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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Transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukrainian president

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What is Castor asking Williams about?

Castor is using his 45 minutes to pepper Williams with questions about Ukraine policy that she does not have the answers to: “I don’t know” is a refrain she’s stated multiple times.

Responding to a question from Castor, Williams also testified she has “no basis” to say that Pence was told not to go to Ukraine and that it was possibly a mere schedule conflict.

The line of questioning appears to be an effort by Castor to cast her as a witness who lacks material knowledge about the matters at hand — even though she, along with Vindman, were both on the July 25 call that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Vindman corrects Nunes, ‘Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please’

Nunes began a line of questioning about the whistleblower, which prompted Schiff to chime in and say, “I want to make sure there’s no effort to out the whistleblower.” 

Nunes then turned back to the NSC adviser, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, “Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.”

Vindman pointedly responded, ‘Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please.”

Nunes continued by repeating his question with Vindman’s military title. 

Vindman was promoted to the rank of Army lieutenant colonel in 2015. He received a Purple Heart after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004. 

Nunes goes after leaks, whistleblower, and Schiff interrupts

Nunes asked both Williams and Vindman, point-blank, whether they leaked, or directed anyone to leak, any information surrounding the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

Blasting the media and leakers of confidential information to the media has been a central strategy of Nunes and other House Intelligence Committee Republicans during the public hearings. The line of questioning also appeared to be a direct play by Nunes to get either witness to expose the whistleblower.

Asked if she discussed the July 25 call with the press, encouraged anyone to do so or if she knows of “any individuals” who did,” Williams replied “no” each time.

Vindman also said no each time, but added, “I do not engage with the press at all.” He added, “We have an NSC press shop to engage in these types of questions."

After repeated questions from Nunes on leaks about the July 25 call, Schiff eventually interrupted and reminded everyone that the hearings would not be used to "out the whistleblower."

Wallace: Nunes' questioning may backfire

Vindman says April 21 readout ‘not entirely accurate’

Vindman explained the disconnect between the readout on the April 21 call between Trump and the Ukranian president and the call summary released by the White House. The readout claimed rooting out corruption was discussed, but a summary released by the White House earlier this week did not mention that. 

According to the summary, the tone of the call was largely congratulatory, with Zelenskiy quickly inviting Trump to visit his country, and later Trump issuing a general invitation to the White House.

Vindman told Goldman, the Democrat’s counsel, that he would not call the readout false necessarily, but rather "not entirely accurate," because readouts are often used as messaging to promote policies consistent with U.S. policy and indicate what is important to an administration. 

Vindman outlines secret filing system for transcript

Vindman, under questioning from Goldman, said that it was explained to him that the summary of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy was transferred to a private, more secure server “to avoid leaks” and to  help “preserve the integrity of the transcript.”

Vindman said he “didn’t take it as anything nefarious,” but that the decision to have it “segregated into a separate security system” was “made on the fly.” It's notable because the movement of the summary to the server has raised questions about whether anyone in the White House was trying to hide what was discussed on the call.

A tweet by Rep. Adam Schiff is on display behind Rep. Jim Jordan at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Shawn Thew / Pool via Getty Images

Vindman details Ukranian concerns over aid

Vindman testified that he was asked by Ukrainian officials in August to substantiate rumors that the military aid was on hold. He said that he told the officials he was not aware of the hold. His testimony gives a behind-the-scenes picture of how Ukrainians were growing increasingly worried about the aid after Trump pressured the Ukrainian president on the July 25 call. Vindman's interactions with the Ukrainian officials also gave rise to conservative attacks on his loyalty, making his answers on his reasons for speaking with the officials important.

Vindman: No credible evidence to support theory that Ukraine interfered in 2016 election

Responding to a question about Trump's pushing the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, Vindman said he was not aware of any credible evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

He said he was well aware, though, that Russia had promoted that theory.

The CrowdStrike theory, about which Trump asked Zelenskiy, essentially contends that Ukraine, and not Russia, was involved in hacking Democratic Party emails and that a Democratic National Committee server may be in Ukraine. The theory runs counter to the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, and former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said it was “debunked.”

Republicans have pointed to a 2017 Politico story reporting that Ukrainian embassy officials in Washington helped a DNC staffer research allegations involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now in prison stemming from his business activity in Ukraine.