Live Updates: Fiona Hill, David Holmes Round Out Week of Public Testimonies in Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Two key witnesses are testifying before lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday as part of the House's public impeachment hearings.

Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official who was tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as the White House's top Russian and European affairs adviser, and David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine serving as a political counselor, became the latest current and former officials to come before the House Intelligence Committee. They are expected to offer damning testimony against the president. Hill left her position in July.

Both witnesses testified under subpoena, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.

This story is no longer being updated.

Fiona Hill David Holmes testify impeachment hearing
Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia, and David Holmes, an official from the American embassy in Ukraine, are sworn in before testifying to the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 21, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The committee heard testimony during the fifth day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Update 4:15 p.m.: Hearing ends with fiery closing statement from Adam Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that's conducted the public impeachment hearings, ridiculed Republicans who have so vehemently defended the president against accusations from Democrats of bribery and other wrongdoing.

Schiff, a usually quiet, more reserved lawmaker on Capitol Hill, was animated in his lengthy remarks, raising his voices at times to emphasize his frustration with his GOP colleagues for calling into question the patriotism and credibility of certain witnesses, in addition to their handling of the Ukraine scandal.

"There is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law," the California Democrat said. "We are better than that!"

Update 3:45 p.m.: Hill doesn't buy Gordon Sondland's claims

Hill and Holmes testimony
Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Hill expressed skepticism that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was unaware Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where Joe Biden's son, Hunter, was a board member, was a push to probe the Bidens.

"It is not credible to me that he was oblivious," she stated.

Gordon said in his Wednesday testimony that he only made the Burisma-Biden connection once the White House released a rough transcript of the July 25 Trump-Ukraine call. This despite Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, repeatedly talking publicly about the connection and other current and former officials testifying they realized the linkage.

"Apparently, a lot of people did not make the connection," Sondland said.

Update 3:30 p.m.: Outgoing Republican Will Hurd officially rules out supporting impeachment

Hill and Holmes testimony
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) questions Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20 in Washington, DC. Photo by Samuel Corum - Pool/Getty

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), the lone black House Republican who will be retiring from Congress at the end of his term next year, put to rest any speculation that he may side with Democrats in future votes for impeachment. Hurd has previously gone a step further than his GOP colleagues when levying criticism of Trump. As a result, he was viewed as a potential impeachment supporter.

But he quashed the notion that the Ukraine scandal amounted to impeachable offenses.

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

Hurd did, however, describe Trump's July 25 phone call and his subsequent requests to have his Ukrainian counterpart conduct an investigation into a political rival as "inappropriate, misguided foreign policy and it's certainly not how the executive, current or in the future, should handle such a call."

Update 2:00 p.m.: Hill bats down GOP attacks against Alexander Vindman

Hill and Holmes testimony
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (C), National Security Council Director for European Affairs, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Hill came to the defense of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified Tuesday, against previous attacks from Republicans and conservative media pundits who suggested the Ukrainian immigrant's loyalty may align somewhere other than the United States and was, therefore, not credible.

Hill, like Vindman, is an immigrant. She was born in England and became a U.S. citizen in 2002. But with Vindman's damning testimony, which provided firsthand information because he was on Trump's July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, came allegations of dual loyalty because he was recently offered a top government defense position by a Ukrainian official.

"I think it's very unfortunate. This is a country of immigrants... Everyone immigrated to the United States at some point in their family history. This is what, for me, really does make America great," Hill said. "I do not believe that my loyalty to the United Kingdom. My loyalty is here, to the United States... And I know for a fact that every single one of my colleagues—and there were many naturalized citizens in my office and across the National Security Council—felt exactly the same way. I think it's deeply unfair."

Offering a full-throated defense of her colleague, Hill backed Vindman's judgment and expertise on Ukraine, stating that her only concern with the military officer was perhaps his inability to handle the increased politicized proceedings surrounding U.S.-Ukraine policy.

Update 11:30 a.m.: Holmes undercuts Republicans' anti-quid pro quo narratives

Holmes undercut an argument that's been repeated by Republicans as evidence Trump could not have committed a quid pro quo by withholding military aid from Ukraine allegedly in exchange for politically motivated investigations.

