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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Vindman describes his 'real-time' reaction to the July 25 call
Responding to Schiff’s request for his “real-time reaction” to the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Vindman answered bluntly:
“Without hesitation, I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel. I had concerns and it was my duty to report my concerns to the proper people in the chain of command,” said Vindman, who was listening in on the call.
Vindman reiterated that it was “inappropriate” and “improper” for “the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent.”
He said what occurred on the call would “undermine Ukraine policy” and “undermine our national security.”
Schiff then asked Vindman whether he felt Trump put pressure on Zelenskiy when he asked for a “favor” on the call to open the investigations.
Citing his military background, Vindman said: “When a senior asks you to do something, even if it's polite and pleasant, it's not to be taken as a request. It's to be taken as an order."
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68d ago / 3:04 PM UTC
Vindman testimony gets wide praise on Twitter
Chilling to watch a Lt. Col. with a purple heart, whose family fled oppression, essentially tremble in the witness chair is a reminder of how intimidating this process can be. "Dad... proof that you made the right decision... do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."
Vindman's message to his immigrant dad was powerful
He said, "Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union...Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."
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.
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.”
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68d ago / 2:58 PM UTC
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."
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68d ago / 2:52 PM UTC
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."
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.
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68d ago / 2:45 PM UTC
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.
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.”