The Fiona Hill and David Holmes testimonies: A debunk, a domestic political errand and the Russian threat in 2020
Hill and Holmes were the last to testify in the House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment hearings.
When Dr. Fiona Hill and David Holmes took their seats across from members of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, they delivered what could be the Democrats’ best case against President Donald Trump in their quest for his impeachment.
After providing a brief background about her journey from England to the U.S., working her way from humble beginnings to a spot on the National Security Council, Hill dove head-first into a rebuttal of the Republican narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections.
The “false narrative,” as Hill asserted, points to Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Convention, which revealed documentation outlining a concerted effort to derail Bernie Sanders’ presidential nomination by Democratic Party leadership.
CrowdStrike, the security firm hired by the DNC that detected the hack, was revealed to be a talking point between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a now infamous July 25 phone call.
The White House released a transcript of the call in September, which led to the House opening its formal impeachment inquiry into the president.
Republicans have alleged that Democrats hacked the DNC themselves with CrowdStrike’s help in order to frame Russia, rather than Russia doing the hacking themselves.
Hill’s debunk of the Republican narrative paints the whole Ukraine-meddling plot as another falsity conjured by Russian intelligence itself.
By backing the narrative in a public hearing, Hill said Republicans are further supporting Russia’s interests to influence U.S. politics.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically-driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” she said.
Russia’s security services, Hill warned, “operate like a super PAC,” and “have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election.”
Regarding Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday, which confirmed the quid pro quo between Trump and Zelensky, Hill admitted that it shed light on Sondland’s evasive conduct surrounding the U.S.-Ukraine exchange.
At the time, she was upset he excluded her from emails involving an effort to get Ukraine to announce its investigation into the Bidens. But Sondland’s testimony revealed his involvement in it as a “domestic political errand,” outside of Hill’s purview in national security foreign policy.
“He was absolutely right...Those two things had just diverged,” she said on Thursday.
However, Hill was right when she warned Sondland of his actions’ potential “to blow up.”
“And here we are,” said Hill.
While Hill’s testimony grabbed most of the immediate headlines, Holmes’ was a direct account of a phone call between Sondland and Trump he overheard while at a restaurant in Kiev.
According to his testimony, Trump talked so loudly on his end that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear, allowing Holmes to listen in on the entire conversation.
“So he’s going to do the investigation?” Holmes heard from the president, referring to Zelensky.
Sondland replied that Zelensky would, adding that the Ukrainian president “will do anything you ask him to do.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Holmes, a career diplomat, said in his testimony.
After a week of testimony, the House Intelligence Committee will now produce a report laying out the Democrats’ case for removing Trump from office.
It’s a foregone conclusion with the majority of the House being Democrats that Trump will be impeached, but his removal from office is still very unlikely given the Republican majority in the Senate.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy was cited on Thursday by CNN as believing Republicans wouldn’t lose a single vote for the president’s acquittal should the impeachment go to trial in the Senate.
Right now, the only surefire way for Democrats to achieve Trump’s removal is still at the ballot box in 2020.