The final testimony of an extraordinary week of impeachment hearings came from a former White House national security adviser who wrote the book on Vladimir Putin — literally — and a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine who overheard a pivotal conversation between President Donald Trump and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Here are some takeaways:
Hill is a Russia expert who's written extensively on the Kremlin, and she made that clear from the outset when she scolded GOP lawmakers for propagating what she said was a "fictional narrative" — that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Those discredited theories have been advanced by Trump himself, who in a July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry asked Ukraine's leader to investigate the possibility. Hill said the unwillingness by some to accept Russia's role has profound consequences at a time when Russia's security services have "geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election."
The overheard call
David Holmes, a counselor at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, was at lunch with Sondland when Sondland said he was going to call Trump to give him an update on Ukraine. At one point during the call, Holmes said, he heard Sondland tell Trump that Ukraine President Volodymyr 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.' " Holmes said Sondland told Trump that Zelensky will do "anything you ask him to." When the call ended, Holmes said he asked Sondland if it was true Trump did not "give a shit about Ukraine." Sondland said it was indeed the case.
'Domestic political errand'
Hill's testimony also vividly outlined the diverging objectives of Trump's official staff and a parallel effort led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She described her alarm with the work of Sondland, who was central in trying to get Ukraine to announce political investigations the president wanted. Sondland acknowledged his role in those efforts Wednesday, laying out the contours of a quid pro quo with Ukraine and said "everyone was in the loop." But Hill insisted that she was never on the same page with Sondland. "He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security policy," she said.
Hill, a British-born immigrant, said Trump allies who have suggested her colleague Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has dual loyalty were being "deeply unfair." Vindman was 3 years old in 1979 when his family fled Soviet-controlled Ukraine for the U.S. Vindman did tours in South Korea, Germany and Iraq, but he has faced questions from Trump allies about whether his loyalties may be divided, because of his origins. He has steadfastly maintained his loyalty is to the U.S. "This is a country of immigrants," Hill told lawmakers. "This is the essence of America, it's why I wanted to be here and why I wanted to stay here."