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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.

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

Read the latest updates below:

1470d ago / 1:41 AM UTC

And that's a wrap on Tuesday's hearings

The Volker and Morrison hearing has concluded. It lasted roughly 5 hours. That’s roughly 9.5 hours total today between the two impeachment inquiry hearings. 

As the hearing ended, Volker approached the dais to shake hands with several members. He specifically called to Rep. Heck to thank him for giving him time to answer. 

1470d ago / 1:38 AM UTC

Schiff scorches GOP: They only care that Trump got caught

Schiff delivered a fiery closing statement, reminding everyone of the facts gathered from witnesses so far and arguing that it points to an abuse of power. 

In one of his most animated moments so far, Schiff cast the pressure campaign on Ukraine as Trump using corruption as a pretense to open an investigation into the Bidens, saying that Republicans are more upset that “somebody blew the whistle” and not potential abuse of power by the president. 

He said efforts to withhold a meeting and aid on the condition of opening an investigation into a political opponent should be “repugnant to every American.” 

1470d ago / 1:29 AM UTC

Volker calls Trump attacks on impeachment witnesses 'not appropriate'

In the final hours of the impeachment hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., asked Volker about the president’s attacks on Yovanovitch and Vindman, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Volker said it was "not appropriate" for Trump to publicly chide Yovanovitch and Vindman.

Volker also said that McCain was "an honorable man and very much a war hero." Trump repeatedly targeted McCain before the senator died last year.

1470d ago / 1:04 AM UTC

Swalwell: If Trump is so concerned about corruption, why did he meet with Putin?

1470d ago / 12:46 AM UTC

Stefanik: Quid pro quo? Extortion? Treason?

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., sought to portray the 55-day hold on Ukrainian security assistance as a nothing-burger on Tuesday, by asking the two witnesses if anyone had bribed or extorted Ukraine or committed treason.

“Did either of you ever have any evidence of quid pro quo?” Stefanik asked. “Any evidence of bribery?”

“Any evidence of treason?” she continued.

The witnesses said no to all three questions.

1470d ago / 12:43 AM UTC

Hearing room audience is thinning out

As the third day of impeachment hearing wears into its 11th hour, the audience section of the hearing room for the public has dwindled. About a couple of dozen members of the public are here. No lawmakers are in their section of the audience.

1470d ago / 12:40 AM UTC

Stewart: 'It would be absurd' to suggest anyone is above the law

During his questioning, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, argued that no political candidate is immune from  investigation if they are suspected of unethical or criminal activity. 

Volker responded, “I don’t think anyone should be above the law.” 

Stewart seems to be arguing that Trump, without evidence, was trying to see if the Bidens were committing a crime in a foreign country. However, Volker stated that there are “channels for doing that” as well as treaties that can be triggered if an American commits a crime abroad. 

This defense -- that no one is above the law -- is aimed at defending probing the Bidens. However, the president’s own lawyers have argued in court filings that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. Trump's legal team made this point while attempting to block New York City prosecutors from obtaining the president's tax returns. A judge then ruled against Trump. 

1470d ago / 12:32 AM UTC
1470d ago / 12:28 AM UTC

Article II: Inside Impeachment — Public hearings edition

On Tuesday's episode, Article II host Steve Kornacki talks to NBC News correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell about the testimony provided by Pence aide Jennifer Williams and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.

The two discuss Williams and Vindman’s response to the July 25 phone Trump-Ukraine call (which both were on) and the Republican strategy to discredit Vindman and elevate the focus on the identity of the whistleblower. They also talk about the Democratic strategy to allow the witnesses to tell their stories.

Download the episode here.

1470d ago / 12:10 AM UTC

Conaway: We’re not trying to out the whistleblower!

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, complained furiously that the whistleblower did not deserve “absolute right” to anonymity and that he was angry that Schiff keeps accusing House Republicans of trying to out the whistleblower. Republicans have repeatedly asked questions about who might have known about the July 25 call before it went public. Conaway also pointed out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said in a dear colleague letter that the whistleblower would need to talk directly to the Intelligence Committee.

