The story of 12 boys from a soccer team and their coach who became trapped in a cave by rising water captivated the world.
The group wandered into the Tham Luang cave in Northern Thailand in June 2018, not knowing that monsoon rains were sending floodwater their way, blocking the exit from the cave.
In the video above: Craig Challen, Richard ‘Harry’ Harris on The Morning Show
They were trapped for two weeks as more than 1,000 divers, soldiers and volunteers from around the world joined the rescue effort.
Australian divers Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen spearheaded the operation, working up to 16 hours a day to make a safe passage for everyone involved.
“It’s hard to know where the courage for these kids came from, but whatever it is – whether it’s their culture or their religion or just the fact they’re tough country kids growing up in a remote rural village in Thailand,” Challen told The Morning Show.
More from 7NEWS.com.au:
“I think a combination of all those things made them the real heroes of this story.”
The pair have detailed their efforts and heartstopping moments in the book Against All Odds.
Against All Odds is available now through Penguin
Watch more on this incredible on Sunday Night: True Stories
Fiona Hill attacks Trump’s defenders in impeachment testimony
Former National Security official Dr. Fiona Hill repeatedly got the better of Republican questioners during tense testimony in Congress Thursday as she delivered extended orations on how she came to learn a separate group of officials were running a Ukraine policy that was ‘domestic and political in nature.’
Hill, a British-born Russia expert who took a top national security role, fielded a series of questions by ranking Republican member Rep. Devin Nunes and committee lawyer Steve Castor Thursday afternoon following her earlier testimony.
Following several questions, she managed to swat down their own theories of Ukrainian political interference – while revealing how she came to harbor what she described as an alarmed view of a ‘different channel’ of policymaking that came to be on Ukraine.
Castor asked Hill about a July 10 meeting involving National Security Advisor John Bolton, ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and other officials.
Hill then went on a long explanation where she revealed why she blew up at Sondland at the time – only to later appreciate he was ‘right’ because he was working on orders from President Trump.
‘He was absolutely right,’ she said. ‘He wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same things that he was doing,’ said Hill.
‘I had a bit of a blowup with Ambassador Sondland and I had a couple testy encounters with him,’ she said of the Trump inaugural donor who revealed Wednesday he was engaged in a ‘quid pro quo’ for Ukraine investigations.
‘One was on June 18 when I actually said to him who put you in charge of Ukraine? and I’ll admit I was a bit rude. And that’s when he told me: the president, which shook me up,’ she said.
Dr. Fiona Hill, who was the White House’s top Russia expert until August, gave evidence Thursday in the final scheduled day of public impeachment hearings and warned against a ‘fictional narrative’ that it was the Ukraine and not Russia who interfered in the 2016 election
Hill pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security. David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, is also testified Thursday of his knowledge of a call between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland
Dr. Hill testified that she ‘had a bit of a blowup’ with Ambassador Sondland until she asked who put him in charge of Ukraine. ‘That’s when he told me: the president, which shook me up,’ she said (Sondland and President Trump are pictured in 2018)
Hill appeared to target Rep. Devin Nunes (right), a staunch supporter of Trump, when she testified: ‘Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did’
The GOP has spent days trying to disassociate the president from the Ukraine affair, with suggestions that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sondland could have been outside their lane, while arguing that a July 25 transcript provides no direct linkage between security aid and investigations.
As Dr. Hill’s questioners looked on, the career official went on to implicate an array of top people in the administration.
‘I was actually, to be honest, angry with him,’ she said of Sondland. ‘And, you know, I hate to say it but often when women show anger, it’s not fully appreciated. It’s often, you know, pushed on to emotional issues, perhaps are deflected on to other people. And what I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us.’
She continued: ‘I’ve actually realized having listened to his deposition that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me: ”But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo and I’ve talked to ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?”
‘And the point is, we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine … But it struck me when yesterday when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s e-mails and who was on these e-mails. And he said these are the people who need to know, that he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged. So he was correct,’ she said.
She said she told him: ‘I think this is all going to blow up.
‘And here we are,’ she said.
‘His feeling was that the national security council was always trying to block him. What we were trying to do was block from straying into domestic or personal politics. And that was precisely what I was trying to do,’ she said.
‘But Ambassador Sondland is not wrong that he had been given a different remit than we had been. And it was at that moment that I started to realize how those things had diverged and I realized, in fact, that I wasn’t really being fair to Ambassador Sondland because he was carrying out what he thought he had been instructed to carry out.’
Then Rep. Devin Nunes jumped in to make the point that the president gets to make policy and have his concerns carried out.
‘The president of the United States, commander in chief, was concerned about the 2016 elections and Burisma. He had his personal attorney working these issues because he was under investigation by Robert Mueller, special counsel,’ Nunes said. ‘Partly beginning with an investigation that started with the Steele dossier that we’ve already established that the democrats had paid for.’
‘At the end of the day, isn’t it the commander in chief that makes those decisions?’ Nunes asked her.
Hill responded that she was never brought directly into the chain on those policies, if they were indeed the official policies.
‘My point, Mr. Nunes, is that we at the national security council were not told either by the president directly or through Ambassador Bolton that we were to be focused on these issues as a matter of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. So when you were talking about Ukraine in 2016, I never personally heard the president say anything specific about 2016 in Ukraine,’ she said, using the term for a theory that Trump himself has pushed that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. elections.
‘Thank you,’ Nunes said, while the witness talked on.
‘In fact, I was given a directive on July 10th by Ambassador Bolton very clearly to stay out of domestic politics,’ she said, referencing the Republican former UN ambassador who she says referred to the Giuliani channel as a ‘drug deal.’
Then Castor came back with another question, saying: ‘Just for sake of the timeline, I think as of July 19th, they hadn’t even engaged in Rudy Giuliani yet. I don’t believe that happened until a little bit later. So you believe by July 19th, they were already engaged in those types of activities?’
The witness responded with a barrage of dates and information that pointed to Giuliani’s earlier activities.
‘We had already had a discussion with [U.S. Ukraine envoy] Kurt Volker which was in the depositions of his assistant Chris Anderson that indicated that he had met with Rudy Giuliani at this point,’ she said.
‘And Ambassador Sondland made comments about meeting with Giuliani. And as we know, in the May 23rd meeting, they had been instructed to meet with Giuliani. they gave us every impression that they were meeting with Rudy Giuliani at this point and Rudy Giuliani was also saying on the television and indeed has said subsequent subsequently that he was closely coordinating with the state department. So it was my belief that he was meeting with them.’
Holmes, the staffer at the Ukraine embassy who was at lunch with Gordon Sondland when the EU ambassador spoke on his personal cell phone to Donald Trump, testified Thursday along with Hill
Dr. Hill revealed why she blew up at Gordon Sondland at the time – only to later appreciate he was ‘right’ because he was working on orders from President Trump
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan repeatedly interrupted David Holmes during questioning, leading to Adam Schiff’s interference. The GOP has spent days trying to disassociate the president from the Ukraine affair, with suggestions that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sondland could have been outside their lane
In the fifth hour of the hearing, Hill asked for permission to speak, praising a Republican congressman for his service and attempt to bring the country together and bluntly calling out two GOP lawmakers for their partisan rancor.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, a decorated veteran, talked about his service in the military under then-President Bill Clinton, who he noted he didn’t vote for, and also how he was one of the lawmakers who was at the 2017 baseball practice when a gunman opened fire on the members of Congress.
