“Sondland told Trump that Zelensky ‘loves your ass,’ ” Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement. “I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to.'”
Holmes, who was subpoenaed to appear on Friday, explained that Sondland had placed the call to Trump, and he could hear Trump because the call was so loud on the terrace of a restaurant, where they dined with two others.
“While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The President’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume,” Holmes testified.
“Even though I did not take notes of those statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made,” he added.
Holmes also confirmed Taylor’s testimony about the President’s thoughts on Ukraine, saying he had asked Sondland “if it was true that the President did not ‘give a s— about Ukraine.”
Holmes said Sondland had responded that Trump cares only about “big stuff.” When Holmes said that the Ukraine war was big, Sondland responded, ” ‘Big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing,” Holmes said.
Holmes said that he was personally aware of the episodes Taylor testified to about Sondland saying that “everything” relied on announcing an investigation. But Holmes said that Taylor told him on September 8: “Now they’re insisting Zelensky commit to the investigation in an interview with CNN.”
“I was surprised the requirement was so specific and concrete,” Holmes said.
“While we had advised our Ukrainian counterparts to voice a commitment to following the rule of law and generally to investigating credible corruption allegations, this was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival on a cable news channel,” Holmes said.
Holmes said that on September 13, two days after the freeze on security aid was lifted, Taylor had met with Zelensky and they ran into Zelensky’s aide, Andriy Yermak, as they left. Holmes said Taylor stressed the importance of staying out of US politics and he hoped no interview was planned, but Yermak “shrugged in resignation and did not answer, as if to indicate they had no choice,” Holmes testified.
Holmes’ testimony also explains how he ended up with Sondland at the restaurant. He said Sondland was in meetings in Ukraine with Taylor and others, and that when Taylor was departing Kiev, Holmes offered to go to lunch with Sondland to get briefed on the July 25 call. Holmes also said that he was supposed to be included in a meeting between Sondland and Yermak. Holmes said he was supposed to be a note-taker for the meeting, but when he arrived he was told by an aide to Yermak that they wanted a one-on-one meeting with “no note-taker.”
On the call, Sondland also talked to Trump about the US rapper who had been arrested in Sweden, A$AP Rocky, telling Trump that Sweden “should have released him on your word,” and later adding that Trump could “tell the Kardashians you tried.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.