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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "State Department"

Trump Administration Moves to Upgrade Diplomatic Ties With Sudan

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165417735_df938721-c5f3-4081-9a75-dffe3cb47c3e-facebookJumbo Trump Administration Moves to Upgrade Diplomatic Ties With Sudan United States International Relations Terrorism Sudan State Department South Sudan Pompeo, Mike Hamdok, Abdalla Hale, David Maclain Embargoes and Sanctions Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates

WASHINGTON — The United States said on Wednesday that it would begin exchanging ambassadors with Sudan after a 23-year gap, a sign the countries intend to strengthen diplomatic ties.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the Trump administration’s vote of confidence in a new Sudanese civilian-led government installed in August after a sweeping revolution ended military rule.

Mr. Pompeo said the move could help transform Sudan’s political and economic systems, bolstering changes demanded by protesters who filled the streets of the country’s major cities over the summer and withstood harsh crackdowns — including killings — by security forces.

Since taking office this summer, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok “has demonstrated a commitment to peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, established a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protesters and committed to holding democratic elections,” Mr. Pompeo said in a written statement.

Mr. Hamdok, an experienced administrator and British-trained economist, is visiting Washington this week, where he is, among other things, asking the administration to drop Sudan from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The potential removal of Sudan from the list would continue to be a consideration, a State Department official said, and the move to install ambassadors suggests the department may comply, which would leave only three countries on the list. The others, Iran, Syria and North Korea, have no diplomatic ties with the United States. The terrorism designation means that restrictions remain on foreign aid and military sales.

Mr. Pompeo was in Lisbon on Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, so David Hale, the third-ranking State Department official, spoke with Mr. Hamdok instead. Among the topics of discussion were a political road map for South Sudan, which broke away from Sudan in 2011, and efforts to establish “peace between the government and Sudan’s armed opposition groups,” the State Department said in a summary of the meeting.

In 2017, the United States lifted a number of sanctions against Sudan, including general restrictions on trade. Penalties related to the conflict in Darfur are the only financial sanctions that remain, said the State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to override the department’s official statements about the visit.

Mr. Hamdok also met with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill. The committee said in a statement afterward that in discussing the terrorism designation, lawmakers “raised lingering concerns about the need for financial transparency within the security sector and about remaining elements of the old regime who may still support international terrorism.”

Before being delisted, lawmakers said, Sudan “must reach a settlement with the families of the victims” of several attacks carried out by Al Qaeda operating in the country. Those include the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the bombing of the destroyer Cole in 2000.

In an interview on Tuesday with NPR, Mr. Hamdok said Sudan’s designation hampered its potential for economic growth and ability to pay off debt. He pointed to a shortage of commodities and double-digit inflation.

“So I think we would like to see decent companies from all over the world, but particularly from the U.S., to come and invest in our country, that will create jobs,” he said. “And all this can only happen if we are delisted from this list.”

Mr. Hamdok also defended the makeup of the governing transitional coalition, which includes military and paramilitary leaders, established in a power-sharing agreement in August. Mr. Hamdok said an independent investigative committee was looking into human rights atrocities committed recently against protesters.

The revolution toppled Sudan’s ruler of 30 years, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, leading to his imprisonment. Mr. Bashir is awaiting trial on corruption charges. The transitional government is grappling with questions of justice and the punishment of former officials who took part in atrocities over the decades.

In the interview, Mr. Hamdok said that his government was committed to eliminating “dehumanizing” laws, stressing that it recently repealed so-called morality laws that imposed restrictions on women’s clothing and freedom of movement.

“The sky is the limit,” he said, “for our ambition in observing the human rights of our people.”

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White House Lifts Mysterious Hold on Military Aid to Lebanon

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-diplo2-facebookJumbo White House Lifts Mysterious Hold on Military Aid to Lebanon United States Politics and Government United States International Relations State Department Office of Management and Budget (US) Lebanon Foreign Aid Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration told Congress on Monday that it had lifted a hold last week on $105 million of military aid to Lebanon that budget officials had imposed without explanation.