‘I know it hurts after losing an election especially as Americans. We usually get over it,’ Wenstrup said. ‘And I imagine it would hurt even more if you were promised the position in the next administration and lost. And your hopes and your dreams are dashed. You know, I’ve seen hatred for political reasons. Specifically on June 14, 2017 at a ball field in Virginia. And I’ve seen hatred in war. And I know that hatred blinds people. I’ve been in war and I’ve studied war. And coups create division. And it’s time for this phase of the publicly announced and proclaimed Democrat coup to end. Thank you for your service,’ he concluded to Hill.
Wenstrup, a colonel in the Army Reserves and Iraq War veteran, is a medical doctor who treated Congressman Steve Scalise on the scene of the 2017 shooting.
After he finished, Hill asked Chairman Schiff for permission to speak, which he granted.
She mixed together a plea for the country to come together with criticism of Republican Congressmen Michael Turner and John Ratcliffe, two of President Trump’s defenders.
‘I think what Doctor Wenstrup said was powerful about the importance of overcoming hatred and certainly partisan division,’ she said. ‘And it’s unfortunate that Congressman Turner and Ratcliffe both left as well. Because I think all of us who came here under legal obligation also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came as fact witnesses.’
She went on to say she knew the partisan rancor that divided the country after Trump was elected but pointed out she joined the administration to try and heal some of those wounds.
‘I know that this has put a huge cloud over this presidency and also over our whole democratic system. That’s actually why – as a non-partisan person and as an expert on Russia and an expert on Vladimir Putin and on the Russian security services – I wanted to come in to serve the country to try to see if I could help. I heard President Trump say he wanted to improve relations with Russia. We have to. We can’t be in this unending confrontation with Russia. We have to find a way to stabilize our relationship and to professionalize that relationship,’ she said.
She went on to plea for the country to come together so outside foreign influences could not interfere in the 2020 contest.
‘We’re here just to provide what we know and have heard,’ she said, ‘to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here. We do not make that decision. I do, again, want to underscore what you said here, Dr. Wenstrup, very eloquent and moving about your service, and trying to bring us all together again as Americans. We need to be together again in 2020 so the American people can make a choice about the future and about make their vote in a presidential election without any fear that this is being interfered in by, from any course whatsoever.’
A staff member on the Republican side placed signs hitting out at Chairman Adam Schiff during a break – including one that read ‘0 Days Since Adam Schiff Followed House Rules’ – which means he did in fact follow the rules
Rep. Devin Nunes (left) made the point to Dr. Hill that the president gets to make policy and have his concerns carried out when he directed Sondland to work with Rudy Giuliani on a Ukraine-led investigation into the Bidens
Final evidence: Fiona Hill, a British-American policy expert who was the NSC’s most senior, pictured being sworn in along with David Holmes Thursday
‘The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined,’ Hill warned in her opening statement
Dr. Hill earlier in her testimony hit back at an unproven theory pushed by President Donald Trump and his defenders that it was the Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election, issuing a warning of a ‘fictional narrative’ and pleading with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security.
‘These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,’ Hill warned in her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.
She warned of Russian President Vladimir Putin acting like a super PAC to influence American elections as the 2020 presidential contest approaches.
‘President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy,’ she said.
The likely target of her words were Republicans Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan – two staunch defenders of the president who sit on the House Intelligence Committee.
‘Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,’ Hill warned in her testimony.
Trump and some of his allies have pushed a conspiracy theory that it was the Ukraine who hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and made it appear it was Russia, which would mean Trump did not win the election with Russian interference.
The president has asked the Ukraine to turn over the DNC server even as U.S. intelligence agencies say it was Russia that influenced the election and DNC officials have said the Ukraine does not have its email server.
Hill kept her short opening statement focused on foreign threats to U.S. security and pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with combating that threat.
‘The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined,’ Hill warned.
‘If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention. But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm,’ she added.
Hill is testifying in the final day of scheduled public impeachment hearings and previously revealed how John Bolton warned about a ‘drug deal’ being cooked up over Ukraine.
Hill, a British-American expert on Russia who has previously worked for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, quit her role as the National Security Council’s most senior officials on Russia and Europe in August.
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney began his questioning of Hill with an apology for the behavior of Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio earlier in the hearing.
‘I thought it was epic mansplaining forced endure by my colleague Mr. Turner and I want you to know some of us think it was inappropriate but appreciate your forbearance,’ Maloney told Hill.
About an hour earlier, Turner opened his questioning with a monologue directed toward Hill, not asking her a question and then proceeding to question Holmes – her male co-witness – when Chairman Schiff asked Turner if he had a question for Hill.
‘Dr. Hill, you have provided me probably the greatest piece of evidence that’s before us to illustrate the problem with hearsay,’ Turner told her.
‘You said, based on questions and statements, I have heard some of you on this committee – that be us – appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country. Perhaps somehow for some reason it was Ukraine,’ he said.
‘What you had heard, but you felt the no need to put it in your eight page statement before you went on to tell us a bunch of other things you heard about other people,’ he added.
He continued his lecture, which went on for about four minutes.
‘The problem with no matter how convinced we are, Dr. Hill, no matter how much we believe we know that what we’ve heard is true, it is still just what we’ve heard,’ Turner said.
Chairman Schiff stepped in to ask: ‘Is there a question for Dr. Hill?’
Turner did not respond but turned to ask Holmes a question without giving Hill the opportunity to speak.
David Holmes, a career diplomat and the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said under oath that he heard Trump ask Sondland about ‘investigations’
Holmes testified behind closed doors that he overheard Trump asking Sondland about ‘investigations,’ during a lunch in Kiev, but during the hearing President Trump shot down those claims in a tweet
State Department official David Holmes testified on Thursday on what he said was his first-hand knowledge about the pressures placed on the Ukraine to open investigations – going all the way up to President Donald Trump.
Holmes, in his 12-page opening statement, emphasized his non-political role in U.S. Embassy in Kiev and outlined how U.S. priorities in the Ukraine were overshadowed by Rudy Giuliani and the ‘three amigos’ running a ‘shadow’ foreign policy.
The career diplomat arrived in Kiev in August 2017 to work with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and then with Bill Taylor after Yovanovitch was recalled in May of this year.
He noted a change in U.S. policy began ‘dramatically’ in March 2019 when American policy directives in the country were ‘overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.’
That agenda led to Yovanovitch’s ouster as ambassador, he testified. He outlined a campaign led by then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko to discredit her, a campaign Giuliani then took up to have Yovanovitch recalled.
That discreditation campaign involved the Bidens and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board until earlier this year – a mixture President Trump would ultimately take up to rage against the Bidens in his campaign rallies.
Holmes argued Lutsenko was angry Yovanovitch had pushed him to follow through on reform commitments and retaliated against her because of it.
‘In retaliation, Mr. Lutsenko made a series of unsupported allegations against Ambassador Yovanovitch, mostly suggesting that Ambassador Yovanovitch improperly used the Embassy to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party,’ he said.
He explained how Lutsenko made unsubstantiated allegations that the U.S. Embassy had pressured Lutsenko’s predecessor to close a case against a different former Ukrainian official, solely because of an alleged connection between that official’s company, Burisma, and former Vice President Biden’s son’s Hunter Biden.
Giuliani took it up from there, according to Holmes.
‘Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets, asking ‘why Biden shouldn’t be investigated,’ attacking the ‘New Pres of Ukraine’ (Zelenskyy) for being ‘silent’ on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about the New York Times attacking him for ‘exposing the Biden family history of making millions . . . from Ukraine criminals,’ Holmes testified.
