DemDaily: “Everyone Was In The Loop”

November 22, 2019

Five Days, twelve witnesses, 35 hours of public testimony.

The final two days of public testimony in the Trump Impeachment proceedings, were the most damaging, with an ensemble of top state and foreign affairs officers detailing the Ukraine corruption plot orchestrated by the President and his advisors.

The hearings also underscored the devotion, professionalism and moral patriotism of the foreign service officials pulled into the dramatic chain of events.

Background: Last week the House Intelligence Committee and the American public heard from Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent and former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

(Image: CBSNews)

This week the Committee heard from Jennifer Williams, Senior Adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Europe and Russia, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, National Security Council Director for European Affairs.

THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: DAY FOUR: November 20th (Wednesday)

THE WITNESSES
Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union
A Trump political appointee, Sondland is the founder and former chairman of nationwide Provenance Hotels, and is co-founder of merchant bank Aspen Capital. He served on the board of the Oregon Governor's Office of Film & Television, receiving an award for helping grow the state's film industry.

Sondland was a major fundraiser for President George W. Bush and Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid, and four of his companies donated $1 million to Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee. On June 28, 2018 he was confirmed as Trump's Ambassador to the European Union.

In his opening statement Ambassador Sondland, who has twice revised his earlier testimony to the Committee, said, "Was there a quid pro quo?  As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."

Highlights
*  Sondland confirmed that the July 10th White House meeting was in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine, and "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."
*  Sondland, Secretary Perry and Ambassador Volker, now known as "The Three Amigos," "worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States."
*  According to emails, text messages and testimony from Sondland, Acting Chief of Staff Nick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Vice President Mike Pence were all "in the loop."

(pic: LA Times)

Guiliani, Pence, Pompeo, Mulvaney and Bolton have all adhered to White House orders not to comply with Congressional subpoenas. Although the Committee has completed public testimony, there appears to be a chance that Bolton, who has cut a book deal, may still testify.

Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia
Cooper, who has a Masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown, and a Masters from the National Defense University, is a career employee. She served under the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and as Director, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Affairs, before becoming Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

Highlights
* Cooper testified about emails that showed there was concern by the Ukrainians in July over the military aid, including a July 25th email from the Ukrainian embassy, the same day as the Trump-Zelensky call. The emails raise questions over whether Ukrainians knew about the hold on $400 million in aid before the Trump-Zelensky call, which Republicans have denied.
* Cooper repeatedly voiced concern that withholding the aid could violate the Impoundment Control Act, which prevents the president from unilaterally deciding against spending money allocated by lawmakers.

David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs 
A 1985 graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, from 2005 to 2018 Hale served as the US Ambassador to Jordan, Deputy Envoy, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, Ambassador to Lebanon and Ambassador to Pakistan, before being confirmed in his current position on August 28, 2018.

Dave Hale and Laura Cooper, November 20th

Hale has received several Department awards, including the Secretary's Distinguished Service Award, and in September, 2018, was promoted to Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the foreign service.

Highlights
* When Vovanovitch was publicly criticized by Rudy Giuliani and the conservative press, Hale unsuccessfully pushed the State Department and Secretary Pompeo to issue a strong statement of defense and praise for the highly regarded Ambassador.
Chairman Schiff: "Sadly to no avail. That silence continues today."
Hale:  Yovanovitch was an "exceptional officer doing exceptional work."

* Schiff: "Would you agree, though, that it would be very unusual to place a hold on military aid to leverage a foreign country to get them to investigate a political opponent? Hale: Yes.
Schiff: And I take it you would agree that that would be completely inappropriate.
Hale: That would be inconsistent with the conduct of our foreign policy in general.
Schiff: And it'd be wrong, wouldn't it?  Hale: It's certainly not what I would do.

THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: DAY FIVE: November 21st (Thursday)

THE WITNESSES
David Holmes, Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine
Holmes, who has Masters degrees in International Affairs from St Andrews in Scotland and Princeton University, joined the US Foreign Service in 2002, serving in Kosovo, Bogota, Kabul and New Delhi. In 2010 he became Special Assistant for South and Central Asia to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, then National Security Council Director for Afghanistan. Holmes won a state department award in 2014 for speaking out against the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan.

(pic: Andrew Harkins/AP)

He went on to become Senior Energy Officer at the US Embassy in Moscow, then Deputy and Internal Unit Chief in the Political Section before taking his current position in Ukraine, where he served first under Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and then William Taylor.

Highlights
*  Holmes testified that, on a July 26th phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland, he heard President Trump ask Sondland, "Is he going to do the investigation?" and that Sondland replied, "Oh yeah, he's going to do it. He'll do anything you ask."

Holmes then asked Sondland "if it was true that the President did not 'give a s--- about Ukraine?" Sondland replied that Trump only cared about "big stuff that benefits the President, like the Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."

* When asked, "Was it your understanding that President Zelensky and the Ukrainians were already starting to feel some pressure to conduct these political investigations?," Holmes replied, "Yes"

Fiona Hill, former National Security Council Director for Europe and Russia
Born to a coal miner father and midwife mother in Northern England, Hill went on to graduate from Oxford University, studied Russian at St Andrews in Scotland, and at Harvard, where she earned a Master and PhD. She has published three books on Russia, including one on President Vladimir Putin.

Hill worked as a National Intelligence Analyst at the National Intelligence Council from 2006 to 2009, and as Director of the Center on the US and Europe at the Brookings Institution, before being appointed by Trump as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs in 2017. She resigned her position on July 19, 2019.

Highlights
*  Hill was present at the July 10th White House meeting with Ukrainian officials when, she said, "Ambassador Sondland leaned in basically to say, well we have an agreement that there will be a meeting if specific investigations are put underway, and thats when I saw Ambassador Bolton stiffen."

She testified that Ambassador Bolton abruptly ended the meeting and told Hill to report the incident to council lawyers and say that he wasn't part of whatever "drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up."

* Bolton told Hill that 'Rudy Giuliani was a 'hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.'"

* Hill also said she had a conflict with Sondland over his claim that he was working on Ukraine policy at Trump's direction - to pursue what she termed a "domestic political errand."

* Hill provided perhaps the most compelling testimony, confirming her first-hand knowledge of the meetings and calls at issue, while making an articulate, powerful appeal not to promote "politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests."

*  Hill: "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. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016."

"Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them." -- Dr. Fiona Hill

Next Steps
The public fact-finding portion of the impeachment inquiry is now over, with Democrats satisfied they have the information needed to move forward.

The Intelligence Committee's will provide a report to the Judiciary Committee, which will draft and vote on articles of impeachment and send those to the full House for debate.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Sources: CSPAN, Vox, NewYorkTimes, MSNBC, USAToday, TheNewYorker, Wikipedia

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