Staffer who overheard Trump call with Sondland testifies in closed hearing

David Holmes, the aide who overheard a phone call between U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and President Trump, is testifying in a closed hearing with the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday that Holmes, who he only identified as a member of his staff, had informed him of the July 26 call last week.

David Holmes, a State Department official, arrives to appear in a closed-door deposition hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 15, 2019.  AFP via Getty Images / OLIVIER DOULIERY

Holmes is a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, according to the embassy’s website.

At the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry, Taylor testified that a member of his staff, whom he did not name, was with Sondland at a restaurant on July 26 when the ambassador placed a call to Mr. Trump.

“The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations,'” Taylor, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, said in his opening statement. “Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”

Taylor said that the staff member, now known to be Holmes, asked Sondland after the call what the president “thought about Ukraine.”

“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said. He told the Intelligence Committee that he was not aware of the conversation at the time of his deposition in October.

Republicans have questioned why Holmes did not come forward with information about the July 26 call earlier. However, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin said Friday afternoon, “It’s not later — we’re in the middle of an investigation now.”

“That’s how investigations work. People come forward with information along the way. Remember, we haven’t even drafted articles of impeachment yet, much less voted on them, much less sent it over to the Senate where the real trial takes place. So there’s nothing remotely late about his coming forward,” Raskin told CBS News.

Holmes’ testimony comes directly after lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee heard from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry.

Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in Ukraine in early May, testified that she was the victim of a smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani and “foreign corrupt interests” in Ukraine, one that left her reputation tarnished after a career of public service that has spanned over three decades.

Stefan Becket and Olivia Gazis contributed to this report

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