With Yovanovitch recalled in May, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland took over Ukraine policy and was in communication with Giuliani.
Holmes outlined Sondland’s role in the Ukraine, which was not a part of the European Union, and talked about how Sondland bragged about his access to President Trump and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
He said Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker named themselves the ‘three amigos’ and ‘made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelensky Administration.’
And Giuliani was working with the amigos, he charged.
‘Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador
Sondland stated, ‘Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up,’ Holmes testified.
He then tied in the work of the amigos with the desire for a White House visit by the newly-elected Zelensky to give his administration credibility and show it had American support.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (left) began the hearing with his opening statements and was followed by top Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (center)
Hill pleaded with lawmakers not to let domestic politics interfere with counteracting foreign threats to American security
A portion of Trump’s phone transcript from his July 25 call with Ukraine president is displayed as Fiona Hill and David Holmes, testify before the House Intelligence Committee
The Embassy tried to arrange a White House meeting – which Zelensky’s team wanted for his first overseas visit. When that didn’t happen Zelensky was invited to a Fourth of July party that Sondland hosted in Brussels that featured a number of bold-faced names, including White House Counselor Jared Kushner, Secretary Pompeo’s counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, senior European Union officials, and comedian Jay Leno.
But the pressure remained on the Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Holmes testified that on June 27, Sondland called Taylor and Taylor told him that Sondland said President Zelensky ‘needed to make clear to President Trump that President Zelensky was not standing in the way of ‘investigations.’ I understood that this meant the Burisma/Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since March.’
Holmes added it was ‘clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting’ between Zelensky and Trump.
He then said the Embassy also worked on trying to find out why nearly $400million in U.S. assistance to the Ukraine had been frozen.
‘The order had come from the President and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further explanation,’ Holmes said he was told by an Office of Management and Budget official.
Holmes was also in attendance meetings on July 26 – the day after the now-infamous Trump phone call with Zelensky – but he revealed Sondland kept him out of meeting with one of Zelensky’s top advisers.
Holmes was not on the July 25 call between the presidents and said he did not know the details until he read the transcript when the White House released it in September.
But he recalled when he, Sondland and other officials met with Zelensky on July 26, the Ukrainian president ‘stated that during the July 25 call, President Trump had ‘three times’ raised ‘some very sensitive issues,’ and that he would have to follow up on those issues when he and President Trump met ‘in person.’
He then revealed Sondland kept him out of a meeting with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Zelensky, that took place after the meeting with Zelensky.
After that Yermak meeting, he and Sondland went to lunch at a Kiev restaurant with a few others. That was where Sondland took out his cell phone and called President Trump to give him an update.
‘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 said.
‘I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from Kiev. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine,’ he added.
‘Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky ”loves your a**.” 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,’ he said.
He added that ‘after the call ended, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad mood, as Ambassador Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning.’
Holmes also testified that on September 8, Bill Taylor told him that the three amigos now insisting Zelensky publicly commit to an investigation during an interview with CNN.
‘I was shocked the requirement was so specific and concrete,’ he said. ‘This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit, on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival.’
But then the hold on the U.S. aid money was lifted on September 11 but Holmes said Embassy officials were worried Zelensky had agreed to the CNN interview in exchange for it.
‘In short, everyone thought there was going to be an interview, and that the Ukrainians believed they had to do it. The interview ultimately did not occur,’ Holmes said.
‘Let him get sentenced, play the racism card. Tell the Kardashians you tried.’ Gordon Sondland’s conversation with Donald Trump about A$AP Rocky’s trial in Sweden in a restaurant in Kiev is revealed in impeachment hearing
A key witness at Thursday’s impeachment hearing testified that in the same phone call where President Trump pushed a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens, a wealthy ambassador advised him to play the ‘racism card’ and update Kim Kardashian on his efforts to help spring jailed rapper A$AP Rocky.
Diplomatic lawyer David Holmes provided his first public testimony about a July 26th phone call where he says he overheard Trump giving loud instructions to U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, who was dining with Holmes and other officials at a restaurant in Kiev at the time.
But it wasn’t just a pressure campaign – which a top official likened to a ‘drug deal’ – that was on the menu. Sondland, a West Coast hotelier and major Trump inaugural donor, updated Trump on the status of A$AP Rocky, who had been jailed in Sweeden after a Stockholm street fight.
David Holmes, the under secretary of state for political affairs, describes the phone call he overheard between U.S. Donald Trump and Gordon Sondland while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. He said Trump asked for ‘investigations’ in a call that also dealt with rapper A$AP Rocky
After talk about Ukrainian President Zelensky, who Sondland told the president ‘loves your a**,’ matters switched to the rapper.
‘The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland’s efforts, on behalf of the President, to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador Sondland’s side of that part of the conversation,’ Holmes told lawmakers in a hushed room while the cameras rolled.
‘Ambassador Sondland told the President that the rapper was ‘kind of f—-d there,’ and ‘should have pled guilty,’ he said – referring to a case that would land the rapper in jail for a month until his conviction and ultimate release.
Sondland ‘recommended that the President ‘wait until after the sentencing or it will make it worse,’ adding that the President should ‘let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home,’ according to Holmes.
‘Ambassador Sondland further told the President that Sweden ‘should have released him on your word,’ but that ‘you can tell the Kardashians you tried.”
Reality star and activist Kim Kardashian West speaks about a second chance hiring and re-entry initiative alongside U.S. President Donald Trump, right, at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday June 13, 2019 – weeks before A$AP Rocky got arrested after a street fight in Stockholm
A$ap Rocky is seen outside the Loewe show during Paris Fashion Week SS20 on September 27, 2019 in Paris, France
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland said Holmes’ earlier testimony about the rapper jogged his own memory about the phone call, which he confirmed happened
Holmes also provided damaging testimony about his interactions with Sondland and other officials in Ukraine, where he is stationed at the U.S. embassy
Rapper Kanye West, left, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. West and Kardashian sought intervention by Trump to help A$AP Rocky
Holmes, who attended prestigious schools and had diplomatic postings in Moscow and New Delhi, spoke with extensive recall about the meeting with Sondland, describing sharing an appetizer with Sondland and a bottle of wine for the table – even describing a table-runner that covered two adjoining surfaces for the meal.
‘It was quite loud when the president came on,’ he said, calling Trump’s voice ‘quite distinctive.’
Sondland ‘sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear like this,’ Holmes said, holding his hand away from his ear for emphasis. ‘And he did that for the first couple exchanges.’
Sondland vouched for the call in his own testimony Wednesday, although he didn’t bring it up in his closed deposition.
‘What triggered my memory was someone’s reference to A$AP Rocky, which was I believe the primary purpose of the phone call,’ Sondland testified with information that appeared to directly connect the president to the call for ‘investigations’ – short hand for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden served on the board.
The president’s efforts to explicitly seek a probe of the Bidens while getting A$AP Rocky out of a Swedish prison converged in late July.
A$AP Rocky (R) leaves the district court in Stockholm, Sweden, 02 August 2019 on the third day of his trial
On July 25th – the day Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a ‘favor’ an mentioned Joe Biden, he he sent out an escalatory tweet in the campaign to pressure the Swedes to short-circuit their judicial process for the rapper.
That same day, at 5:24 pm, Trump tweeted: ‘Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky.’
