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Gordon Sondland to testify, Navy to review SEAL's status, and so long Bei Bei: The Morning Rundown

All eyes will turn to the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. when he testifies in the impeachment hearings Wednesday morning.
Image: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams arrive to testify during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill
"Here, right matters," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said about his faith in American values as he testified during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

After a marathon day of impeachment hearings yesterday, get ready for another doozy. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is set to take the hot seat in the House impeachment inquiry this morning.

Here's what we're watching today.


"I'd call myself never partisan': What we learned from Vindman and others testimony

Over a jam-packed, nearly 12-hour stretch on Tuesday, four key figures at the center of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee.

First up were Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser on Europe and Russia to Vice President Mike Pence.

They both listened to the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy and said they found the call to be "unusual" and "inappropriate."

Vindman testified that the phone call between the two leaders raised alarm bells because he thought it was "improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent."

Despite being a decorated veteran who received a Purple Heart after he was wounded in Iraq, Vindman faced repeated character attacks from several House Intelligence Republicans.

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council staffer, testified during the afternoon session.

Volker made a significant revision to his previous closed-door deposition, saying that he now sees that others in the Trump administration sought an investigation into the Biden family and that they told Ukraine's government that millions of dollars in military aid depended on it.

Combined, the witnesses testimony is taking its toll on Trump's impeachment defenses, NBC News' Jonathan Allen writes in a news analysis.

Here are the top 10 things we learned from Tuesday's testimony.

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What's coming up today: Meet Gordon Sondland

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is set to testify in the House impeachment inquiry starting at 9 a.m. ET.

The Republican mega-donor was one of the so-called "three amigos" who emerged as the point men on U.S. dealings with Ukraine following the ouster of Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in May.

The political appointee amended his initial testimony in the case this month to acknowledge that he'd told a top Ukrainian official in September that millions of dollars in security aid would be withheld "until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing."

Here's what to expect from his testimony today.

One issue that Sondland is expected to be grilled on is a conversation he had with Trump on a cell phone in a Kyiv restaurant. The State Department has been asked to probe top diplomats’ use of personal cell phones in the wake of revelations about the call.

Watch the impeachment hearings on NBC, MSNBC or NBCNews.com.

And follow our live blog for news and analysis throughout the day.

Trump called Sondland a "great American" before he was first deposed in October. But since he amended his testimony, the president has disavowed him, saying "I hardly know the gentleman."Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images file

Navy seeks to strip sailor championed by Trump of his SEAL status

Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was convicted of posing with an ISIS fighter's corpse, but Trump overturned his punishment.

Now the Navy will review whether he should be allowed to remain in the elite SEAL corps, along with three of his supervising officers, a defense official told NBC News on Tuesday night.

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10 Democrats, one night: Tonight's debate

Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be center stage Wednesday at the MSNBC/Washington Post debate in Atlanta.

Who else qualified for this one?

Here's everything you need to know about the 10 candidates taking the stage tonight and their policies.

Tonight's debate co-hosted by MSNBC and the Washington Post will begin at 9 p.m. ET. Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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Plus


THINK about it

Trump’s justifications for pardoning war criminals suggest the commander in chief lacks an in-depth understanding of the military, its culture and its professional ethic, retired U.S. Army colonel Jeff McCausland writes in an opinion piece.


Live BETTER

This 30-minute pad Thai will make you forget about ordering takeout.


Quote of the day

"You made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."

Lt. Col. Vindman, addressing his father in a personal moment during his opening statement. (Video)


So long, Bei Bei

Bei Bei, the beloved panda, has lived at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., since he was born.

But on Monday, he took off on a 16-hour flight to China as part of an agreement between the two countries to assist in conservation efforts.


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra