes in the delegation’s meeting

with President Zelenskyy. During the meeting, Secretary Perry passed President Zelenskyy a list

that Perry described as “people he trusts.” Secretary Perry told President Zelenskyy that he

could seek advice from the people on this list on issues of energy sector reform, which was the

topic of subsequent meetings between Secretary Perry and key Ukrainian energy-sector

contacts. Embassy personnel were excluded from these later meetings by Secretary Perry’s

staff.

On May 23, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary Perry, and Senator

Ron Johnson (who had also attended the inauguration, though not in the official delegation)

returned to the United States and briefed President Trump. On May 29, President Trump

signed a congratulatory letter to President Zelenskyy, which included an invitation to visit the

White House at an unspecified date.

It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President

Zelenskyy. President Zelenskyy needed to show U.S. support at the highest levels in order to

demonstrate to Russian President Putin that he had U.S. backing, as well as to advance his

ambitious anti-corruption reforms at home. President Zelenskyy’s team immediately began

pressing to set a date for the visit. President Zelenskyy and senior members of his team made

clear they wanted President Zelenskyy’s first overseas trip to be to Washington to send a strong

signal of American support, and requested a call with President Trump as soon as possible. We

at the Embassy also believed that a meeting was critical to the success of President Zelenskyy’s

administration and its reform agenda, and we worked hard to get it arranged.

When President Zelenskyy’s team did not receive a confirmed date for a White House

visit, they made alternative plans for President Zelenskyy’s first overseas trip to be to Brussels

instead, in part to attend an American Independence Day event that Ambassador Sondland

hosted on June 4. Ambassador Sondland hosted a dinner in President Zelenskyy’s honor

following the reception, which included President Zelenskyy, Jared Kushner, Secretary

Pompeo’s counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, senior European Union officials, and comedian Jay Leno,

among others.

VI.

Ambassador Taylor and an Oval Office Meeting

Ambassador Bill Taylor arrived in Kyiv as Charge d’Affaires on June 17. For the next

month, a focus of our activities – along with those of the Three Amigos – was to coordinate a

White House visit. To that end, we were working with the Ukrainians to deliver things we

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thought President Trump might care about, such as commercial deals benefitting the United

States, which might convince President Trump to agree to a meeting with President Zelenskyy.

The Ukrainian policy community was unanimous in recognizing the importance of securing the

meeting and President Trump’s support. Ambassador Taylor reported that Secretary Pompeo

had told him prior to his arrival in Kyiv, “We need to work on turning the President around on

Ukraine.” Ambassador Volker told us the next five years could hang on what could be

accomplished in the next three months. I took that to mean that if we did not earn President

Trump’s support in the next three months, we could lose the opportunity to make progress

during President Zelenskyy’s term.

Within a week or two, it became apparent that the energy sector reforms, commercial

deals, and anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in

terms of persuading the White House to schedule a meeting between the presidents. On June

27, Ambassador Sondland told Ambassador Taylor in a phone conversation (the gist of which

Ambassador Taylor shared with me at the time) that President Zelenskyy needed to make clear

to President Trump that President Zelenskyy was not standing in the way of “investigations.” I

understood that this meant the Burisma/Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his

associates had been speaking about in the media since March. While Ambassador Taylor did

not brief me on every detail of his communications with the Three Amigos, he did tell me that

on a June 28 call with President Zelenskyy, Ambassador Taylor, and the Three Amigos, it was

made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval

Office meeting. Also on June 28, while President Trump was still not moving forward on a

meeting with President Zelenskyy, he met with Russian President Putin at the G20 Summit in

Osaka, Japan, sending a further signal of lack of support for Ukraine.

We became concerned that even if a meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelenskyy

could occur it would not go well, and I discussed with Embassy colleagues whether we should

stop seeking a meeting altogether. While a White House visit was critical to the Zelenskyy

administration, a visit that failed to send a clear and strong signal of support likely would be

worse for President Zelenskyy than no visit at all.

VII.

The Freezing of Security Assistance

Congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since 2014.

This assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to Ukraine in its defensive war

with Russia and has helped Ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably

the most capable and battle-hardened land force in Europe. I have had the honor of visiting the

main training facility in Western Ukraine with members of Congress and this very Committee,

where we witnessed first-hand U.S. National Guard troops, along with allies, conducting

training for Ukrainian soldiers. Since 2014, National Guard units from California, Oklahoma,

New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin have trained shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukrainian

counterparts.

