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Embassy official says 'never seen anything' like restaurant call to Trump

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Image: Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives to t
Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives to the Capitol for his deposition as part of the House's impeachment inquiry on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. -
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A top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine told impeachment investigators he had "never seen anything like" the late July phone conversation he overheard between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, in a Kyiv restaurant.

"This was an extremely distinctive experience in my Foreign Service career," David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said in a deposition Friday, according to a transcript released late Monday. "I've never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly."

The call Holmes is referencing is one first brought up by the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, during last week's public testimony. Taylor said one of his staffers, later revealed to be Holmes, overheard a phone call on July 26 during which Trump asked Sondland about "the investigations," meaning the probes into the Bidens and Democrats.

Holmes, who is now slated to appear for public testimony Thursday, toldimpeachment investigators he heard Sondland tell Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy "loves your ass," to which Trump asked, "So, he's gonna do the investigation?" Sondland replied that Zelenskiy was "gonna do it," adding that the Ukrainian leader would do "anything you ask him to."

Holmes said he was able to make out what Trump was saying during that brief portion of the phone call because Sondland held the phone away from his ear as Trump was speaking loudly. Holmes would testify that Trump's unmistakable voice was later quieter. Holmes said he did not take notes of that part of the call but told fellow embassy staffers what he heard.

"I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on Ukraine," Holmes said. "In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not give a shit about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give a shit about Ukraine."

"I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated, the president only cares about 'big stuff,'" Holmes continued. "I noted that there was 'big stuff' going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant 'big stuff' that benefits the president, like the 'Biden investigation' that" Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani "was pushing."

Sondland, who did not mention this call in either his initial October deposition and or in subsequent written testimony he gave this month, will appear publicly before impeachment investigators on Wednesday.

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