WASHINGTON - State Department official David Holmes’ testimony on a newly revealed phone call between President Trump and Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland seems to conflict with that of top diplomat Bill Taylor at last week's lead-off impeachment hearing.
Taylor, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee last Wednesday, said he had just learned about the July phone call this month.
But Holmes’ timeline of events, according to a written statement from his closed-door interview, seems to depart from Taylor’s -- saying he notified Taylor of the call shortly after it happened.
Holmes, who is the political counsel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, told congressional investigators that he was at a restaurant in Kiev on July 26 when Sondland spoke to Trump over the phone—just one day after Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he asked for investigations into the Bidens and 2016 election meddling.
Holmes testified that Trump was speaking so loudly that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear, which allowed others to hear. Holmes said that Sondland told Trump that Zelensky “loves your ass,” to which Trump replied: “So he’s gonna do the investigation?”
“He’s gonna do it,” Sondland replied.
Holmes testified that after the call, Sondland said Trump did not “give a sh-- about Ukraine” and only cared about “big stuff” like the “Biden investigation.”
Holmes testified that he brought the contents of the call to Taylor’s attention when he returned to the embassy following a vacation that ended Aug. 6.
“After returning to the embassy, I told Ambassador Taylor about the July 26 call,” Holmes said. “I also repeatedly referred to the call and conversation with Ambassador Sondland in meetings and conversations where the issue of the president’s interest in Ukraine was potentially relevant.”
Holmes added, however, that amid the more recent media coverage surrounding the impeachment inquiry, he “made the observation to Ambassador Taylor that the incident I had witnessed has acquired greater significance, which is what he reported in his testimony earlier this week.”
Holmes seemed to indicate that he was merely reminding Taylor of the July 26 phone call, but in his testimony last week, Taylor seemed to indicate that he was only just hearing about the call.
Taylor, in the dramatic moment during last week’s hearing, claimed that “last Friday” a staff member “told him of events that occurred on July 26.”
“At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information,” Taylor testified. “I am including it here for completeness.”
The Trump campaign flagged the apparent conflict over the weekend, saying: “Both of these testimonies cannot be true.”
“The testimonies contradict one another regarding when Holmes told Taylor about the call he claims to have overheard,” the Trump campaign said in a statement. “If Holmes immediately told numerous people at the embassy about the phone call, and 'repeatedly referred' to it 'in meetings and conversations,' why did Taylor never hear about it from Holmes or someone else? Why wouldn't it have appeared in Taylor's supposedly meticulous notes?”
Holmes was back on Capitol Hill Monday, possibly to review his testimony.
While the reason for the timing discrepancy is not clear, it is not in question that Trump was seeking investigations.
The transcript of his July 25 phone call, released by the White House, showed that he was, indeed, asking Zelensky to open the investigations. The anecdote about the phone call Holmes purportedly overheard would only underscore that the president was continuing to follow up on those investigations after his call with Zelensky.
At the center of the impeachment inquiry, which began in September, is Trump’s July 25 phone call with Kiev. That call prompted a whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House.
The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have claimed shows a "quid pro quo" arrangement. Trump denies that.