David Holmes details overheard call between Trump, Sondland on Ukraine investigation
David Holmes, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, delivered a lively description at Thursday’s impeachment hearing of the phone call he apparently overheard between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordan Sondland and President Trump the day after the president’s now-famous call with Ukraine’s leader.
Previous testimony already revealed that Holmes overheard Trump asking about an “investigation,” on the heels of pressing Ukranian President Voldomyr Zelensky to look into the Bidens and alleged Ukraine election meddling. But on Thursday, Holmes provided colorful details of Sondland’s wine-fueled phone call over lunch in Kiev on July 26.
Among other things, he said Sondland told Trump, Zelensky “loves your ass” and that American rapper A$AP Rocky was “kind of fucked there” after being jailed for assault in Sweden.
Holmes had gone to lunch with Sondland that day to discuss Ukraine-related issues. After ordering a bottle of wine to share, Sondland decided to call Trump on his mobile phone, he testified — describing this as a vivid and “distinctive” experience.
“I heard him announce himself several times, along the lines of ‘Gordan Sondland holding for the president,'” Holmes said, emphasizing that there was no doubt whom Sondland was speaking to. “While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The president’s voice was loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume.”
Trump, in real-time, tweeted his skepticism.
“I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life. My hearing is, and has been, great,” the president tweeted during the hearing. “Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!”
The call between Sondland and Trump is important to the impeachment inquiry because it showed Trump following up internally on his request for investigations made a day earlier in the call with Zelensky. U.S. chargé d’affaires in Ukraine Bill Taylor added the call to his testimony last week. Sondland confirmed the call in testimony Wednesday.
“Yeah, sounds like something I would say,” Sondland responded when asked about the “loves your ass” comment, drawing laughs from those in attendance. “That’s how President Trump and I communicate. A lot of four-letter words. In this case, three-letter.”
Holmes gave a more detailed account of the call on Thursday.
“I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain that he was calling from Kiev,” he said. “I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky ‘loves your ass.’
I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to do.'”
Holmes said that although he was not taking notes during the conversation, he had a clear memory of the interaction and said he thought others at the table would be able to confirm that Sondland was speaking with Trump.
The two men also discussed American rapper A$AP Rocky, who was jailed in Sweden over the summer for assault, according to Holmes.
“The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland’s efforts, on behalf of the president, to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador Sondland’s side of the conversation,” Holmes testified. “Ambassador Sondland told the president that the rapper was ‘kind of f—-d there,’ and ‘should have pled guilty.’
He recommended that the president ‘wait until after the sentencing or it will make it worse,’ he added that the President should ‘let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.’ Ambassador Sondland further told the president that Sweden ‘should have released him on your word,’ but that ‘you can tell the Kardashians you tried.'”
More damaging for the president, Holmes then testified that after the call Sondland said Trump didn’t care about Ukraine.
“I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.”
— David Holmes, official at U.S. embassy in Ukraine
Holmes said: “In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not ‘give an expletive about Ukraine.’ Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not ‘give an expletive about Ukraine.’ I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about ‘big stuff.’
I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the president, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.”
Sondland, however, emphasized Wednesday that Trump told him there was no effort to leverage anything — like an Oval Office meeting or defense aid — for the investigations Trump wanted.
“He just said, ‘I want nothing, I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo,'” Sondland said, recalling an occasion he asked Trump what he wanted from Ukraine.