Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine

By Veronica Rocha and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 3:33 p.m. ET, November 27, 2019
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8:45 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Our live coverage of the impeachment inquiry has ended for the day. Read up on the latest news below.

8:00 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

David Holmes had received a subpoena prior to his testimony

From CNN's Manu Raju

An official working on the impeachment inquiry tells CNN that State Department aide David Holmes received a subpoena prior to beginning his closed door testimony this evening.  

The subpoena read as follows:

"In light of an attempt by the State Department to direct Holmes not to appear for his scheduled deposition, and efforts to limit any testimony that does occur, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to compel his testimony this evening. As required of him, Mr. Holmes is complying with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff."

7:04 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Attorney General William Barr says avalanche of subpoenas is designed to "incapacitate the executive branch"

From CNN's David Shortell

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Attorney General Barr, in a fiery speech to the conservative Federalist Society, defended presidential power and slammed progressives’ “breathless attacks on the unitary executive theory.”

He accused “the left” of “waging a scorched earth no holds barred war of resistance against this administration," and of being “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.” He also slammed what he called the Senate’s “unprecedented abuse of the advise and consent process."

He said Democrats “have decided to drown the executive branch with oversight demands for testimony and documents.”  He added that while he doesn’t “deny that Congress has some implied authority,” the volume of investigations and “avalanche of subpoenas … is plainly designed to incapacitate the executive branch and indeed is touted as such.” 

He accused opponents of Trump of launching the “resistance,” saying “they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver to sabotage the functioning of the executive branch and his administration.”  


6:35 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

David Holmes testifies he was surprised by US insistence for Ukraine to announce investigations

From CNN's Adam Levine

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

State Department aide David Holmes said in September, before the hold on Ukraine military aid was lifted, diplomat Bill Taylor told him that the US was insisting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky make a statement about specific investigations, contrary to what diplomats on the ground had been advising the Ukrainians. 

“Now they’re insisting Zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with CNN,” Holmes testified, describing what Taylor told him. 

“I was surprised the requirement was so specific,” Holmes observed in his statement, explaining that they had advised Ukrainians they should voice commitment to adhering to the rule of law and generally needing to investigate corruption. “This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival on a cable news channel.” 

A few days later, the possibility of Zelensky doing an interview to announce the investigations was still a possibility. Holmes and Taylor ran into a top aide of the Ukrainian president and Taylor stressed the importance of “staying out of the US politics and said he hoped no interview was planned.” 

Holmes testified that the top aide “shrugged in resignation and did not answer, as if to indicate they had no choice. In short, everyone thought was going to be an interview.”

Watch more:

6:12 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

White House: Today's hearing was "useless and inconsequential"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham criticized the second hearing of the House impeachment inquiry, calling it "useless and inconsequential."

“The second public hearing of Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Schiff’s impeachment charade was as useless and inconsequential as the first," she said. "Zero evidence of any wrongdoing by the President was presented."

Grisham continued:

"In fact, Ambassador Yovanovitch testified under oath that she was unaware of any criminal activity involving President Trump. She was not on the July 25 phone call and had no knowledge about the pause on aid to Ukraine. It is difficult to imagine a greater waste of time than today’s hearing, and yet unfortunately we expect more of the same partisan political theater next week from House Democrats.” 

6:10 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Second official heard July 26 call between Trump and Sondland

From CNN's Rene Marsh

Among those who overheard the July 26 phone call between President Trump and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was Suriya Jayanti, a US official in Kiev, CNN has learned.

The phone call was revealed by top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor in his testimony before the House Intelligence committee Wednesday. Taylor said one of his aides overheard the call between Trump and Sondland in which Trump asked about “investigations" at a restaurant.

That aide, State Department official David Holmes, is testifying today.

Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, told reporters that, along with Holmes, at least two more witnesses overheard the Sondland and Trump conversation.

Rep. Jackie Speier, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said a second person has come forward.

“We certainly haven’t interviewed that person, and I don’t know that we will interview that person. We’ll see how this interview tonight goes with Mr. Holmes,” the California Democrat said.

A person with knowledge of the call said Jayanti also overheard the call, but it’s unclear if she’s the person who approached the committee. 

At one point, Jayanti was listed to appear for an Oct. 25 private deposition with the committees looking into impeachment, but ultimately did not meet with lawmakers for a formal deposition.

The Associated Press first reported that Jayanti also overheard the July 26 call.

Jayanti did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

6:29 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

In opening statement, diplomat details Trump phone call with Sondland

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

David Holmes, the aide to diplomat Bill Taylor who overheard President Trump’s conversation with European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told the President that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to,” and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to “do the investigation."

“Sondland told Trump that Zelensky ‘loves your ass,’” Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement reviewed by CNN. “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.’”

Holmes explained that Sondland placed the call to Trump, and he could hear Trump because the call was so loud in the restaurant where they were with two others.

“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 very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume,” Holmes testified.

“Even though I did not take notes of those statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made,” Holmes added.

Holmes also confirmed Taylor's testimony about the President’s thoughts on Ukraine, saying he asked Sondland “if it was true that the President did not ‘give a s—t about Ukraine.'” 

Holmes said Sondland responded Trump only cares about “big stuff.” When Holmes said that the Ukraine war was big, Sondland responded "'big stuff' that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing,” Holmes said.


5:52 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Donald Trump's very historic and very bad week

From CNN's Lauren Dezenski

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump's week was filled with equal parts history and bad news.

And the start of televised impeachment inquiry hearings — alleging Trump's abuse of power — were not the only headache for the chief executive this week. His longtime political adviser Roger Stone was found guilty on five counts of lying to Congress, one of witness tampering and one of obstructing a congressional committee proceeding. 

The President was also handed another loss when an appeals court ruled Congress can seek his tax returns. And another court ruled he cannot sue New York state in Washington, D.C.'s federal court to stop the release of his tax returns.

The tax return issue has now been elevated to the nation's highest court: On Wednesday, Trump asked the Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his tax returns. 

Meanwhile, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani faces mounting questions about his role in the conversations and actions that led to the impeachment probe.

This week's first two rounds of public testimony highlighted Giuliani's central role — which Giuliani says was done as part of his legal defense of Trump. Giuliani has been largely silent about the situation, though he is apparently planning to release a podcast with his thoughts on the impeachment process as things continue to heat up.

5:44 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Witness confirms diplomat Bill Taylor's testimony on Trump-Sondland call, sources say

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju 

A US diplomat told lawmakers behind closed doors that he did overhear the July 26 phone conversation between President Trump and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and that on the call Trump asked Sondland if Ukraine was going to do the investigation, according to two sources familiar with the testimony. 

Sondland replied that they were going to do it, the sources said. 

David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, was able to hear the call because Sondland held the phone away from his ear due to how loud Trump was talking, the sources said. 

Holmes also confirmed there were others at the table at the restaurant where he heard the call, according to the sources. 

Asked about Holmes' testimony, Rep. Gerry Connolly told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he was going to be "careful about what I just heard in closed session, but... I would say that the adverb used 'allegedly' is not accurate. It is not alleged. It happened. And it is a matter public record that Mr. Holmes heard this conversation and recognized the President's voice loud and clear."