Republicans have said that because Ukrainians were seemingly unaware of the hold on the aid until days before it was released, Trump could not have engaged in a quid pro quo. But several witnesses, including Holmes, have indicated that U.S. and Ukrainian officials had come to understand that the aid and a White House meeting would continue to be withheld until Ukraine publicly committed to investigating the Bidens and the 2016 election.

"When [Ukraine] received no explanation for why that hold was in place, they would have drawn that conclusion," Holmes said.

Republicans have also argued that because Ukraine neither agreed to nor conducted the probes, Trump's actions could again not have amounted to a quid pro quo.

But Hill said he had "several indications" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy planned to announce on CNN that Trump's desired investigations would take place. Just days before the interview was allegedly set to take place, however, the hold on aid was lifted on September 11.

Update 10:50 a.m.: Trump only cared about the "big stuff" like the "Biden investigation"

Hill and Holmes testimony
Former Vice President Joe Biden greets the audience after the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty

Holmes, like what he has told lawmakers behind closed doors, said Trump was most interested in Ukraine conducting politically motivated investigations, such as a probe into the Bidens, rather than them rooting out corruption or thwarting Russian aggression.

After U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland got off the phone with Trump on July 26 at a restaurant in Ukraine—the day after Trump's infamous July 25 call with Zelenskiy—Holmes, who was dining with Sondland and others, asked him what Trump cares about.

Holmes recalled Sondland replying that Trump did not give a "[expletive] about Ukraine" and was more interested in "big stuff."

"I asked him, 'Well, what kind of big stuff? We have big stuff going on here, like a war with Russia.' And he said, 'no, big stuff like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani is pushing,'" Holmes said.

Sondland, according to Holmes, also told Trump that Zelenskiy "loves your ass." In his testimony on Wednesday, Sondland recalled his conversation with Trump: "Sounds like something I would say... That's how President Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words."

Update 10:20 a.m.: "This is a fictional narrative"

Hill, in her opening remarks and without mentioning anyone by name, took aim at Republicans who've appeared to question Russia's role in 2016 U.S. election meddling and have suggested it was Ukraine—rather than Russia—that was involved. One of the investigations Trump wanted Ukraine to conduct involved this discredited conspiracy theory.

"[S]ome 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," she stated. "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

Hill further warned of the potential interference Russia could again offer in the upcoming 2020 elections, asking lawmakers to "please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests."

The committee's ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), refuted Hill's criticism by citing a 2018 Republican report that followed the year-long probe into Russian election meddling. The report was criticized at the time for questioning whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to help Trump win the election, a conclusion that has long been supported by the Intelligence Community.

Background information

During a closed-door deposition earlier this month, Hill raised concerns about the role of Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in foreign policy matters. She also raised concerns about his role in a pressure campaign to push Ukraine to conduct politically motivated investigations.

Holmes, in his private deposition, said he overheard a call between Trump and Sondland, a conversation in which the two men discussed investigations the day after the infamous July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy.

Holmes told lawmakers, according to his earlier deposition, that after Sondland got off the phone with Trump, he said the president "doesn't give a [expletive] about Ukraine."

"The President only cares about 'big stuff' ... that benefits the President, like the 'Biden investigation' that Mr. Giuliani was pushing," Holmes said.

Several impeachment hearing witnesses have described a quid pro quo that occurred by withholding a White House meeting, phone call and roughly $400 million in foreign military aid in exchange for promises to investigate a 2016 election interference conspiracy theory and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company where Joe Biden's son, Hunter, was on the board. Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have continued to deny that there was any wrongdoing by the president, arguing that the security assistance was eventually released without Ukraine investigating one of Trump's biggest political rivals.

Democrats, on the other hand, have accused Trump of engaging in "bribery" with a foreign counterpart and that his actions are impeachable offenses.

"In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) stated in his opening remarks. "If the President abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts—a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid—it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the Presidency."