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Republicans asked to stop promoting 'politically driven falsehoods' at Trump impeachment hearing

It was the final day of a week of explosive testimony at the impeachment inquiry.

Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill testifies before the House Intelligence Committee
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill testifies before the House Intelligence Committee
Image: Andrew Harnik/AP

TWO KEY WITNESS in the ongoing US impeachment inquiry have said it was clear that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pursuing political investigations of Democrats in Ukraine at the direction of the president.

The testimony of former White House analyst Fiona Hill and State Department official David Holmes appears to undercut Trump’s contention that he only wanted to root out Ukrainian corruption.

The House of Representatives probe focuses on allegations that Trump sought to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter – and the discredited idea that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 US election — in return for US military aid and for a White House visit for the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

During the final day of the impeachment hearing this week, Holmes told investigators that he understood that Giuliani’s push to investigate Burisma, the gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter served, was code for the former vice president and his family.

Hill, meanwhile, warned that Giuliani had been making “explosive” and “incendiary” claims.

“He was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us,” she testified. “I think that’s where we are today.”

She also sternly warned Republicans — and implicitly Trump — to stop pushing the “fictional” narrative that Ukraine interfered in the US election in their defence of Trump in the impeachment probe.

Russian meddling ‘beyond dispute’

Republicans, and Trump himself, have continually claimed that the president was trying to root out corruption in the country.

But Hill said the conclusion by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election “is beyond dispute”.

She said the assertion by some Republicans that Ukraine interfered in the election “is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves”.

She added: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimise an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary, and that Ukraine – not Russia – attacked us in 2016.”

She also warned that Russia is gearing up to intervene again in next year’s election. “We are running out of time to stop them,” she testified.

“I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

‘F**ks everything up’

Meanwhile, Holmes testified that he came forward after overhearing Trump ask about “investigations” during a “colourful” phone call with the US Ambassador the the EU, Gordon Sondland, at a Kiev restaurant earlier this year.

He said that he realised his account of what he heard would be relevant to the inquiry.

“Those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did, in fact, have knowledge that those senior officials were using the levers of our diplomatic power” to push Ukraine to investigate his rivals, he testified.

david-holmes David Holmes pauses as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee Source: Andrew Harnik/AP

Holmes also expressed growing concern that Giuliani, as the president’s personal lawyer, orchestrated US policy towards Ukraine outside official diplomatic channels, adding that it was a concern shared by others.

“My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, ‘Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and fucks everything up.’”

Yesterday, the inquiry heard from Sondland that Trump had instructed his top diplomats to work with Giuliani, who was publicly pursuing investigations into Democrats.

Holmes testified that he grew alarmed watching Giuliani make “frequent public statements” which pushed for Ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related the Bidens.

With reporting from Press Association.

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