Former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison testified beginning around 3:30 p.m. ET. Earlier Tuesday, NSC staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, testified for around 4.5 hours starting at 9 a.m ET.
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Ranking member Devin Nunes’ opening statement was different from his opening statements in the last two hearings, in which he said the Democrats were operating a “cult” and out to “overthrow” Trump.
In this opening, he excoriated the media for their coverage of the hearings as damning for the president, claiming that they are working with the Democrats to hurt Trump.
Nunes then pivoted to what he called the real story that the media is trying to “smother,” which, again, is the potential political motivations of the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry. The statement accusing the media of bias against Trump and questioning the motives of the whistleblower mirrors allegations in conservative media and Trump's Twitter feed.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff defended both Vindman and Williams from recent attacks on their character in his opening statement.
“Ms. Williams, we all saw the president’s tweet about you on Sunday afternoon and the insults he hurled at Ambassador Yovanovitch last Friday,” he said, pointing to Trump’s Sunday tweet labeling her a “Never Trumper.” “You are here today, and the American people are grateful.”
“Colonel Vindman, we have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character, and watched as certain personalities on Fox have questioned your loyalty,” Schiff continued. “I note that you have shed blood for America, and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude.”
Schiff said the two witnesses are not appearing because they “are for or against impeachment.”
“That question is for Congress, not the fact witnesses,” he said. “If the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”
The Williams and Vindman public hearing was just gaveled in by Chairman Schiff at roughly 9:08 a.m.
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Leigh Ann Caldwell
24d ago / 3:33 PM UTC
What's going on inside the hearing room
The Republicans have three posters behind their side of the dias.
A tweet from Adam Schiff from Sept 24 reading: "We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the acting DNI as to how to do so. We’re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week."
"99 Days since Adam Schiff learned the identity of the whistleblower." (Schiff maintains he doesn’t know the identity of the WB.)
A quote from Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., from Sept. 17. We’ve spent millions of dollars, in my opinion, tons of money, tons of time, tons of hurt, fracturing the nation apart. I haven’t seen this to be a good thing." (Van Drew was one of two Democrats to vote against the impeachment inquiry.)
About 35 seats are reserved in the audience for members of Congress.
Most Democratic members have entered the hearing room and are standing behind their seats in the dias.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., is talking in a not discreet huddle with Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Andre Carson, D-Ind.
Members of the audience have been let in.
Republicans are now trickling in. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, still with no suit jacket, is about to take a seat.
Both counsels are seated.
Schiff has not yet walked in.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified a House Democrat at today's hearing. It is Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, not Rep. Colin Allred of Texas.
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24d ago / 2:00 PM UTC
Pence aide Jennifer Williams arrives for hearing
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24d ago / 2:17 PM UTC
Diplomats testify that State Dept. called Sean Hannity about Yovanovitch allegations
"Call Sean Hannity," then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once said during a 2016 presidential debate.
That's exactly what three U.S. diplomats who testified in the House impeachment inquiry said a top State Department official did, seeking information on whether the Fox News host had any "proof" of the allegations leveled against then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on his program.
In testimony released Monday night, David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, told impeachment investigators Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself called Hannity, essentially asking, "If there are these allegations, I need to see what the evidence is."
Yovanovitch was ousted from her post in May following a lengthy campaign from Trump allies to sully her reputation. One such allegation was that she gave then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko a "do not prosecute list," a claim she denied and one that Lutsenko eventually walked back after initially promoting. Hale testified that "no one" he met in the State Department, including Pompeo, found the allegations credible.
Responding to Hale's testimony on his Monday night program, Hannity, who has taken aim in Yovanovitch in recent days, said, "How many times do I have to say, we barely mentioned this woman."
"Four times in passing," Hannity said, adding, "No, I never got a call from Secretary of State Pompeo or anybody else. Why would they lie about this?"
"I know nothing about this woman," he continued. "Now I do. Oh. Now I know a lot about her."
In her deposition, Yovanovitch said the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Phil Reeker told her that either Pompeo or a close deputy called Hannity to ask whether he had "proof of these kinds of allegations or not."
Meanwhile, George Kent, a top diplomat overseeing Ukraine, testified that he was aware of a top State Department official calling Hannity in late March or early April.
A Fox News spokesperson pointed NBC News to Hannity's comments from Monday night when reached for comment. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News.
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24d ago / 1:38 PM UTC
Giuliani lashes out at witnesses ahead of Tuesday hearings
The first 3 “star witnesses” (the State Department permanents) had absolutely ZERO admissible evidence and NO evidence of any criminal activity. Nothing they said would be admissible in a court of law or, presumably, in an impeachment presided over by the Chief Justice of the US.
'Never seen anything' like it: Official testifies about Trump-Sondland restaurant call
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.
Eight weeks of impeachment has taken a toll on Trump
It’s been a rough last eight weeks for Trump and the GOP: Eight whole weeks have now passed since Democrats began their impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24, and it’s hard to overstate just how damaging those eight weeks have been for Trump and the GOP.
Let us list the ways.
Every week (and sometimes every day) has produced a new bombshell revelation. The most recent was from State Department official David Holmes, who testified he overheard a phone conversation between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland: “I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’ unquote. Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will quote, ‘Do anything you ask him to.’”
Republicans have been forced to give changing and conflicting defenses – Trump’s July 25 call was perfect; there was no quid pro quo; if there was a quid pro quo, it’s not impeachable; the testimony against Trump is merely hearsay; let the voters decide about the president’s actions.
During it all, Trump has tweeted more and more, including that tweet Friday directed at witness Marie Yovanovitch: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
The president has uttered more and more falsehoods about Ukraine and impeachment (CNN has counted 45 different false claims.)
And during this time period, the GOP has lost gubernatorial elections in the red states of Kentucky and Louisiana, as well as control of the legislature in increasingly blue Virginia.
The good news for Trump is that the totality of the last eight weeks hasn’t changed his political standing. A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll has his approval rating essentially unchanged at 41 percent, and it shows the public is divided about his impeachment/removal from office.
But what the impeachment inquiry has done is produce the worst version of Trump – the tweeting, the dissembling, the changing explanations.