In recent weeks, lawmakers and reporters had asked administration officials about the mysterious monthslong hold, which echoed the freeze of military aid to Ukraine over the summer, but got no answers. On Monday, a senior State Department official said the Lebanon aid was good to go.

The freeze on Ukraine aid by President Trump is at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump, his personal lawyer and aides pressured Ukrainian leaders for personal political favors while holding up $391 million of military aid.

Administration officials said that in the cases of Ukraine and Lebanon, the Office of Management and Budget, part of the White House, had shut off the aid. Two congressional officials said on Nov. 1 that members of the National Security Council staff had asked the budget office for the freeze on aid to Lebanon.

Administration officials halted the funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department had approved, at a critical time. Lebanon has been shaken by the country’s largest street protests since its independence in 1943 and a change in leadership forced by the demonstrations.

Analysts said the holdup could give Iran and Russia an opening to exert greater influence over the Lebanese military, and perhaps even allow the Islamic State and Al Qaeda to gain greater footholds in the country. Iran and Russia are giving military support to the brutal government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which borders Lebanon.

Although administration officials notified Congress on Monday that they had reversed the decision on Lebanon, according to two congressional aides, it was still unclear why the aid had been frozen in the first place.

Some congressional officials have said foreign policy specialists sought to cut off the aid out of fear that the funding could end up helping Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite group. In some right-wing circles, concern has been growing over Hezbollah’s influence in the Lebanese government and possibly the military.

Several Republicans in Congress, led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, have backed a measure that would withhold 20 percent of American military assistance to Lebanon unless the president can certify that the Lebanese military is taking “necessary steps to end Hezbollah and Iran’s influence” over the Lebanese Armed Forces, Mr. Cruz said.

Both the State Department and Pentagon, however, have pushed to ensure that aid continues to flow to the Lebanese Armed Forces, arguing that the military serves as a significant counterweight to both Hezbollah and Sunni extremist elements. The military is a multisectarian part of the government.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, traveled last week to the American Embassy in Lebanon. Mr. Murphy said in a statement on Monday afternoon that he was “relieved” the aid was unfrozen. But Monday morning, before news agencies reported that the hold had been lifted, he criticized the administration’s decision.

“It was very clear in Ukraine what they needed to do to get the money released. When I was there” in Lebanon, he said in an interview, “it was very murky. I went there, and all we knew was that the money was not flowing and no one would say on the record why.”

The aid to Lebanon had been held since at least late June, around the same period the aid to Ukraine was frozen, according to David Hale, the third-ranking official at the State Department. Mr. Hale talked with lawmakers during a closed-door House impeachment inquiry hearing on Nov. 6 about the holds on aid to the two countries, according to a transcript.

He said that on July 23, he learned via an email that the top State Department official in charge of Middle East policy had spoken to an official at the Pentagon about the mystery over the delays in Lebanon and Ukraine aid. The “two of them speculated, was this a new normal on assistance?” Mr. Hale said.

“The aid package to Lebanon was also being held in the same fashion,” Mr. Hale said.

He added that there was a wider review of foreign assistance taking place “to re-establish the norms that guide the assistance that we provide overseas.”

It was on July 23, he said, that the Office of Management and Budget said in a lower-level interagency meeting that the Ukraine aid had been suspended. He said the State Department was never given formal or informal communication about the rationale for the suspension of military aid to Lebanon.

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New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163180182_ee094740-6437-4488-a6b2-1349cc553dd5-facebookJumbo New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair Yovanovitch, Marie L United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Pompeo, Mike House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates

WASHINGTON — Internal State Department emails and documents released late Friday further implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a campaign orchestrated this year by President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for political favors.

The emails indicate that Mr. Pompeo spoke at least twice by telephone with Mr. Giuliani in March as Mr. Giuliani was urging Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, and trying to oust a respected American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who had been promoting anticorruption efforts in the country. Mr. Pompeo ordered Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal the next month. One call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo was arranged with guidance from Mr. Trump’s personal assistant, the documents suggest.

The documents also show that the State Department sent members of Congress a deliberately misleading reply about Ms. Yovanovitch’s departure after they asked about pressure on her. As part of the effort to oust her, Mr. Giuliani and his associates encouraged news outlets favorable to the president to publicize unsubstantiated claims about Ms. Yovanovitch’s disloyalty to Mr. Trump.