“This is about leveling the playing field between our two teams,” Conaway said. 

Schiff responded dryly, saying he would enter the whistleblower statute — and ranking member Nunes’ comments on the importance of anonymity for whistleblowers — into the congressional record. He did not acknowledge Pelosi’s letter.

1470d ago / 11:58 PM UTC

White House, Trump associates trash Vindman's testimony

Several members of Trump’s White House, re-election campaign and his family trashed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Tuesday as he testified publicly that the July 25 phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart was “improper.”

Dan Scavino Jr., who serves as assistant to the president and director of social media at the White House, suggested that Vindman has dual loyalty to Ukraine after Vindman confirmed that he was offered a position as defense minister in Ukraine three times.

Scavino tweeted, “#ICYMI: Lt. Col. Vindman was offered the position of Defense Minister for the Ukrainian Government THREE times! #ImpeachmentSHAM."

Read more about the White House's attacks.

1470d ago / 11:50 PM UTC

Morrison can’t remember Trump mentioning corruption on the July 25 call

After Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., pressed Morrison on his memory of the Ukraine call, Morrison said that he heard Trump mention Crowdstrike, the DNC server and the Bidens but not the word “corruption.” 

This is a significant exchange because, throughout this hearing and others, Republicans have argued that Trump was generally concerned about corruption in Ukraine that is the reason for the aid being withheld and placing conditions on the country. 

Democrats have said that the corruption concern is a pretense for Trump’s pressure campaign to help his reelection. Morrison, who was one of the officials on the call, has now said that corruption was not mentioned. And others have testified that corruption was not mentioned on the April call with the Ukrainian president either.

1470d ago / 11:47 PM UTC

Volker, citing Biden link, becomes latest witness to revise testimony

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy for Ukraine negotiations, told the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday he now sees that others in the Trump administration sought an investigation into the Biden family and that they told Ukraine's government that military aid depended on it — a shift in his account that he said reflected new information he'd only recently learned.

Volker, who was the first witness to be deposed behind closed doors last month in the inquiry, told the House at the time that "official representatives" of the U.S. had “never communicated to Ukrainians" that the aid had been suspended for a specific reason. He added, "We never had a reason."

But in the weeks since, other officials have testified that the ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, had, in fact, told a top Ukrainian presidential aide that the country would not likely get the money unless the investigations were announced, a fact Sondland himself ultimately conceded.

"I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question," Volker said Tuesday in his new account to Congress, which took place during the open, televised portion of the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment proceedings.

Read more about how Volker's testimony changed.

1470d ago / 11:42 PM UTC
1470d ago / 11:42 PM UTC

Schiff presses Morrison on concerns about Ukraine call

Schiff grilled Morrison about his concerns over Trump's Ukraine call. Morrison appeared uncomfortable describing the call as Trump pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens. 

Schiff asked why, if it was a “perfect call” as Trump has repeatedly claimed, Morrison went to the national security council’s legal adviser. Morrison answered that he would have been concerned if the call leaked despite the content.

Morrison, however, agreed that it would be hypothetically problematic if Trump had asked to open an investigation into other U.S. political officials, including Pelosi and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican. But Morrison stopped short of saying asking a probe of Joe Biden was inappropriate. 

“I can only speak to what I understood at the time and why I acted the way I did at the time,” he told Schiff.

1470d ago / 11:40 PM UTC

Schiff wants to know why Volker doesn’t remember July 10 meeting details

Schiff grilled Volker on how he forgot so many details of the July 10 meeting at the White House that included himself, Sondland, Vindman, then-national security adviser John Bolton and several Ukrainian officials, including Ukraine’s national security adviser.

During that meeting, Sondland allegedly said he’d worked out a deal with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that Zelenskiy could have a meeting with Trump if Ukraine opened investigations.

