Hearings yield more evidence of Trump’s threat to national security
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. | Susan Walsh / AP

In the midst of explosive testimony at the impeachment inquiry in Congress this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the press that by using his office for personal gain it is clear now that President Trump has “undermined the national security of the United States.”

She said that no decision has yet been made though on exactly what charges or articles of impeachment might be brought up against the president, and she gave no clues about how long the hearings will continue. She did assure the press, however, that she has no plans to require lawmakers holding the hearings to wait for court orders telling certain witnesses who have been defying Congress that they must appear. The House investigation “cannot be at the mercy of the court” she said.

A key witness Congress would like to hear from is John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, who has filed a court case asking whether he must appear before Congress.

Dramatic testimony this morning came from Fiona Hill, a former national security adviser. She told Congress that at a July 10 meeting of U.S. and Ukrainian officials, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, said he and Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had worked out a deal for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he would visit the White House in exchange for opening investigations of the Bidens.

Hill says her boss, national security adviser John Bolton, became so physically disturbed that he “stiffened.” She said, “His unmistakable body language got my attention.” She told lawmakers then that Bolton told her to call a lawyer and make clear that “I am not part of whatever drug deal” that Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up.

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In other blockbuster testimony this morning, David Holmes, political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, described the now-famous phone call he heard at a restaurant in that city between President Trump and Sondland. He testified that Trump asked Sondland whether the Ukrainian president was “gonna do the investigation,” and Sondland replied that he was.

Holmes reported that he asked Sondland if it was true that Trump didn’t care about Ukraine. According to Holmes, Sondland replied that Trump only cared about the “big stuff.” Holmes said he reminded Sondland that the war with Russia qualifies as “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, and then Sondland said the “big stuff” to Trump was the Biden investigation. Trump tweeted that it is not possible to hear what someone else is saying in a phone call to another person. He said he has tried himself but has failed to do it successfully.

The inquiry is centered on whether Trump wrongly held up almost $400 million in security aid for Ukraine until the new president agreed to investigate the Bidens and a debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election.

Hill, an “expert” on Russia, openly challenged Republicans on the House intelligence committee, demanding that they stop pushing what she called the “fictional narrative” that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. She also said the hyper-partisanship the country is now experiencing is “exactly what the Russian government was hoping for.”

“It is absolutely the case,” she said, “that it is to Russia’s benefit to blame Ukraine for intervention in the U.S. election. And that falls into a long pattern of deflection” by Russia.

Trump and many top Republicans defending him have been touting the false conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election while U.S. intelligence agencies have said that it was Russia.

David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee, Nov. 21, 2019. | Alex Brandon / AP

Holmes told the lawmakers this morning that he realized last spring already that the U.S. embassy’s priorities had been sublimated to a political agenda driven by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani “and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.” He says that group included Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker. The “cadre” he was referring to called themselves “The Three Amigos.”

The campaign by Giuliani involved public statements attacking the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as well as a push for Ukraine to investigate non-existent Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Bidens.

The hearings today were the seventh set of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry headed by Rep. Adam Schiff D., Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Trump has tweeted about Schiff, describing him as “human scum.”

Schiff said today the committee will, “in the coming days,” decide where to go with the testimony it has piled up against the president.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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