The documents, and recent congressional testimonies in the impeachment inquiry, tie Mr. Pompeo closely to efforts by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to persuade the Ukrainian government to announce investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically. Those include investigations into the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate, and unfounded claims that Ukrainian officials worked to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As Mr. Trump sought those investigations, he and his team held up $391 million of military aid critical to Ukraine — which is in a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists — and a coveted White House meeting.

The release of the documents, obtained by a liberal watchdog group that had filed a public records request, came as Mr. Pompeo refused to voluntarily hand over State Department documents about Ukraine to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that Mr. Pompeo was engaged in a Watergate-style “obstruction of this investigation.”

The State Department released the documents in response to a lawsuit brought by the liberal watchdog, American Oversight, whose founders include lawyers who worked in the Obama administration.

Austin Evers, the executive director of the group, said that the documents revealed “a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador.”

Mr. Pompeo has refused to answer questions about his role in the Ukraine affair. The State Department did not reply on Saturday to detailed questions about the documents or witness testimonies in the inquiry that put the secretary at the center of the matter.

The documents bolstered testimony delivered Wednesday by Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union and a player in the pressure campaign on Ukraine. He told lawmakers in a public hearing that Mr. Pompeo had full knowledge of the campaign and even approved certain hard-line tactics. Mr. Pompeo and his top aides “knew what we were doing, and why,” Mr. Sondland said, noting that “everyone was in the loop.” He recited email exchanges he had had with Mr. Pompeo on the pressure campaign.

Last month, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged he took part in the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

The documents, testimony and interviews with Mr. Giuliani paint a portrait of a secretary of state who not only had intimate knowledge of the pressure campaign against Ukraine and the effort to undermine and remove a respected ambassador, but took part in her ouster despite warnings about the campaign from lawmakers and a half-dozen former ambassadors to Ukraine.

The emails released Friday show that Mr. Giuliani’s assistant reached out to Mr. Trump’s assistant seeking “a good number” for Mr. Pompeo. “I’ve been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels,” Mr. Giuliani’s assistant wrote. Mr. Trump’s assistant forwarded the inquiry to a State Department official, and one call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo took place within days, the emails show.

The emails also show that Mr. Pompeo was scheduled to call Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and a key ally of the president’s, just a few days after he spoke with Mr. Giuliani.

The emails do not have details of the telephone conversations.

But in an interview last month, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he spoke to Mr. Pompeo in late March — the same period as the calls listed in the emails released Friday — to relay information he had gathered during his Ukrainian research.

In connection with one such conversation, Mr. Giuliani said he provided Mr. Pompeo a timeline listing what he considered to be key events implicating targets of Mr. Trump, including the Bidens, Ms. Yovanovitch and Ukrainians whom Mr. Giuliani said had disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Shortly after, Mr. Pompeo “called and said, ‘Do you have any backup?’” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview.

In response, Mr. Giuliani said, he had someone hand-deliver to Mr. Pompeo’s office an envelope containing a series of memos detailing claims made by a pair of Ukrainian prosecutors in interviews conducted by Mr. Giuliani and his associates in January.

Mr. Pompeo “said he was referring it for investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he had since heard that the matters detailed in the memos were referred to the State Department’s inspector general and the F.B.I.

Last month, the department’s inspector general turned over to congressional impeachment investigators a package of materials, including the memos and the timeline, in a Trump Hotel-branded envelope, prompting widespread puzzlement on Capitol Hill about its provenance.

The memos and the timeline were among the materials included in the document release on Friday.

Mr. Giuliani said the memos were written by a retired New York City police detective who works for Mr. Giuliani’s security consulting business and were modeled after the so-called 302 forms that F.B.I. agents file after conducting interviews.

“My guy ­— a former first-grade detective — wrote up what would be the 302,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They’re knockoffs of the 302s,” he added.

The memos include a mix of facts and unsubstantiated claims. They cite documents from Latvia and billing invoices. And they misspell the name of one of the Ukrainian prosecutors.