Bolton “stiffened” after the exchange and ended the meeting, later telling colleague Fiona Hill to report it to the National Security Council’s lawyer, she testified. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and  Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” Hill said Bolton told her.

“Why didn’t you tell us about this?” Schiff asked Volker, referring to his Oct. 3 closed-door testimony.

“Because that’s what I remembered,” Volker replied. He added that he “learned other things” about the meeting from having read the testimony of Vindman and Hill, including that “at the very end of that meeting ... Gordon did bring that up, and that was it.”

Schiff pressed Volker how he could possibly have forgotten a term like “drug deal” and how the meeting ended so abruptly.

Volker replied that “I do not still, to this point, remember” the meeting ending that way.

1470d ago / 11:37 PM UTC

Goldman grills Volker: How could you not know?

Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman grilled Volker on how he could avoid seeing a political aim in the pursuit of Ukrainian investigations and recalling the same details to which his colleagues testified.

"If there are two staffers who took notes of that meeting and testified that the subject of that meeting of sensitive topics or investigations came up, are we better off trusting their notes?" Goldman asked after Volker testified the topic of investigations did not come up in a July 26th meeting with the Ukrainian president.

Volker repeatedly said he didn’t recall certain details or realize there was a political aim of an inquiry into corruption, but also declined to say he doubted colleagues whose recollection differed from him.

Instead, Volker said that while he discussed investigations with Sondland and Giuliani — and pushed back against Giuliani in one instance — he did not see the rest.   

1470d ago / 11:26 PM UTC

Nunes complains about the process, witnesses

Nunes used his extra 15 minutes allotted by chairman Schiff to again complain about how the hearings are conducted. He again called it a “drug deal,” which is a phrase Bolton allegedly used to describe the pressure campaign on Ukraine. 

Nunes said he did not have any questions for the witnesses and sparred with Schiff about why these “magical” 15 minutes are allowed to which Schiff noted is a part of the resolution formalizing the process. 

The California Republican also lamented the witnesses as being Democrat witnesses, even though they were actually requested by the GOP.

Nunes yielded the remaining time to Castor to question the witnesses.

1470d ago / 11:06 PM UTC
1470d ago / 11:04 PM UTC

Hearing resumes after brief break

After a short break, the hearing has returned. They are doing another round of staff questioning. There will be a 15-minute staff round for Dems and then 15-minute staff round for Republicans. After those are wrapped up, member questions will begin. 

1470d ago / 11:04 PM UTC

ANALYSIS: Morrison’s attention to politics doesn’t add up

Morrison repeatedly has insisted that he wanted to keep Trump’s July conversation with Zelenskiy to a limited number of people because he was worried it could leak. He also has insisted that his concern was not about the content of the call — that he didn’t worry that something improper had happened.

Instead, he testified, he was worried that Democratic support for Ukraine would waver if the details became public. But apparently that was not as alarming to him as the fact that Trump already had frozen aid to Ukraine. That is, he worried less about the actual loss of Trump’s backing for Ukraine than the potential loss of Democratic backing.

Neither of the lawyers followed up on why the president’s position didn’t bother him.

1470d ago / 11:03 PM UTC
1470d ago / 11:00 PM UTC

Volker downplaying how much he knew about demands for investigations

Volker has repeatedly downplayed how much he personally knew about tying investigations Trump wanted into Burisma and a conspiracy theory related to do the 2016 election to a White House visit by Zelenskiy and, potentially, military aid to Ukraine.

“The issue of the security assistance was one where I thought that this was really related to a general negative view of Ukraine,” Volker said, responding to questions from members of the House Intelligence Committee.

He added moments later that he wouldn’t call a public announcement by Zelenskiy for the desired investigations “a condition” for the Zelenskiy-White House meeting.

“I wouldn’t have called it a condition; it’s a nuance, I guess,” Volker said.