In substance key to the impeachment probe, Holmes said: ‘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.’
‘Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the President,’ Holmes said.
The rapper had been arrested after a street fight which was captured on video in Stockholm. Trump got involved following a push by Kim Kardashian and her husband, rapper Kanye West.
‘I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!’ Trump tweeted in late July, in an effort that proved unsuccessful.
Human ‘hand grenade’ Rudy Giuliani said ‘explosive things’ which have ‘come back to haunt us,’ former top Russia aide tells impeachment probe – as president’s attorney is revealed to have posed as adviser to Mike Pence
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up,’ a former top Russia aide in the Trump administration testified on Thursday.
Giuliani, who is the personal lawyer to Donald Trump and has no formal government role, was also revealed to have called himself an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence in some of his dealings with Ukrainian officials.
New details about the Giuliani’s dealings in U.S. policy in the Ukraine were revealed in testimony in Thursday’s hearing – the latest in a series of public hearings on the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the president.
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up,’ Fiona Hill testified
New details about Rudy Giuliani’s role in Ukraine policy were revealed in Thursday’s hearing
One of the most explosive charges against the former New York City mayor came from Fiona Hill, the former top deputy to then-National Security Adviser John Bolton.
‘Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that’s going to blow everyone up,’ she said Bolton told her during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
‘Did you understand what he meant by that?,’ the Democratic counsel asked her.
‘I did actually,’ she replied. ‘That obviously what Mr. Giuliani was saying was pretty explosive in any case, he was frequently on television, making quite incendiary remarks about everyone involved in this and he was clearly pushing views that would probably come back to haunt us. And, in fact, I think that’s where we are today.’
Giuliani was advocating an unproven conspiracy theory that it was the Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server in the 2016 election and made it look like the Russians did it.
And EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland complained that Giuliani f***ed everything up when he got involved in Ukrainian policy, a State Department official testified on Thursday.
David Holmes, a career diplomat assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, described a pressure campaign on the Ukraine that went all the way up to President Donald Trump in his testimony.
And he joined Hill in offering new details on the role played by Giuliani.
Holmes relayed a comment made by Sondland, who Trump had put in charge of U.S. policy in the Ukraine despite the fact that country was not in the European Union, in regards to the former mayor.
Sondland, Holmes and other officials were taking part in a meeting to discuss the upcoming inauguration of newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenksy.
Holmes relayed the frustration Sondland expressed with Giuliani, who – both through his personal twitter account and in some media interviews – was taking part in a campaign to push the Ukraine to open an investigation into the role Joe Biden played as vice president in getting the Ukraine to dismiss a top prosecutor who was believed to not be doing enough about corruption in that country.
‘At one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration Delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, ‘Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f***s everything up,’ Holmes testified.
Giuliani, Trump and others have charged Biden interfered to help Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board until earlier this year.
Joe Biden has denied any wrongdoing and pointed out he was following U.S. policy in regards to the Ukraine. Neither Biden has faced any charges.
Holmes, in his testimony, outlined a series of tweets Giuliani was writing to push the conspiracy.
Rudy Giuliani was a ‘hand grenade’ who was going to blow up ‘everybody up’
‘Over the next few months, Mr. Giuliani also issued a series of tweets, asking ‘why Biden shouldn’t be investigated,’ attacking the ‘New Pres of Ukraine’ (Zelensky) for being ‘silent’ on the 2016 election and Biden investigations, and complaining about the New York Times attacking him for ‘exposing the Biden family history of making millions . . . from Ukraine criminals,’ Holmes testified.
Holmes said it was these actions that led him to realize the role that ‘Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.’
He also revealed Giuliani was telling some Ukrainians he was an adviser to Vice President Pence.
‘On April 25, Ivan Bakanov, who was Mr. Zelensky’s childhood friend and campaign chair, and was ultimately appointed head of the Security Services of Ukraine, indicated to me privately he had been contacted by ‘someone named Giuliani who said he was an advisor to the Vice President,’ Holmes testified, adding he reported the incident to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
State Department official David Holmes also revealed new details about Giuliani’s role in his testimony
David Holmes also said that Giuliani portrayed himself as an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence in his dealings with some Ukrainians
He described how Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker named themselves the ‘three amigos’ and ‘made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelensky Administration.’
And Giuliani was working with the amigos, he charged.
‘Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine,’ he said.
Trump, in his now infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky, told him to talk to Giuliani.
‘Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great,’ the president told Zelensky.
President Trump has argued he has done nothing wrong and his phone call was ‘perfect.’
Republican Congressman Mike Turner criticized Holmes for revealing details of Ambassador Sondland’s conversation with President Trump this summer, when Sondland told the president that Zelensky ‘loves your a**.’
‘You didn’t embarrass Ambassador Sondland, you embarrassed Zelensky,’ Turner said to Holmes.
Holmes, later in the hearing, expressed his administration for the Ukrainian president, particularly for with standing the pressure from the Trump administration to give into their demands.
‘Mr. Turner suggested earlier that I somehow embarrassed President Zelensky. I have the deepest respect for President Zelensky,’ Holmes said.
‘This is a guy, this is a guy of Jewish background from a pre-Soviet industrial suburb of southern Ukraine who made himself one of the most popular entertainers in the country and somehow got elected president, and he’s not going to miss that opportunity. This is a Ukrainian patriot. This is a tough guy. Frankly, he withstood a lot of pressure for a very long time. And he didn’t give that [CNN] interview. I have the deepest respect for him,’ Holmes added.
EU ambassador throws Donald Trump, Pompeo and Mulvaney under the bus: Gordon Sondland says there WAS a quid pro quo, testifies he was ORDERED to ‘talk to Rudy,’ and says Bidens probe was to benefit the president – who fumes ‘I wanted nothing’ from Ukraine
Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the most anticipated witness in the impeachment inquiry, implicated Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vice President Mike Pence in his testimony Wednesday where he said bluntly that a ‘quid pro quo’ was at work in regards to U.S. policy to the Ukraine.
Sondland implicated everyone but himself in a pressure campaign on the Ukraine to open an investigation into the president’s political rivals as he testified. At first, the quid pro quo was a White House meeting for the new Ukrainian president. Then military aid was withheld – and Sondland said that he came to the conclusion it was in the quid pro quo too.
‘At all times, I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the President,’ he said.
His bombshell testimony revealed that top level Trump administration officials knew what was happening at the time.
‘They knew what we were doing and why,’ Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee. ‘Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.’
And he said flat-out there was a ‘quid pro quo’ at work.
‘I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ Sondland said. ‘With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.’
Follow that: Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland lobbed bombshell after bombshell in Wednesday’s hearing
‘We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,’ Sondland said in his testimony. ‘We followed the President’s orders’
LAUGHING AMBASSADOR JOKES HIS WAY THROUGH EVIDENCE
Gordon Sondland quipped his way through his final hour of testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, spending the last part of his six hours in the hot seat joking with the lawmakers who were questioning him.
Sondland slipped in quips about his wife, his amigos, and even joked about President Donald Trump saying he barely knows his hand-picked ambassador.
Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi quizzed Sondland about his relationship with Trump. The president named the hotel magnet his ambassador to the European Union last year.
But Trump on Wednesday said he doesn’t really know Sondland.
‘I don’t know him very well,’ the president told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before he left for an event in Austin, Texas. ‘I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. Seems like a nice guy, though. But I don’t know him well. He was with other candidates. He actually supported other candidates, not me. Came in late.’