The memos indicate that the police detective was present for the interviews, as were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates who helped Mr. Giuliani connect to the prosecutors and gather information from Kyiv. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were indicted last month on campaign finance charges, in a case that is tied to an investigation into Mr. Giuliani for possible violations of lobbying laws.

Since at least spring 2018, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman had pushed for Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster.

The effort gained traction this spring when figures in the conservative news media claimed without evidence that Ms. Yovanovitch had privately disparaged Mr. Trump, and also cited the allegations by the Ukrainian prosecutors.

A letter to the State Department from two senior Democratic lawmakers in the House dated April 12 — just days before Ms. Yovanovitch was ordered to leave her post — said they were concerned by “outrageous efforts by Ukrainian officials to impugn” her. Ms. Yovanovitch, a career official, has served as an ambassador for Republican and Democratic presidents.

The reply from the agency, dated June 1, left the impression that Ms. Yovanovitch departed her post on May 20 because she had been scheduled to rotate out after three years, rather than indicating that she had been forced to leave.

The documents also include a letter dated April 5 from six former United States ambassadors to Ukraine to top State Department officials under Mr. Pompeo. In the letter, the former ambassadors said that they were “deeply concerned” about the charges against Ms. Yovanovitch that had emerged in the news media reports and that the accusations were “simply wrong.”

In late March, Ms. Yovanovitch told the third-ranking State Department official, David Hale, that she felt she could no longer continue in her role unless the department issued a statement in her defense. Mr. Hale briefed Mr. Pompeo about the conversation the next day, he testified to House investigators last week.

After looking into the right-wing campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch — even contacting Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality, to ask for details of wrongdoing — Mr. Pompeo believed that “there was no evidence” to support the allegations, Mr. Hale said in an earlier private testimony to lawmakers. But Mr. Pompeo ultimately chose not to issue a statement of support. (Mr. Hannity has denied any such call.)

John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, told senators last month that top State Department officials were aware of the smear campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch. Mr. Sullivan said he believed Mr. Giuliani was behind it.

In his retelling, Mr. Sullivan asked Mr. Pompeo why the president wanted to remove Ms. Yovanovitch. “I was told that he had lost confidence in her, period,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and one of the lawmakers who sent the letter to Mr. Pompeo expressing concern over the smear campaign, said he initially found the department’s response “equally frustrating and baffling.”

“Now that we know more facts it makes sense: Secretary Pompeo was apparently helping the president with his scheme to get political help from the Ukrainians, and Ambassador Yovanovitch was standing in the way,” Mr. Engel said. “Six months later, Mr. Pompeo continues to defend the president’s behavior and defy congressional subpoenas for relevant information at the expense of the public servants he is unwilling to lead and defend.”

Mr. Pompeo has doubled down recently on his support of Mr. Trump’s demands on Ukraine. In several instances last month, Mr. Pompeo repeated an unsubstantiated claim by Mr. Trump — that Ukraine may have run an interference operation in the 2016 election. American intelligence officials and Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, say that the falsehood has infected American discourse as part of a yearslong disinformation campaign by Russia.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163180182_ee094740-6437-4488-a6b2-1349cc553dd5-facebookJumbo New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair Yovanovitch, Marie L United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Pompeo, Mike House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates

WASHINGTON — Internal State Department emails and documents released late Friday further implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a campaign orchestrated this year by President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for political favors.

The emails indicate that Mr. Pompeo spoke at least twice by telephone with Mr. Giuliani in March as Mr. Giuliani was urging Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, and trying to oust a respected American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who had been promoting anticorruption efforts in the country. Mr. Pompeo ordered Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal the next month. One call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo was arranged with guidance from Mr. Trump’s personal assistant, the documents suggest.

The documents also show that the State Department sent members of Congress a deliberately misleading reply about Ms. Yovanovitch’s departure after they asked about pressure on her. As part of the effort to oust her, Mr. Giuliani and his associates encouraged news outlets favorable to the president to publicize unsubstantiated claims about Ms. Yovanovitch’s disloyalty to Mr. Trump.

The documents, and recent congressional testimonies in the impeachment inquiry, tie Mr. Pompeo closely to efforts by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to persuade the Ukrainian government to announce investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically. Those include investigations into the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate, and unfounded claims that Ukrainian officials worked to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As Mr. Trump sought those investigations, he and his team held up $391 million of military aid critical to Ukraine — which is in a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists — and a coveted White House meeting.

The release of the documents, obtained by a liberal watchdog group that had filed a public records request, came as Mr. Pompeo refused to voluntarily hand over State Department documents about Ukraine to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that Mr. Pompeo was engaged in a Watergate-style “obstruction of this investigation.”

The State Department released the documents in response to a lawsuit brought by the liberal watchdog, American Oversight, whose founders include lawyers who worked in the Obama administration.

Austin Evers, the executive director of the group, said that the documents revealed “a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador.”

Mr. Pompeo has refused to answer questions about his role in the Ukraine affair. The State Department did not reply on Saturday to detailed questions about the documents or witness testimonies in the inquiry that put the secretary at the center of the matter.

The documents bolstered testimony delivered Wednesday by Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union and a player in the pressure campaign on Ukraine. He told lawmakers in a public hearing that Mr. Pompeo had full knowledge of the campaign and even approved certain hard-line tactics. Mr. Pompeo and his top aides “knew what we were doing, and why,” Mr. Sondland said, noting that “everyone was in the loop.” He recited email exchanges he had had with Mr. Pompeo on the pressure campaign.

Last month, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged he took part in the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

The documents, testimony and interviews with Mr. Giuliani paint a portrait of a secretary of state who not only had intimate knowledge of the pressure campaign against Ukraine and the effort to undermine and remove a respected ambassador, but took part in her ouster despite warnings about the campaign from lawmakers and a half-dozen former ambassadors to Ukraine.

The emails released Friday show that Mr. Giuliani’s assistant reached out to Mr. Trump’s assistant seeking “a good number” for Mr. Pompeo. “I’ve been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels,” Mr. Giuliani’s assistant wrote. Mr. Trump’s assistant forwarded the inquiry to a State Department official, and one call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo took place within days, the emails show.

The emails also show that Mr. Pompeo was scheduled to call Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and a key ally of the president’s, just a few days after he spoke with Mr. Giuliani.

The emails do not have details of the telephone conversations.

But in an interview last month, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he spoke to Mr. Pompeo in late March — the same period as the calls listed in the emails released Friday — to relay information he had gathered during his Ukrainian research.

In connection with one such conversation, Mr. Giuliani said he provided Mr. Pompeo a timeline listing what he considered to be key events implicating targets of Mr. Trump, including the Bidens, Ms. Yovanovitch and Ukrainians whom Mr. Giuliani said had disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Shortly after, Mr. Pompeo “called and said, ‘Do you have any backup?’” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview.

In response, Mr. Giuliani said, he had someone hand-deliver to Mr. Pompeo’s office an envelope containing a series of memos detailing claims made by a pair of Ukrainian prosecutors in interviews conducted by Mr. Giuliani and his associates in January.

Mr. Pompeo “said he was referring it for investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he had since heard that the matters detailed in the memos were referred to the State Department’s inspector general and the F.B.I.

Last month, the department’s inspector general turned over to congressional impeachment investigators a package of materials, including the memos and the timeline, in a Trump Hotel-branded envelope, prompting widespread puzzlement on Capitol Hill about its provenance.

The memos and the timeline were among the materials included in the document release on Friday.

Mr. Giuliani said the memos were written by a retired New York City police detective who works for Mr. Giuliani’s security consulting business and were modeled after the so-called 302 forms that F.B.I. agents file after conducting interviews.

“My guy ­— a former first-grade detective — wrote up what would be the 302,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They’re knockoffs of the 302s,” he added.

The memos include a mix of facts and unsubstantiated claims. They cite documents from Latvia and billing invoices. And they misspell the name of one of the Ukrainian prosecutors.

The memos indicate that the police detective was present for the interviews, as were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates who helped Mr. Giuliani connect to the prosecutors and gather information from Kyiv. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were indicted last month on campaign finance charges, in a case that is tied to an investigation into Mr. Giuliani for possible violations of lobbying laws.

Since at least spring 2018, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman had pushed for Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster.