Given the history of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and the bipartisan recognition of

its importance, I was shocked when, on July 18, an Office of Management and Budget staff

member surprisingly announced the hold on Ukraine security assistance. The announcement

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came toward the end of a nearly two-hour National Security Council secure video conference

call, which I participated in from the Embassy conference room. The official said the order had

come from the President and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further

explanation. This began a week or so of efforts by various agencies to identify the rationale for

the freeze, conduct a review of the assistance, and to reaffirm the unanimous view of the

Ukraine policy community of its importance. NSC counterparts confirmed to us that there had

been no change in our Ukraine policy, but could not determine the cause of the hold or how to

lift it.

VIII.

July 26 Meetings and Ambassador Sondland’s Call to the President

On July 25, President Trump made a congratulatory phone call to President Zelenskyy,

after his party won a commanding majority in Ukraine’s parliamentary election. Contrary to

standard procedure, the Embassy received no readout of the call, and I was unaware of what

was discussed until the transcript was released September 25. Upon reading the transcript, I

was deeply disappointed to see that the President raised none of what I understood to be our

inter-agency agreed-upon foreign policy priorities in Ukraine and instead raised the

Biden/Burisma investigation and referred to the theory about Crowdstrike, and its supposed

connection to Ukraine and the 2016 election.

The next day, July 26, 2019, I attended meetings at the Presidential Administration

Building in Kyiv with Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker, and Ambassador Sondland and

took notes during those meetings. Our first meeting was with President Zelenskyy’s Chief of

Staff. It was brief, as he had already been summoned by President Zelenskyy to prepare for a

subsequent broader meeting, but he did say that President Trump had expressed interest

during the previous day’s phone call in President Zelenskyy’s personnel decisions related to the

Prosecutor General’s Office.

The delegation then met with President Zelenskyy and several other senior officials.

During the meeting, President Zelenskyy stated that during the July 25 call, President Trump

had “three times” raised “some very sensitive issues,” and that he would have to follow up on

those issues when he and President Trump met “in person.” Not having received a readout of

the July 25 call, I did not know what those sensitive issues were.

After the meeting with President Zelenskyy, Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Taylor

quickly left the Presidential Administration Building for a trip to the front lines. Ambassador

Sondland, who was to fly out that afternoon, stayed behind to have a meeting with Andriy

Yermak, a top aide to President Zelenskyy.

As I was leaving the meeting with President Zelenskyy, I was told to join the meeting

with Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yermak as note-taker. I had not expected to join that

meeting and was a flight of stairs behind Ambassador Sondland as he headed to meet with Mr.

Yermak. When I reached Mr. Yermak’s office, Ambassador Sondland had already gone in to the

meeting. I explained to Mr. Yermak’s assistant that I was supposed to join the meeting as the

Embassy’s representative and strongly urged her to let me in, but she told me that Ambassador

Sondland and Mr. Yermak had insisted that the meeting be one-on-one, with no note-taker. I

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then waited in the anteroom until the meeting ended, along with a member of Ambassador

Sondland’s staff and a member of the U.S. Embassy Kyiv staff.

When the meeting ended, the two staffers and I accompanied Ambassador Sondland

out of the Presidential Administration Building. Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to

go to lunch. I told Ambassador Sondland that I would be happy to join him and the two staffers

for lunch if he wanted to brief me on his meeting with Mr. Yermak or discuss other issues, and

Ambassador Sondland said that I should join.

The four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. I sat directly

across from Ambassador Sondland, and the two staffers sat off to our sides. At first, the lunch

was largely social. Ambassador Sondland selected a bottle of wine that he shared among the

four of us, and we discussed topics such as marketing strategies for his hotel business.

During the lunch, Ambassador Sondland said that he was going to call President Trump

to give him an update. Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone, and I heard

him announce himself several times, along the lines of “Gordan Sondland holding for the

President.” It appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards

and assistants. I then noticed Ambassador Sondland’s demeanor change, and understood that

he had been connected to President Trump. 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.

I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from

Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine.

Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President

Zelenskyy “loves your ass.” 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

Zelenskyy will do “anything you ask him to.” Even though I did not take notes of these

statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my

colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking

with the President.

The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland’s efforts, on behalf of the

President, to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador

Sondland’s side of that part of the conversation. Ambassador Sondland told the President that

the rapper was “kind of f----d there,” and “should have pled guilty.” He recommended that the

President “wait until after the sentencing or it will make it worse,” adding that the President

should “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes

home.” Ambassador Sondland further told the President that Sweden “should have released

him on your word,” but that “you can tell the Kardashians you tried.”

After the call ended, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad

mood, as Ambassador Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning. I then took the

opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the President’s views on

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Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not

“give a s--t about Ukraine.” Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not “give a s--t

about Ukraine.” I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only

cares about “big stuff.” I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with

Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the President,

like the “Biden investigation” that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. The conversation then moved on

to other topics.