Sondland supported Jeb Bush during the 2016 Republican presidential primary but did support Trump once he won the nomination and made a $1 million donation to his inaugural committee.
‘Easy come, easy go,’ Sondland quipped when asked about Trump’s denial he knew him.
The ambassador had been known to brag about having a direct line to the president, access that came up during the impeachment inquiry when Sondland testified about a July 26 phone call he made from his cell phone to the president.
But he said he didn’t recall a lot of specifics about that conversation.
Democratic Rep. Val Demings asked him why he couldn’t remember that call but could remember a call when he said President Trump told him he wanted no quid pro quo in regards to the Ukraine.
‘He just said, ‘I want nothing, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo,” Sondland testified.
After she pushed him on the issue, Sondland replied: ‘I remember the first girl I kissed.’
He then offered a more serious response: ‘I remembered that conversation because as I said it was a pretty intense, short conversation.’
Sondland said under questioning he has spoken to Trump around 20 times.
There were other moments of levity.
When Krishnamoorthi noted former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison referred to the ‘Gordon Problem,’ Sondland responded: ‘That’s what my wife calls me. Maybe they’re talking. Should I be worried?,’ earning laughs from the crowd.
Sondland even worked in a quip about his wife, Katherine Durant
Krishnamoorthi also referred to the nickname given to Sondland, Rudy Giuliani, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry – who were said to be the ‘three amigos’ running a ‘shadow’ foreign policy in the Ukraine.
‘You know, what I’m concerned about, you were part of the three amigos, but what I’m really concerned about, Ambassador Sondland is that the president and the good folks over here, my Republican colleagues, are now casting you as the one amigo,’ the Democratic congressman said, pointing to what he called efforts by Republicans to push all the blame on Sondland.
‘The one lonely amigo they’re going to throw under the bus,’ Krishnamoorthi noted.
Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, picked up on that line of questioning to say to Sondland: ‘Nobody on this side of the aisle claimed you were one amigo.’
‘I lost my amigos?,’ Sondland quipped to laughter in the room.
‘Yeah Not from us. Not from us,’ Nunes replied.
And he said U.S. officials working on Ukraine policy did so at Trump’s direction – a direct implication that the president wanted a foreign government to investigate his top political rival in the 2020 presidential election.
‘We followed the president’s orders,’ he said.
Hill and Holmes have already dropped bombshells in their deposition testimony, but that has not stopped other witnesses lobbing surprises into their public appearances.
Hill’s description of a key meeting with Bolton was dramatic; she said that he slammed the ‘drug deal’ Mulvaney and Sondland were ‘cooking up’ in Ukraine.
She is likely to be asked about her views of Lt. Col Alexander Vindland, the NSC aide who was hailed as a Purple Heart-wearing hero by Democrats for calling Trump’s call to Zelensky ‘inappropriate,’ and attacked by Trump and his surrogates for his evidence and accused of leaking.
She was Vindman’s boss at the National Security Council and was replaced by Tim Morrison. Both men testified earlier this week.
Hill is also likely to be questioned by Democrats on her views of Vladimir Putin, whose presence has loomed large in the hearings, and on whose country she was the NSC’s top advisor for more than a year.
She has literally written a book on Putin: ‘Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.’
And critically she will be questioned on her knowledge of how military aid to Ukraine was held up, by whom and what she was told.
A senior Pentagon official, Laura Cook, told the committee Wednesday evening that the Ukrainians were asking about their aid on the same day as Trump and Zelensky’s notorious ‘I want you to do us a favor’ call.
Holmes is also likely to be asked about that issue, given his presence in the Kiev embassy throughout the unfolding scandal.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue Wednesday, a defiant but frantic President Trump insisted his ‘final word’ to Sondland was an order to demand nothing at all from Zelensky.
”What do you want? What do you want? I hear all these theories. What do you want?” the president said Sondland had asked him.
‘And now here’s my response that he just gave. Ready? You have the cameras rolling? ”I want nothing. That is what I want from Ukraine’.’
‘That is what I said. ”I want nothing.” I said it twice.’
Trump was 45 minutes late for his departure to tour an Apple factory in Texas. He read his reconstruction of the scene from his own notes on a White House pad, written in Sharpie block-letters.
The president left via the White House residence, not the Oval Office. An official told DailyMail.com that he had been watching ‘most of the hearing’ starting at 9 o’clock.
He told reporters the same story three times, describing in an ever-more-manic tone what he claims were his marching orders to Sondland.
‘I say to the ambassador—response—’I want nothing, I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo’,’ Trump repeated, pounding the press corps with his message and nothing else. ”Tell Zelensky, President Zelensky, to do the right thing.”
‘So,’ he said again before walking away as shouted questions fell around him, ‘Here’s my answer: ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing’.’
The president didn’t address the rest of Sondland’s testimony, speaking for barely three minutes.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted during the hearing: ‘During the July 24 conversation @realDonaldTrump agrees to a meeting with Pres. Zelensky without requiring an investigation, any discussion of military aid or any condition whatsoever.
‘This record shows definitively no quid pro quo, which is the same as no bribery. END OF CASE!’
Giuliani later said in a now-deleted tweet that he ‘came into this’ at the request of Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and said Sondland is speculating on ‘VERY little contact’, adding that he and Sondland never met.
Sondland, during his testimony, repeatedly blamed Trump for forcing him, special envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to work with Rudy Giuliani, despite all of them thinking it was a bad idea.
‘Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,’ he said.
‘We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders,’ he added.
But he said they did not believe it was ‘improper’ for Giuliani to be involved in foreign policy despite holding no formal role in the Trump administration. Giuliani is Trump’s personal attorney.
He described instructions they received from the former New York City mayor.
‘Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,’ he said.
He described an effort on Giuliani’s part to link U.S. aid and an Oval Office meeting with Trump for Ukraine President Zelensky to an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Giuliani pushed for a probe of Joe Biden’s actions as vice president in regards to encouraging the Ukraine to dismiss its top prosecutor – which Giuliani claims was done to benefit Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Hunter Biden on its board until earlier this year.
The Bidens have denied any wrong doing – Joe Biden pointed out he was following U.S. and international policy – and no charges have been put against them.
Additionally Giuliani pushed an unproven theory it was the Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s server in the 2016 election and made it look like Russia.
‘Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President,’ Sondland said.
He admitted that at a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainian officials he mentioned the ‘the prerequisites of investigations before any White House call or meeting.’
But he disputed accounts Bolton ended the meeting.
‘Their recollections of those events simply don’t square with my own or with those of Ambassador Volker or Secretary Perry,’ he said.
‘I recall mentioning the pre-requisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting. But I do not recall any yelling or screaming as others have said. Instead, after the meeting, Ambassador Bolton walked outside with the group, and we all took pictures together on the White House lawn,’ he said.
President Trump spoke to the media during Sondland’s testimony where he insisted his ‘final word’ to Sondland was an order to demand nothing at all from Ukrainian President Zelensky
Trump held notes as he spoke to the media, ”What do you want? What do you want? I hear all these theories. What do you want?” the president said Sondland had asked him. He said he responded to Sondland, saying: ‘I want nothing. That is what I want from Ukraine’
Sondland, a wealthy hotelier Trump tapped as his ambassador to the EU, is more directly entangled than any witness yet in the attempt to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted during the hearing that the ‘record shows definitively no quid pro quo,’ emphasizing: ‘END OF CASE’
Giuliani said in a now-deleted tweet that he ‘came into this’ at the request of Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and said Sondland is speculating on ‘VERY little contact’, adding that he and Sondland never met.