The effort gained traction this spring when figures in the conservative news media claimed without evidence that Ms. Yovanovitch had privately disparaged Mr. Trump, and also cited the allegations by the Ukrainian prosecutors.

A letter to the State Department from two senior Democratic lawmakers in the House dated April 12 — just days before Ms. Yovanovitch was ordered to leave her post — said they were concerned by “outrageous efforts by Ukrainian officials to impugn” her. Ms. Yovanovitch, a career official, has served as an ambassador for Republican and Democratic presidents.

The reply from the agency, dated June 1, left the impression that Ms. Yovanovitch departed her post on May 20 because she had been scheduled to rotate out after three years, rather than indicating that she had been forced to leave.

The documents also include a letter dated April 5 from six former United States ambassadors to Ukraine to top State Department officials under Mr. Pompeo. In the letter, the former ambassadors said that they were “deeply concerned” about the charges against Ms. Yovanovitch that had emerged in the news media reports and that the accusations were “simply wrong.”

In late March, Ms. Yovanovitch told the third-ranking State Department official, David Hale, that she felt she could no longer continue in her role unless the department issued a statement in her defense. Mr. Hale briefed Mr. Pompeo about the conversation the next day, he testified to House investigators last week.

After looking into the right-wing campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch — even contacting Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality, to ask for details of wrongdoing — Mr. Pompeo believed that “there was no evidence” to support the allegations, Mr. Hale said in an earlier private testimony to lawmakers. But Mr. Pompeo ultimately chose not to issue a statement of support. (Mr. Hannity has denied any such call.)

John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, told senators last month that top State Department officials were aware of the smear campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch. Mr. Sullivan said he believed Mr. Giuliani was behind it.

In his retelling, Mr. Sullivan asked Mr. Pompeo why the president wanted to remove Ms. Yovanovitch. “I was told that he had lost confidence in her, period,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and one of the lawmakers who sent the letter to Mr. Pompeo expressing concern over the smear campaign, said he initially found the department’s response “equally frustrating and baffling.”

“Now that we know more facts it makes sense: Secretary Pompeo was apparently helping the president with his scheme to get political help from the Ukrainians, and Ambassador Yovanovitch was standing in the way,” Mr. Engel said. “Six months later, Mr. Pompeo continues to defend the president’s behavior and defy congressional subpoenas for relevant information at the expense of the public servants he is unwilling to lead and defend.”

Mr. Pompeo has doubled down recently on his support of Mr. Trump’s demands on Ukraine. In several instances last month, Mr. Pompeo repeated an unsubstantiated claim by Mr. Trump — that Ukraine may have run an interference operation in the 2016 election. American intelligence officials and Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, say that the falsehood has infected American discourse as part of a yearslong disinformation campaign by Russia.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States Embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union. Mr. Sondland is a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from Thursday’s testimony.

Responding to questions from Republicans, Dr. Hill explained the crux of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — the United States had two separate agendas operating in Ukraine, yet those involved in each viewed theirs was the only one.

Dr. Hill said she and other career foreign policy officials were frustrated with what Mr. Sondland was doing outside the normal channels of interagency coordination.

Hill: “What I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us. I’ve actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him, that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me ‘But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with? And the point is that we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the chargé in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails? These were the people that need to know. And he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill thought Mr. Sondland’s goal of getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals was trivial and contrary to longstanding efforts regarding Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers that he did not understand how there could be an irregular back channel when his channel included the president of the United States, members of the president’s cabinet and the national security adviser.

“I don’t know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it’s the leadership that makes the decisions,” Mr. Sondland said.

During an intense exchange with Mr. Sondland at the time, Dr. Hill said she told him, “This is all going to blow up.” She added, “And here we are.”

Westlake Legal Group fiona-hill-opening-statement-ukraine-1574344066729-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read Fiona Hill’s Opening Statement

Ms. Hill had a front-row seat to dramatic events in the White House around the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that Mr. Zelensky “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “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 promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes described what other witnesses have depicted — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Westlake Legal Group david-holmes-opening-statement-ukraine-1574351587182-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read David Holmes’s Opening Statement

The career diplomat said he was told President Trump cared more about investigating his political rivals than about the welfare of Ukraine.

