U.S. Rep. Val Demings spoke Thursday about the shaky bond between Ukraine and the United States – and the consequences — during Thursday’s impeachment hearing held by the House Intelligence Committee.
Demings, an Orlando Democrat, emphasized the seriousness of Ukraine’s delayed military aid, as Fiona Hill, a former top Europe and Russia expert, testified at the Trump impeachment hearings.
Hill offered testimony about her concerns regarding the Ukraine pressure campaign – an effort, allegedly by President Donald Trump, to force Ukraine to investigate former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Demings said, “We’ve already talked about it, and you testified today that Ukraine is in war with Russia…even though the security assistance was eventually delivered to Ukraine, the fact that is was delayed to a country that is actively in war, [could] signal to Russia that perhaps the bond between Ukraine and the United States was weakening.”
Hill has also been critical of Republicans shifting from Trump’s alleged actions, to promoting conspiracy theories – what she called a “fictional narrative” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections to benefit the Democrats. She made those comments in closed-door sessions prior to the public impeachment hearings, according to news accounts.
Demings, the only Floridian serving on the committee, engaged witnesses about the real risk of a “weakening appearance” between the U.S. and the Ukraine.
“Even the appearance that the U.S. bond is shaky, could embolden Russia to act in an even more aggressive way,” Demings said.
And David Holmes, a foreign service officer working in the U.S. Embassy, was also a key witness. He also was shocked to hear about the freeze on Ukraine military aid.
“We all know by now that in July of this year President Trump sent an order to the office of management and budget that approved military aid to Ukraine be put on hold,” Demings said.
“Both (Hill and Holmes) of you expressed that Ukraine is the first line of defense against Russian aggression and expansion into Europe, that Russia’s priority is to undermine the United States,” Demings said.
Hill urged the committee to focus on her testimony, saying Trump’s actions have real consequences.
“We’ve had this experience, in 2008, Russia also attacked the country of Georgia, I was the national intelligence officer at that particular juncture, and we had warned, in multiple documents, to the highest levels of government, that we believe there was a real risk of a conflict between Georgia and Russia…we also believed at that point that Russia might attack Ukraine,” Hill said during Demings’ questioning.
Also, during Thursday’s public impeachment inquiry, David Holmes, a foreign service officer, told lawmakers that he overheard the phone conversation between Sondland and Trump in a restaurant in Ukraine this summer.
“He was quite loud, when the president came on, quite distinctive…when the president came on, he [Sondland] sort of winced away from his ear, like this [Holmes makes a gesture with hands],” Holmes testified before the committee. “He clarified whether he was in Ukraine or not…he said we can do the investigation.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has been in the spotlight for being outspoken and a staunch Trump supporter. The boisterous Republican lawmaker was cut off by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, after continuously interrupting Holmes during Thursday’s testimony.