Sondland testified that while he wasn’t explicitly sure the nearly $400million in U.S. aid to the Ukraine was being held up in exchange for the investigations, he operated as if that were the case.
‘I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded,’ he said.
‘In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,’ Sondland said. ‘My belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention’ to launch the investigations Trump wanted, ‘then the hold on military aid would be lifted.’
He rejected testimony that he, Giuliani and Perry – nicknamed the ‘three amigos’ – were engaged in a ‘shadow’ foreign policy.
‘We made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision makers at the National Security Council and State Department knew the important details of our efforts. The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,’ he said.
Sondland said he was not the July 25 phone call with Trump and Zelensky but heard it went ‘well.’ He said he only learned the details when the White House released the transcript in September.
But he did share details of a call he had with President Trump on July 26 in a restaurant in Kiev.
He said he did not remember the details but did not dispute witness accounts.
‘Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts. It is true that the President speaks loudly at times.
‘It is also true that we discussed A$AP Rocky. It is true that the President likes to use colorful language. While I cannot remember the precise details –again, the White House has not allowed me to see any readouts of that call – the July 26 call did not strike me as significant at the time.
‘Actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations,’ he said, ‘particularly given what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the President’s 14 concerns. However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.’
High-profile witness: Gordon Sondland is photographed before he begins his evidence to the House Intelligence Committee
Relaxed: Gordon Sondland was laughing and joking with his attorney Robert Luskin before the start of the hearing
Sondland faces questions on a report he kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appraised of Ukraine pressure campaign. He implicated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and former National Security Adviser John Bolton (right)
Sondland testified that Vice President Mike Pence and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney knew about linking a Biden probe to Ukraine aid, saying ‘everyone was in the loop’
Sondland made multiple statements that indicated he had no doubt Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who refused to testify, was in on the effort to link a White House meeting to investigations, and also included security assistance in an answer.
An August 22 letter began: ‘Mike, Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for Potus to meet Zelensky?’
Sondland wrote: ‘I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place (mid-Sept.) [Zelensky] should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US. Hopefully that will break the logjam.’
Pompeo responded: ‘Yes.’
The Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Sondland: ‘ And when you’re talking about here breaking the log jam, you’re talking about the log jam over the security assistance, correct?’
‘I was talking about the logjam because nothing was moving,’ he responded.
‘But that included the security assistance,’ the lawyer followed.
‘Correct,’ he said.
‘And based on the context of that e-mail, this was not the first time you had discussed these investigations with secretary Pompeo, was it?’ Goldman followed up.
‘No,’ said Sondland.’
‘He was aware of the connections that you were making between the investigations and the White House meeting and the security assistance?’ the lawyer asked.
‘Yes,’ Sondland said.
‘Did [Pompeo]ever take issue with you and say, no, that connection is not there? Or you’re wrong?’ Sondland was asked.
‘Not that I recall,’ he responded.
Republicans struggled to come up with a strategy inside the hearing room as Sondland made a series of revelations about his own determination that millions in congressionally appropriated security aid was being held up for an investigation he later connected to the Bidens. Sondland also cheerfully revealed he didn’t take notes, but would benefit from documents he complained the State Department was withholding him – a complaint panel Democrats share.
Top Republican Devin Nunes left during a chunk of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff’s block of time to an anteroom during the hearing. Nunes directed many comments during his speaking time at Democrats and the Russia probe.
GOP counsel Steve Castor repeated ground he and Sondland had already covered during blocks of questioning time. Then, he decided not to use five minutes he had left shortly before lunch – after Nunes in Tuesday’s hearing groused about how Schiff was controlling the time and fought for extra minutes.
‘I’m really trying to finish up before I can yield some time back,’ Castor said with five minutes on the clock.
Full picture: Gordon Sondland is sworn in ahead of a bombshell opening statement saying there was a ‘quid pro quo’
Ready for action: Gordon Sondland gets ready to testify before the House Intelligence Committee
Sondland’s testimony repeatedly implicated other top officials in efforts to push Ukraine to get investigations.
Sondland described a meeting he was part of with Mike Pence when the vice president came to Warsaw in place of Trump, who stayed in the U.S. to deal with Hurricane Dorian. Pence met with Zelensky while in Poland.
‘I was in a briefing with several people and I just spoke up and I said, it appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made, something, words to that effect,’ he said.
‘The vice president nodded like you know he heard what I said and that was pretty much it as I recall,’ he added.
Schiff pressed Sondland for more details, which the ambassador said he didn’t remember and pointed out he did not get a readout of the Pence meeting.
‘You knew, certainly they were concerned about the hold on the security assistance,’ Schiff asked Sondland about the Ukrainians.
‘They were concerned, obviously,’ Sondland replied.
‘And you wanted to help prepare the vice president for the meeting by letting him know what you thought was responsible for the hold on the security assistance?,’ Schiff asked.
‘That’s fair,’ Sondland agreed.
‘Do you recall anything else the president, vice president said other than nodding his head when you made him aware of this fact?,’ Schiff said.
‘No, I don’t have a readout of that meeting so I can’t remember anything else,’ Sondland said.
Vice President Mike Pence’s office disputed Sondland’s testimony that he spoke to Vice President Mike Pence during a group meeting that included the vice president during Pence’s trip to Warsaw, where he met President Zelensky.
‘He heard what I said. I don’t recall any substantive response,’ Sondland said of Pence, after Sondland says he himself said ‘everything is stalled’ on Ukraine
Pence’s office released a statement by chief of staff Mark Short after that portion of Sondland’s testimony.
‘The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations,’ Short said.
‘Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened,’ Short said. Sondland had said the conversation was part of a group discussion.
‘Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland,’ Short added.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham provided additional pushback following the president’s public comments Wednesday.
‘Ambassador Sondland’s testimony made clear that in one of the few brief phone calls he had with President Trump, the President clearly stated that he ‘wanted nothing’ from Ukraine and repeated ‘no quid pro quo over and over again’ she said. ‘In fact, no quid pro quo ever occurred. The U.S. aid to Ukraine flowed, no investigation was launched, and President Trump has met and spoken with President Zelensky. Democrats keep chasing ghosts,’ Grisham said.
There were a few moments of levity Wednesday, including when Sondland described his overheard phone conversation.
Sondland, who says he never takes notes, recalled the conversation took place after he took U.S. diplomats and Ukrainians out to lunch in Kiev.
He didn’t dispute others’ testimony that they could hear the president, and confirmed other topics that came up, including rapper A$AP Rocky, which he said may have been the purpose of the call.
‘I probably had my phone close to my ear,’ he said, holding up his hand a few inches away.
He came close to confirming a diplomat’s testimony that Sondland told President Trump that President Zelensky ‘Loves your a**.’
‘Yeah, that sounds like something I would say,’ Sondland quipped, to chuckles in the hearing room. ‘That’s how President Trump and I communicate. A lot of four-letter words. In this case, three letters,’ he said.
Sondland testified that he did not believe it was ‘improper’ for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to be involved in foreign policy despite holding no formal role in the Trump administration
Sondland said he was not the July 25 phone call with Trump and Zelensky but heard it went ‘well’ and only learned the details when the White House released the transcript in September
Sondland is one of nine witnesses testifying this week in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan (right) made a point during questioning about how Zelensky never announced an investigation into the Bidens
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, one of President Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, used his question time to make a dramatic point about how Zelensky never announced an investigation into the Bidens.