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

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. ”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump has sought Ukraine to initiate was looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

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

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that the president was always suspicious of Ukraine — and for good reason — because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, some promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Responding to questions from Republicans, Dr. Hill explained the crux of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — the United States had two separate agendas operating in Ukraine, yet those involved in each viewed theirs was the only one.

Dr. Hill said she and other career foreign policy officials were frustrated with what Mr. Sondland was doing outside the normal channels of interagency coordination.

Hill: “What I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us. I’ve actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him, that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me ‘But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with? And the point is that we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the chargé in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails? These were the people that need to know. And he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill thought Mr. Sondland’s goal of getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals was trivial and contrary to longstanding efforts regarding Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers that he did not understand how there could be an irregular back channel when his channel included the president of the United States, members of the president’s cabinet and the national security adviser.

“I don’t know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it’s the leadership that makes the decisions,” Mr. Sondland said.

During an intense exchange with Mr. Sondland at the time, Dr. Hill said she told him, “This is all going to blow up.” She added, “And here we are.”

Westlake Legal Group fiona-hill-opening-statement-ukraine-1574344066729-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read Fiona Hill’s Opening Statement

Ms. Hill had a front-row seat to dramatic events in the White House around the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that Mr. Zelensky “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “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 promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Westlake Legal Group david-holmes-opening-statement-ukraine-1574351587182-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read David Holmes’s Opening Statement

The career diplomat said he was told President Trump cared more about investigating his political rivals than about the welfare of Ukraine.

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

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. ”Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

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

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “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 promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

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

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

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

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “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 promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

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

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

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

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “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 promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

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

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

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

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine

WASHINGTON — An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified on Wednesday that he was following President Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.”

Gordon D. Sondland, Mr. Trump’s envoy to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee that he reluctantly followed Mr. Trump’s directive. He testified that the president instructed him to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsubstantiated theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland said.

His appearance amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the push to extract the investigations. In his testimony, Mr. Sondland linked the most senior members of the Trump administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others. He said they were informed of it at key moments, an account that severely undercut Mr. Trump’s frequent claims that he never pressured Ukraine.

Instead, Mr. Sondland, a wealthy Republican megadonor, described an expansive effort to help the president do just that.

Later on Wednesday, a Defense Department official, Laura K. Cooper, testified that Ukrainian officials may have known as early as late July that a $391 million package of security assistance was being withheld by the Trump administration.

The testimony by Ms. Cooper called into question another central element of the president’s defense: that there was no pressure because Ukrainian officials were unaware that the money was frozen.

Two months into the investigation, Mr. Sondland’s account came as close as investigators have gotten to an admission from an official who dealt directly with Mr. Trump. But Mr. Sondland’s accounts have shifted since the committee first deposed him in October, opening him up to Republican criticism that he is not credible.

Mr. Sondland has repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes, and he conceded during testimony on Wednesday that he did not record precisely what had happened. He blamed the State Department for not providing him with all his emails, call logs and other records.

Still, he offered revelations and had the evidence to corroborate them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Mr. Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said. “It was no secret.”

Mr. Sondland testified that he came to believe that Mr. Trump was also linking congressionally approved military assistance to Ukraine with a public commitment by Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Trump’s political adversaries. Mr. Sondland said he informed Vice President Mike Pence of his concern about that connection during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw.

Ms. Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials had reached out to the State and Defense Departments with questions about the status of the military funding on July 25, only hours after Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky during a phone call for the investigations. Republicans have insisted that Ukraine did not know that the aid had been held up until it was reported in the news media in late August.

Beyond the evolving timeline, Mr. Sondland’s testimony raised questions about whether the other top administration figures he mentioned — including Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser — would come forward to testify.

The Trump administration tried to block the testimony of Mr. Sondland, Ms. Cooper and David Hale, the No. 3 State Department official, who also appeared on Wednesday, and refused to allow Mr. Sondland access to certain documents, he said, which it also withheld from the committee despite a subpoena.

Democrats pointed to the administration’s stonewalling as yet another piece of evidence for an impeachment article against Mr. Trump for obstruction of Congress.