Upon returning to the Embassy, I immediately briefed my direct supervisor, the Deputy

Chief of Mission, about Ambassador Sondland’s call with President Trump and my subsequent

conversation with Ambassador Sondland. I told others at the Embassy about the call as well. I

also emailed an Embassy official in Sweden regarding the issue with the U.S. rapper that was

discussed on the call.

July 26 was my last day in the office ahead of a planned vacation that ended on August

6. After returning to the Embassy, I told Ambassador Taylor about the July 26 call. I also

repeatedly referred to the call and conversation with Ambassador Sondland in meetings and

conversations where the issue of the President’s interest in Ukraine was potentially relevant.

At that time, Ambassador Sondland’s statement of the President’s lack of interest in Ukraine

was of particular focus. We understood that in order to secure a meeting between President

Trump and President Zelenskyy, we would have to work hard to find a way to explain Ukraine’s

importance to President Trump in terms that he found compelling.

IX.

Lifting the Hold on Security Assistance

Over the ensuing weeks, we continued to try to identify ways to frame the importance

of Ukraine in ways that would appeal to the President, to determine how to lift the hold on

security assistance, and to move forward on the scheduling of a White House visit by President

Zelenskyy.

Ukrainian Independence Day is August 24 and presented a good opportunity to show

support for Ukraine. Secretary Pompeo had considered attending, as National Security Advisor

Bolton had attended in 2018 and Defense Secretary Mattis had attended in 2017. But in the

end, nobody senior to Ambassador Volker attended.

Shortly thereafter, on August 27, Ambassador Bolton visited Ukraine and brought

welcome news that President Trump had agreed to meet President Zelenskyy on September 1

in Warsaw. Ambassador Bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would

not be lifted prior to the Warsaw meeting, where it would hang on whether President

Zelenskyy was able to “favorably impress” President Trump. I took notes in Ambassador

Bolton’s meeting that day with President Zelenskyy and his Chief of Staff. Ambassador Bolton

told Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff that the meeting between the presidents in Warsaw would be

“crucial to cementing their relationship.” However, President Trump ultimately pulled out of

the Warsaw trip, so the hold remained in place with no clear means to get it lifted.

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Between meetings on August 27, I heard Ambassador Bolton express to Ambassador

Taylor and National Security Council Senior Director Tim Morrison his frustration about Mr.

Giuliani’s influence with the President, making clear there was nothing he could do about it. He

recommended that Mr. Lutsenko’s replacement as Prosecutor General open a channel with his

counterpart Attorney General Barr in place of the informal channel between Mr. Yermak and

Mr. Giuliani. Ambassador Bolton also expressed frustration about Ambassador Sondland’s

expansive interpretation of his mandate.

After President Trump cancelled his trip to Warsaw, we continued to try to appeal to

the President in foreign policy and national security terms. To that end, Ambassador Taylor

told me that Ambassador Bolton recommended that Ambassador Taylor send a first-person

cable to Secretary Pompeo articulating the importance of the security assistance. At

Ambassador Taylor’s direction, I drafted and transmitted the cable on Ambassador Taylor’s

behalf on August 29, which further attempted to explain the importance of Ukraine and the

security assistance to U.S. national security. By this point, however, my clear impression was

that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the President either as an expression of

dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as

an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.

On September 5, I took notes at Senator Johnson and Senator Chris Murphy’s meeting

with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, where President Zelenskyy asked about the security

assistance. Although both Senators stressed bipartisan Congressional support for Ukraine,

Senator Johnson cautioned President Zelenskyy that President Trump has a negative view of

Ukraine and that President Zelenskyy would have a difficult time overcoming it. Senator

Johnson further explained that he had been “shocked” by President Trump’s negative reaction

during an Oval Office meeting on May 23, when he and the Three Amigos proposed that

President Trump meet President Zelenskyy and show support for Ukraine.

On September 8, Ambassador Taylor told me, “now they’re insisting Zelenskyy commit

to the investigation in an interview with CNN,” which I took to refer to the Three Amigos. I was

shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete. While we had advised our Ukrainian

counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law and generally investigating

credible corruption allegations, this was a demand that President Zelenskyy personally commit,

on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival.

On September 11, the hold was finally lifted after significant press coverage and

bipartisan congressional expressions of concern about the withholding of security assistance.