‘Ambassador, when did it happen?,’ Jordan bellowed at Sondland.
‘When did what happen?,’ Sondland asked.
‘The announcement,’ Jordan thundered, his voice booming into the microphone. ‘When did President Zelensky announce the investigation would happen?’
Jordan added: ‘When the chairman asked you about the security assistance, you said needed to be a public announcement from Zelensky. Simple question, when did that happen?’
‘Never did,’ Sondland said.
‘When did the meeting happen, again?,’ Jordan asked.
‘Never did,’ Sondland repeated.
‘You don’t know who was in the meeting?,’ Jordan said.
‘Which meeting are you referring to?,’ Sondland asked.
‘The meeting that never happened,’ Jordan boomed as Sondland chuckled.
Jordan, in a theatrical way, was emphasizing a Republican argument against the impeachment inquiry – that Zelensky never announced an investigation into the Bidens or the 2016 election yet Ukraine still received the U.S. aid money.
Democrats counter the aid money was released after it was revealed a whistleblower filed a complaint about comments President Trump made on his July 25 phone call with Zelensky – a complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry.
Wednesday’s hearing began with another blistering opening statement from House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff about the contours of the effort to get Ukraine to conduct investigations.
‘The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide and include among others secretary of state Pompeo as well as the vice president,’ Schiff said at the top of the hearing.
He blasted the State Department for withholding notes and call readouts, although Sondland cited new information in his opening statement.
Schiff said he can see why Pompeo and Trump ‘have made a concerted and across the board effort and this impeachment inquiry.’ But he said they ‘do so at their own peril,’ and cited the Nixon impeachment.
Ukrainians started asking about their military aid the same DAY that Donald Trump’s made notorious ‘do us a favor’ call to country’s new president, Pentagon official reveals
Pentagon official Laura Cooper testified to impeachment hearings Wednesday that her office received two separate emails about the hold-up in security assistance for Ukraine on July 25 – the same day as Trump’s infamous call with the Ukrainian president.
The Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary’s evidence appears to undercut a key claim by Donald Trump‘s defenders, that Ukraine did not know about the hold-up of $400 million in aid, and that therefore there was no ‘quid pro quo.’
Democrats seized on it as a fresh revelation which strikes a new blow to Trump’s defense.
It came after Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, dropped bombshell after bombshell in hours of testimony in which he said there was a quid pro quo – that Ukraine would not get a White House meeting without investigating ‘Burisma’; that he was ordered to talk to Rudy Giuliani; that Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence both knew about a link between ‘investigations’ and military aid; and that investigating Burisma meant the Bidens, which would benefit Trump.
At a session which started more than three hours later than planned, Cooper provided new information that she said she learned form her staff following her earlier closed door deposition.
She said that on July 25th her staff got two emails, one from the State Department stating that the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Ukrainians were asking about security assistance.
New bombshell: Laura Cooper said her staff were asked by the Ukrainians on the day Donald Trump called Ukraine’s new president what had happened to their aid, which had been held up earlier that month
Call: Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Donald Trump on July 25. Now Laura Cooper says her staff were asked what had happened to their aid that same day
State Department official David Hale, the third-most senior in the department, told Congress that the removal of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was wrong. ‘She should have been able to stay at post and continue to do the outstanding work,’ said Hale.
Another email stated the Hill – meaning staff working for lawmakers – and the Ukrainian knew about the foreign assistance situation. Both emails came in the afternoon.
‘The Hill knows about the FMF situation and so does the Ukrainian embassy,’ the second email said, Cooper testified. FMF stands for ‘Foreign Military Financing,’ the government term for aid to foreign countries.
The 25th is the day when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up his interest in getting Javelin missiles on a phone call with the president, and Trump asked for a ‘favor’ including investigations and mentioned Joe Biden specifically.
Cooper testified she did not recall receiving those emails. She said she never talked to the president but heard from people she doesn’t recall that ‘the president was concerned about corruption. That was all I ever heard.’
‘I heard that the president had directed the Office of Management and Budget to hold the funds because of his concerns about corruption in Ukraine,’ she said.
Under oath before the House Intelligence Committee, Cooper said she received emails on July 25 saying that both the Ukrainian embassy in Washington and the House Foreign Affairs Committee were asking about the assistance.
‘I would say that, specifically, the Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?’ Cooper said.
Asked by Representative Adam Schiff if the Ukrainians had been ‘concerned,’ Cooper replied, ‘Yes, sir.’
Trump is accused of improperly withholding aid and a summit with Zelensky as he pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his domestic rival Joe Biden.
Trump in the phone call asked Zelensky for ‘a favor.’ Trump’s defenders have argued, in part, that his effort was not improper as Ukraine did not know about the holdup.
Kurt Volker, the US pointman on Ukraine, has said that he was not aware of the aid freeze until Politico ran an article in late August.
Cooper said that her staff received the emails on July 25 and that she had not been personally briefed on them until she conducted research in preparation for her congressional appearance.
She had earlier testified in a deposition behind closed doors and had not known then about the emails, she said Wednesday.
Mike Quigley, a Democrat, said that Cooper’s evidence suggested ‘there is untold information out there that is being blocked.’
The Pentagon and State Department are both resisting subpoenas from the Intelligence Committee.
Pressed by Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, Cooper said she couldn’t state specifically that the emails were about the ‘hold’ as opposed to foreign assistance generally.
‘I don’t want to speculate on what it means,’ she said. But she said Ukrainians tended to call about ‘specific things’ not just ‘generally checking in on their assistance package.
‘Ms. Cooper, your testimony today destroys two of the pillars of the president’s defense and one justification for his conduct,’ said Rep. Eric Swallwell of California. ‘First pillar: no harm no foul, the Ukrainians didn’t know that the hold was in place … Second pillar, this president was a real champion of anti-corruption,’ he said.
Her testimony came hours after U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland testified there was a ‘quid pro quo’ linking a White House visit to investigations the president and Rudy Giuliani were demanding.
Sondland also said he concluded $400 million in military aid to Ukrain was also part of the ‘logjam’ he was trying to fix.
Cooper also added: ‘Sometime during the week of August 6-10, a Ukraine officer told a member of my staff a Ukrainian official might raise concerns about security assistance in an upcoming meeting.’
Lethal force: Javelin missiles, seen in use by the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in 2011, were sent to Ukraine as anti-tank weapons
Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, testified she did not recall receiving those emails. She said she never talked to the president but heard from people she doesn’t recall that ‘the president was concerned about corruption. That was all I ever heard.’
‘I heard that the president had directed the Office of Management and Budget to hold the funds because of his concerns about corruption in Ukraine,’ she said.
Adam Schiff, in his opening statement, stated that ‘no good explanation of the hold was provided’ for holding up the aid.
Rep. Devin Nunes once again dwelled on process and blasted Democrats for not providing proper notice of how questioning would get handled. ‘The American people are getting a skewed impression of these events,’ he groused. He accused Democrats of ‘petty tricks,’ saying: ‘Just this morning they called a break in the hearing in order to press their absurd arguments to TV cameras.’
She said she met with U.S. Ukraine envoy Kurt Volkwer on August 20. ‘It was my inference that that would lift the hold on Ukraine security assistance,’ she said, in testimony in line with ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, who also testified he made his own conclusions about the linkage. He agreed it was like ‘two plus two equals four.’
