Mr. Sondland noted after the call that the president was in a “bad mood.”
Mr. Holmes’ account included other, potentially significant new details to investigators about the Trump administration using a White House aid and the frozen military assistance as leverage for the investigations Mr. Trump wanted. He testified that Mr. Taylor told him at the time about a June 28 call with him, the “Three Amigos” and Mr. Zelensky in which “it was made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.”
Mr. Taylor described the same call in his testimony, saying that Mr. Sondland had said he “wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring” the call. But Mr. Taylor did not say that investigations or preconditions had been discussed.
Impeachment investigators are building a case that Mr. Trump withheld the coveted meeting, as well as the vital military aid for Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, as leverage for the meetings he wanted.
“It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President Zelensky,” Mr. Holmes said. “He needed to demonstrate U.S. support at the highest levels both to advance his ambitious anti-corruption agenda at home and to encourage Russian President Putin to take seriously President Zelensky’s peace efforts.”
By late summer, Mr. Holmes also testified, he had a “clear impression” that a hold on the military aid was also “likely intended by the president either to express dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigations or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”
Mr. Holmes also described frustrations among American officials.
At one point, he said, Mr. Sondland vented: “Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up.”
He said that John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, openly discussed strategies for marginalizing Mr. Giuliani on a trip to Kiev during the summer. Mr. Holmes testified that he also complained about Mr. Sondland’s “expansive interpretation of his mandate.” And he recalled Mr. Bolton saying that a hold on the security assistance would only be lifted if Mr. Zelensky could “favorably impress” during a face-to-face meeting scheduled for early September. The meeting never happened.
Other witnesses have described similar concerns by Mr. Bolton, and investigators would like to speak with him, but he has declined to appear given White House orders not to.