Although we knew the hold was lifted, we were still concerned that President Zelenskyy had

committed, in exchange for the lifting, to give the requested CNN interview. We had several

indications that the interview would occur. First, the YES! Conference in Kyiv was held from

September 12-14, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria was one of the moderators. Second, on

September 13, an Embassy colleague received a phone call from a colleague who worked for

Ambassador Sondland. My Embassy colleague texted me regarding the call that, “Sondland

said the [Zelenskyy] interview is supposed to be today or Monday [Sept 16] and they plan to

announce that a certain investigation that was ‘on hold’ will progress. [Sondland’s aide] did not

know if this was decided or if [Sondland] is advocating this. Apparently he’s been discussing

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this with Yermak.” Finally, also on September 13, Ambassador Taylor and I ran into Mr. Yermak

on our way out of a meeting with President Zelenskyy in his private office. Ambassador Taylor

again stressed the importance of staying out of U.S. politics and said he hoped no interview was

planned. Mr. Yermak did not answer, but shrugged in resignation as if to indicate they had no

choice. In short, everyone thought there was going to be an interview, and that the Ukrainians

believed they had to do it. The interview ultimately did not occur.

On September 21, Ambassador Taylor and I collaborated on input he sent to Mr.

Morrison to brief President Trump ahead of a September 25 meeting that had been scheduled

with President Zelenskyy in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The

transcript of the July 25 call was released the same day. As of today, I still have not seen a

readout of the September 25 meeting.

X.

Impeachment Proceedings

As the impeachment inquiry has progressed, I have followed press reports and reviewed

the statements of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Yovanovitch. Based on my experience

in Ukraine, my recollection is generally consistent with their testimony, and I believed that the

relevant facts were therefore being laid out for the American people. However, in the last

couple weeks, I read press reports expressing for the first time that certain senior officials may

have been acting without the President’s knowledge, or “freelancing,” in their dealings with

Ukraine. At the same time, I also read reports noting the lack of “first-hand” evidence in the

investigation and suggesting that the only evidence being elicited at the hearings was

“hearsay.” I came to realize I had first-hand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 that

had not otherwise been reported, and that those events potentially bore on the question of

whether the President did, in fact, have knowledge that those senior officials were using the

levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian President to announce the opening

of a criminal investigation against President Trump’s political opponent. It is at that point that I

made the observation to Ambassador Taylor that the incident I had witnessed on July 26 had

acquired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony last week and is what

led to the subpoena for my appearance here today.

XI.

Conclusion

I would like to take a moment now to turn back to Ukraine. Today marks exactly six

years since throngs of pro-Western Ukrainians spontaneously gathered on Kyiv’s Independence

Square to launch what became known as the Revolution of Dignity. While the protests began in

opposition to a turn toward Russia and away from the West, they expanded over three months

to reject the entire corrupt, repressive system that had been sustained by Russian influence in

the country. Those events were followed by Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean

peninsula and invasion of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, and an ensuing war that, to date,

has cost Ukraine almost 14,000 lives. Despite the Russian aggression, over the past five years,

Ukrainians have rebuilt a shattered economy, adhered to a peace process, and moved

economically and socially closer to the West – toward our way of life. Earlier this year, large

majorities of Ukrainians again chose a fresh start by voting for a political newcomer as

president, replacing 80 percent of their parliament, and endorsing a platform consistent with

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our democratic values, reform priorities, and strategic interests. This year’s revolution at the

ballot box underscores that, despite its imperfections, Ukraine is a genuine and vibrant

democracy and an example to other post-Soviet countries and beyond – from Moscow to Hong

Kong.

How we respond to this historic opportunity will set the trajectory of our relationship

with Ukraine and will define our willingness to defend our bedrock international principles and

our leadership role in the world. Ukrainians want to hear a clear and unambiguous

reaffirmation that our long-standing, bipartisan policy of strong support for Ukraine remains

unchanged and that we fully back it at the highest levels. Now is not the time to retreat from

our relationship with Ukraine, but rather to double down on it. As we sit here, Ukrainians are

fighting a hot war on Ukrainian territory against Russian aggression. This week alone, since I

have been here in Washington, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured by Russia-led

forces in eastern Ukraine despite a declared ceasefire. As Vice President Pence said after his

meeting with President Zelenskyy in Warsaw, “The U.S.-Ukraine relationship has never been

stronger.” Ukrainians and their new government earnestly want to believe that.

Ukrainians cherish their bipartisan American support that has sustained their EuroAtlantic aspirations, and they recoil at the thought of playing a role in U.S. domestic politics or

elections. At a time of shifting allegiances and rising competitors in the world, we have no

better friend than Ukraine – a scrappy, unbowed, determined, and above all dignified people

who are standing up against Russian authoritarianism and aggression. They deserve better.

We are now at an inflection point in Ukraine, and it is critical to our national security that we

stand in strong support of our Ukrainian partners. Ukrainians and freedom-loving people

everywhere are watching the example we set of democracy and the rule of law.

Thank you, I am happy to answer any questions.

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