EVENT ENDED

Analysis after Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison 's impeachment testimony

Their testimony kicked off the second week of open hearings in the House's impeachment inquiry.

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The second week of public hearings in the House's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump kicked off on Tuesday with testimony from four current and former administration officials.

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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Read the latest updates below:

Live Blog

Vindman: ‘I did this out of a sense of duty’

Lt. Col. Vindman delivered a powerful opening statement, sharing his story as a son of immigrants who came to America for a better life and instilled a sense of duty to serve in the U.S. military. He said he never expected to testify about the president’s actions, but he did so out of a “sense of duty.” He also thanked his father for his sacrifice. 

Vindman’s account is significant because Republicans have attempted to paint previous witnesses as unreliable given their second- or third-hand knowledge about the pressure campaign. Vindman said that he witnessed Ambassador Sondland ask Ukrainian officials to open the investigation in order to get the aid — a meeting then-national security adviser John Bolton cut short. He also said that the July 25 call was “inappropriate” and he reported his concerns immediately. 

Vindman — whose loyalty to the United States has come under attack from some in conservative media — excoriated the “reprehensible” and “cowardly” attacks on career foreign service officers and others who have appeared or were expected to do so, saying they do this work out of patriotism and not partisanship. 

In a powerful close, Vindman thanked his father for deciding to come to America, saying his testimony was proof it was the right decision. "Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth," he said.

Read his full statement here:

Williams lawyer objects to question about Pence call

Schiff opened his questioning by asking Williams about a Sept. 18 call between Pence and Zelenskiy, but her lawyer chimed in, saying that the Office of the Vice President has deemed the call “classified.”

Schiff then asks if Williams could provide information of the call in a classified setting, and she says she’d be “happy to.”

The Hill reviewing and correcting articles from conservative reporter referenced by Nunes

Moments ago, Nunes lavished praise on John Solomon, the conservative reporter whose columns in The Hill play a major role in the Ukraine story, and accused the media of “furiously smearing and libeling him.” He noted that “The Hill told its staff yesterday it would conduct a review of Solomon’s Ukraine reporting.”

NBC News has obtained from an employee of The Hill the email sent Monday to staff by The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. It says that "in light of recent congressional testimony and related events, we wanted to apprise you of the steps we are taking regarding John Solomon’s opinion columns which were referenced in the impeachment inquiry."

It goes on:

"Because of our dedication to accurate nonpartisan reporting and standards, we are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any opinion pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry. As previously stated, the views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill."

"We reiterate that we do not condone sending material out before publication," the letter adds. "The Hill remains committed to giving voice to views across the political divide."

 

 

Williams says Trump-Ukraine call 'unusual'

Williams opens by noting that she’s served as a Foreign Service officer for nearly 14 years, through both Republican and Democratic administrations — possibly an attempt early on to combat any accusations that she is politically biased. In his opening statement, Schiff prefaced that Williams has done a lot of work for Republicans

She goes on to repeat what she told Congress during her closed-door testimony: that she found the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy “unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter."

Here's her full opening statement: 

Witnesses sworn in

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

Trump has packed schedule, but likely still paying attention to hearings

The president has been in the residence this morning, according to a White House official, but is likely to join local radio stations this morning to talk USMCA/trade as part of the White House’s “radio row” media day. 

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham adds that other participants “include senior administration officials, Cabinet members and I believe some members of Congress.” The president is also set to lead a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 in the West Wing. It’s part of the White House counterprogramming strategy to try to show the president is hard at work as Democrats focus on impeachment.

Two officials are downplaying today’s hearings, telling us they don’t think it will be a game changer.

The president is likely engaged in this third day of public impeachment hearings, however. He has suggested that both witnesses, Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman, are “never-Trumpers,” despite no evidence that’s the case.

Nunes slams media, Democrats in opening statement

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.

Schiff defends Vindman, Williams from attacks

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.”

And we're off...

The Williams and Vindman public hearing was just gaveled in by Chairman Schiff at roughly 9:08 a.m.

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.

Pence aide Jennifer Williams arrives for hearing

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019.Julio Cortez / AP