Under questioning from Conaway, Cooper acknowledged the delay in funding, which was provided after the House announced its investigation, would be limited. ‘There was no shortfall in equipment deliveries that were expected within that time frame,’ she said. ‘There was no shortfall in equipment deliveries that were expected within that time frame.’
The policy expert told Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California, ‘I do not know what triggered the release of the funding.’
Top State Department official David Hale testified about the removal of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Rep. Denny Heck of Washington called Pompeo’s silence on the issue a ‘betrayal’ of his agency.
‘She should have been able to stay at post and continue to do the outstanding work,’ said Hale. He called the ambassador, who lawmakers say got ‘smeared’ by a campaign driven by Rudy Giuliani, a ‘an exceptional officer doing exceptional work.’
He agreed with Heck’s words that she got smeared and served with ‘grace and dignity.’
Cooper made clear she did not get her information from the president, as Sondland testified he sometimes did.
‘In a series of interagency meetings, I heard that the president had directed the Office of Management and Budget to hold the funds because of his concerns about corruption in Ukraine. Let me say at the outset that I have never discussed this or any other matter with the president and never heard directly from him about this matter.’
President Trump weighed in with a tweet Wednesday night. ‘If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!’ he wrote.
Video emerges of heavily-pregnant woman attacked in Sydney cafe
Horrifying new footage has emerged showing a heavily pregnant woman being repeatedly punched and then stomped on at a Sydney cafe.
The 31-year-old woman, who is 38 weeks pregnant, was with friends at Bay Vista cafe on Church Street, Parramatta, at 10.30pm on Wednesday when she was set upon by a man.
Police allege that man is Stipe Lozina, 43, who has been refused bail after being charged with affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Shocking CCTV footage beamed around Australia on Thursday allegedly showed Lozina lean over the table of women before unleashing a flurry of punches.
Daily Mail Australia can now reveal a different angle shows the alleged attack in even more frightening detail from the other side of the cafe.
Horrifying new footage (pictured) has emerged of a heavily pregnant woman being repeatedly punched and then stomped on at a Sydney cafe
Vision from the other side of the cafe had earlier shown the same alleged attack – but the most recent footage shared on social media on Thursday showed the alleged stomp (pictured) in even more shocking detail
Lozina can allegedly be seen calmly walking up the steps to the cafe, before looking to the left and approaching the women.
After a brief verbal exchange, he points a finger towards the pregnant woman before allegedly attacking.
He allegedly punched the victim several times in the head and upper body, causing her to fall to the ground as her friends tried to hold him back.
He then allegedly stomped on the head of the woman as she cowered next to the table.
Police allege CCTV footage shows one of the woman’s friends using a chair to hit the man, causing him to stumble, before other patrons restrained him and walked him out of the cafe.
The woman did not know her alleged attacker, but he was known to police.
The woman spoke to The Daily Telegraph through a Muslim community leader, saying she was ‘very fragile’ and still in shock.
‘He just screamed at me saying “Muslims raped my mum”,’ she said.
The alleged victim’s husband told the paper his wife ‘hardly ever goes out’.
‘But when her friends invited her for a coffee, I told her to go and that I would look after the kids,’ he said.
The woman claimed the man screamed at her before the alleged attack ‘Muslims raped my mum’
Lozina appeared without legal representation at Parramatta Local Court on Thursday as he applied unsuccessfully for bail. He will remain behind bars until at least next month.
Magistrate Tim Keady told Lozina in court: ‘After making a comment about Muslims, you approached her and punched her to the head 14 times. For bail purposes I will treat that as a very strong case against you.’
The man was known to police and had an ‘extensive criminal record’, the magistrate said.
The accused asked for the case to be adjourned to a date when he had another matter due to be heard in court.
Lozina was refused bail to next appear on December 5.
The alleged incident happened at the Bay Vista cafe in Parramatta, western Sydney, about 10.30pm on Wednesday night
The woman was taken to Westmead Hospital for observation and for assessment of her unborn child, and released on Thursday morning.
NSW Police Inspector Luke Sywenkyj on Thursday morning said the woman suffered a number of bruises and has some swelling.
‘As a result of the assault, she does seem somewhat emotionally and physically traumatised,’ Insp Sywenkyj told reporters in Sydney.
Vision from the other side of the cafe had earlier shown the same alleged attack at Bay Vista (pictured)
‘Our police investigation at this stage is still in its infancy but the assault would appear to be completely random and unprovoked.’
Insp Sywenkyj said he wanted to personally commend members of the community for coming to the woman’s defence.
‘If it was not for the brave actions of all these members of the community in stopping the assault the victim may very well have sustained much more serious injuries.’
Lozina was known to police before the alleged incident at Bay Vista (pictured) and had an ‘extensive criminal record’
Kerri-Anne Kennerley claims co-host Joe Hildebrand has ‘done more drugs than anyone’
Kerri-Anne Kennerley sensationally hit back at her Studio 10 co-host Joe Hildebrand during a live interview on the Kyle and Jackie O Show on Thursday morning.
Joe, 43, had jokingly suggested that Kerri-Anne, 66, likes a drink during his appearance on the same show two weeks prior.
So when it came to discussing Joe, Kerri-Anne didn’t hold back – claiming he has done ‘more drugs than anybody else’ before asking: ‘Why would you listen to him?’
‘Why would you listen to him?’ Kerri-Anne Kennerley sensationally claimed co-host Joe Hildebrand openly discusses how he has ‘done more drugs than anybody else’
When asked if she was angry about his previous comments, Kerri-Anne said: ‘This is Joe Hildebrand.
‘This is a man who has admitted, and to quote him: “I have done more drugs than anybody else… all drugs, more drugs than anybody else has done.” So why would you listen to him?’
Surprised, Kyle Sandilands responded: ‘Is that right? I didn’t know that?’
She continued: ‘He claims he’s done every drug from woe to go… he openly admits all the drugs he’s done in his life.’
Whoops! Two weeks ago, Joe (pictured) had jokingly suggested that Kerri-Anne likes a drink during an appearance on The Kyle and Jackie O Show
‘What reference did he make to me?’ she then asked, to which Jackie responded: ‘I think he was saying about how you like a drink or two.’
Kerri-Anne admitted: ‘I love a glass of wine,’ before adding that she wasn’t angry over Joe’s comments and knew it was a ‘bit of a joke’.
When approached by Daily Mail Australia with the claims, Joe said: ‘I can confirm it all!’
In the past, Joe has admitted several times on air that he experimented with drugs in his younger days, and writes about his past drug use in his autobiography An Average Joe: My Horribly Abnormal Life.
‘I think he was saying about how you like a drink or two…’ Jackie O ‘ (pictured) had questioned Kerri-Anne about Joe’s words when he appeared on the show two weeks prior
During his appearance on The Kyle and Jackie O show two weeks ago, Joe had jokingly said that he never knows if Kerri-Anne is ‘still drunk from the night before’.
He added that Sarah Harris constantly gives him ‘death stares’ on the panel.
Kerri-Anne confronted him following the interview live on Studio 10, saying: ‘I would like an explanation please, for spreading some malicious lies!’
Fortunately, she wasn’t actually angry with Joe and laughed off his harmless joke about her being a ‘drunk’.
She cheekily held up her glass of water, which was sitting on the desk, and said: ‘I’d like you to taste that vodka… water… vodka!’
It’s war! Kerri-Anne (pictured) accused Joe of ‘spreading malicious lies’ about her, and confronted him live on air
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