Impeachment Deposition: Opening Statement of David Holmes

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

David Holmes, the guy who overheard Trump when he called Sondland in a restaurant, spilled a lot more than that.

Holmes says he clearly heard the President’s voice and Sondland made clear he was talking to the President. Sondland told Holmes the President didn’t “give a shit about Ukraine” and only cared about the “big stuff” like the “‘Biden investigations’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.” According to Holmes there were two other US government officials at the cafe table where the discussion was had. So two other witnesses who should be able to confirm all of this.

Also important, according to Holmes, he immediately debriefed the Deputy Chief of Mission and others at the Embassy on the details of the conversations and held meetings about it over the course of the next day. In other words, there appear to be two other witnesses to the call and conversations and numerous witnesses to Holmes’ near-contemporaneous account.

One of the most interesting parts of the prepared statement comes at the end when Holmes explains why he is only coming forward now. According to Holmes, he had reviewed other witnesses testimony and thought his recollections broadly matched Yovanovitch’s and Taylor’s testimony. So his was unneeded. It was only when he heard the “hearsay” arguments, that no one had direct information about Trump’s involvement or words, that he realized his account might be useful. In other words, the GOP’s ‘hearsay’ talking point seems to have backfired rather spectacularly.

One would expect that Republicans would say that these recollections are very convenient, for just that reason. They seem ready-made to rebut the “hearsay” talking point. But again, according to Holmes, there are multiple witnesses, both to the conversation itself and his near contemporaneous accounts of it. If that’s true, the accuracy of his account should be locked down pretty securely.

Holmes says he didn’t take notes of the conversation with Sondland because it was a lunch out with colleagues, not an official meeting. But the other key detail in Holmes’ testimony is that he was the note taker for numerous meetings over the course of the period being investigated. This comes through in an abundance of telling detail which presumably comes from those notes.

Many of the new details match what was already known. The prosecutor Lutsenko was angry with Yovanovitch because she was pushing him to make good on anti-corruption reforms, a key part of at least official US government policy. But the particular accusations have more detail – including the claim that she was working for the Democratic party, that she ordered an investigation of the former head of the Ukraine tax service “solely because the former head was the main Ukrainian contact of the [US] Republican party and of President Trump personally.” Finally he allegedly told people Yovanovitch would face “serious problems” once she returned to the US.