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A State Department aide testifying behind closed doors on Friday knew firsthand about the US ambassador's conversation with President Trump, a Democratic congressman said.
"He has some pretty specific quotes from a phone call from the president," Rep. Ted Lee, D-California, said of Assistant David Holmes, who testified in the investigation into Ham's impulse against Trump. Liu is part of the deposit.
Holmes is the aide mentioned on Wednesday by William Taylor, acting US ambassador to Ukraine, that he heard a phone call between Gordon Sundland, US ambassador to the EU and Trump. According to Taylor, a member of his staff – later identified by sources as Holmes – was with Sundland in Kiev when he heard Sundland speak with Trump on July 26, a day after the conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, that triggered the impeachment investigation. According to Taylor Holmes, Trump can hear Trump on the phone asking Sundland "for investigations," and Sundland told the president that Ukrainians are "ready to move forward."
Following the call, according to Taylor, Holmes asked Sundland what Trump thought of Ukraine, and Sundland said Trump was more interested in Biden's investigations.
CNN received a copy of Holmes's opening statement to MPs, which NPR did not confirm. Other news organizations have confirmed some of the quotes included in the opening statement.
The statement appears to be consistent with some of the other statements and transcripts released during the impeachment investigation. Democrats are trying to determine whether Trump sought an investigation into Bidens by Zelensky in exchange for a commitment to visit the White House and release US defense assistance in Ukraine. Trump says no such offer was made.
According to CNN Holmes, he told investigators that Sondland had told Trump that Zelensky would do "whatever you ask him to do," and that the Ukrainian leader is committed to "do the investigation."
Holmes heard the conversation between the president and Sondland at a restaurant in Kiev and said the conversation was loud enough to be heard through the handset, according to an introductory statement obtained by CNN, and that Sondland was keeping the phone out of his ear for and the President's voice was "very strong and recognizable." He said two other employees were present at the time.
Holmes told the Sundland Commission to tell the president that Zelensky "loves your **," according to a copy published by CNN. It also says Holmes admits he doesn't make modern notes, but said he had "a clear memory that those claims were made."
Holmes said the conversation was over and Sondland said the president was "in a bad mood", CNN reported. Holmes said he then asked Sundland if it was true that the president had "made no noise about Ukraine. Sundland agreed, reiterating that the president had not asked about Ukraine." After Holmes asked why this was the case, Sundland replied, the president was only interested in "big things." Holmes said he noted there were "big things" related to Ukraine, such as the war with Russia, but Sundland explained that "big things" had to do with the benefits of being president and cited the "Biden investigation," to which Russi Giuliani, his personal lawyer, insists.
According to a statement obtained by CNN, the conversation at the restaurant followed a meeting Sondland had with Andrei Yermak, Zelensky's chief aide. Holmes has attended other meetings with Sondland, Special Envoy Kurt Volcker and Acting Ambassador William Taylor. He was asked to join the Yermak meeting as a "note of note", but when he arrived later from Sondland, he was told by an assistant that Sondland an d Yermak insisted that the meeting be individual.
Rep. Jackie Spier, California, who attended Holmes' deposition on Friday, told reporters that Holmes "must have overheard the conversation."
"I think it gives more color to what we know about how the president views Ukraine, and it's actually very annoying," she said.
Claudia Grisales and Lexi Chapel of NPR contributed to this story.