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery, as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a brief break in the hearing.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164733612_e5708ec4-1796-48de-86b5-683d6dc1b534-articleLarge Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Pompeo, Mike Perry, Rick Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Representatives Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes, the panel’s top Republican, listening to Mr. Sondland’s testimony.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Republicans, moving to discredit Mr. Sondland, seized on his assertion that Mr. Trump never personally or explicitly told him about conditions on the White House meeting or the security assistance. Mr. Sondland said under questioning that he came to the conclusion on his own.

Representative Michael R. Turner, Republican of Ohio, hammered on the point, his voice rising as he sharply questioned the ambassador.

“No one told you? Not just the president — Giuliani didn’t tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you, nobody?” Mr. Turner demanded. “Pompeo didn’t tell you?

“No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations,” he added. “Yes or no?”

“Yes,” Mr. Sondland responded.

The ambassador, who smiled often during his appearance and cheerfully admitted to a flair for colorful language and frequent use of “four-letter words” in his conversations with Mr. Trump, appeared to relish pulling other top officials into the spotlight. For weeks, Republicans had cast him as a rogue actor.

“The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,” he said, pointing to messages and phone calls in which he kept the White House and the State Department informed of his actions.

Some of the senior officials who figured prominently in Mr. Sondland’s testimony quickly challenged his account, and Mr. Trump tried to distance himself from the ambassador.

“I don’t know him very well — I have not spoken to him much,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for Texas on Wednesday afternoon.

Holding a page of notes scrawled in marker in large block letters, Mr. Trump quoted Mr. Sondland’s closed-door deposition in which the ambassador described a phone call in which the president had told him he did not want a quid pro quo.

Before boarding Marine One, Mr. Trump shouted, “This is the final word from the president of the United States.”

The White House press secretary later put out a statement saying that Mr. Sondland’s testimony “completely exonerates President Trump of any wrongdoing.”

Through an aide, Mr. Pence denied that the two men had spoken one-on-one.

“There was never a time when Sondland was alone with the vice president in Warsaw, and if he’s recalling the pre-briefing, I was in that, and he never said anything in that venue either,” said Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s chief of staff.

Defying the State Department’s wishes, Mr. Sondland shared previously unseen emails and texts that demonstrated how he kept Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials apprised of his efforts to push the Ukranians. In one of them, Mr. Sondland tells Mr. Pompeo about a draft statement in which the Ukranians would commit to the investigations, and about a plan to have Mr. Zelensky speak directly with Mr. Trump about the matter.

“The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation,” Mr. Sondland wrote in an email to Mr. Pompeo.

A week and a half later, Mr. Sondland sent Mr. Pompeo another email asking whether he should arrange a meeting in Warsaw for Mr. Trump where Mr. Zelensky would “look him in the eye” and promise him the investigations, breaking a “logjam.”

Mr. Pompeo issued a statement that appeared intended to deny Mr. Sondland’s testimony, but that did not directly address the ambassador’s assertion that the secretary of state knew and approved of his efforts.

“Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents,” according to the statement from Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman.

Mr. Sondland even took shots at Mr. Bolton, who other witnesses have said harbored deep concerns over the ambassador’s actions and repeatedly instructed subordinates to report them to White House lawyers.

“Curiously — and this was very interesting to me — on Aug. 26, shortly before his visit to Kyiv, Ambassador Bolton’s office requested Mr. Giuliani’s contact information from me,” said Mr. Sondland, who repeated himself and then paused to smirk before continuing with his testimony.

One of the more dramatic moments of the day occurred in the final hour in an exchange between Mr. Sondland and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, who elicited a grudging admission from the ambassador that the investigations that Mr. Trump wanted would benefit him politically.

“See? It didn’t hurt a bit,” Mr. Maloney said, drawing a testy response from Mr. Sondland, who said he was trying to be “forthright.”

“It didn’t work so well the first time, did it?” Mr. Maloney shot back, referring to the multiple changes Mr. Sondland has made to his story.

“We appreciate your candor,” Mr. Maloney said, “but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.”

Reporting was contributed by Michael D. Shear, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman and Zach Montague.

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