Volker, however, added that he nevertheless viewed the production of such a public statement “as very helpful.”

“If we could get this done, it would help improve the perception that President Trump and others had,” he said, responding to questions from Goldman.

But Volker’s statements that suggest he didn’t know, or knew little, about conditioning a White House visit to the investigations contradict what he wrote in a July 25 text to a top Zelenskiy aide.

“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” Volker wrote in a text — sent just before Trump spoke by phone to Zelenskiy. The text message was one of several provided to, and released by, House Democrats as part of their inquiry.

1470d ago / 10:49 PM UTC

Castor takes aim at Vindman while questioning Morrison

During questioning from Castor, the GOP’s counsel, Morrison was asked if he had any concerns about Vindman’s judgment to which he said “yes.” Morrison's lawyer, however, stopped that line of inquiry because she said it went beyond the scope of the hearing. 

Morrison also said other officials have raised concerns about potential leaks from Vindman and that he was concerned that Vindman, who he supervised, did not always keep him in the loop about his concerns. Morrison told Castor he questioned why Vindman did not come to him first about the concerns he had about the July 25 call instead of national security lawyers in the administration. 

Castor’s questions to Morrison is a continuation of the efforts from the earlier hearing to challenge Vindman’s credibility.

1470d ago / 10:40 PM UTC
1470d ago / 10:14 PM UTC

Morrison says he had a ‘sinking feeling’ about the Ukrainian aid

Morrison testified that his ‘‘sinking feeling" was tied to his concern that the fiscal year funds allocated by Congress would expire at the end of September and officials would have to go back to lawmakers and explain why. He said it was not exactly tied to his concerns about the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. But he said then-national security adviser John Bolton told him to go “tell the lawyers” — adding that he was not sure why Bolton told him that. 

1470d ago / 10:03 PM UTC

Nunes: Bribe anyone recently?

Nunes staked out a particularly blunt line of questioning late Tuesday afternoon, a full eight hours after impeachment hearings began this morning.

“Did anyone ask you to bribe or extort anyone?” he asked both witnesses of their dealings with Ukraine.

Both said no.

1470d ago / 10:01 PM UTC

Rudy emerges, again, as key figure

Both Morrison and Volker are painting a picture in their testimony of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, being far and away the most influential figure in the president’s orbit when it came to Ukraine policy.

Volker testified that Giuliani was providing Trump a “negative narrative” — one “fueled by accusations from Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general” — about Ukraine that wasn’t taken seriously by several other advisers.

Volker also said that when Trump told him to “talk to Rudy,” he didn’t interpret that as an order by Trump.

“I didn’t take it as an instruction,” he said. “I took it as just part of the dialogue.”

Volker, however, said he did eventually connect Giuliani with Andrey Yermak, a senior aide to Zelenskiy, and the two discussed a need for the Ukrainian government to release a public anti-corruption statement.

1470d ago / 10:00 PM UTC

ANALYSIS: Dem lawyer guides testimony blowing holes in GOP narratives

Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman is calmly driving a wedge between the witnesses and Trump, allowing Volker and Morrison to distance themselves — willingly or unwillingly — from the effort to investigate Biden.

In particular, after amending his earlier testimony, Volker explained that he did not see investigating Burisma and investigating Biden as one and the same until he saw a transcript of the president’s call with Zelenskiy much later.

He said he thought “there was a way to thread the needle” between the two, but “for them, it was synonymous.”

Goldman’s questioning led Morrison to describe a parallel policy process in which Sondland spoke directly with Trump — who has said that he barely knows Sondland — and that he repeatedly checked up on Sondland’s claims that he had spoken with Trump and found those claims to be true.

“I was concerned” about Sondland connecting aid to investigations, Morrison said.

Combined, the testimony provided by these two witnesses is deeply damaging to the narrative that Sondland and Giuliani were operating outside the president’s knowledge and the case that the aid was not withheld as leverage to produce a public statement regarding investigations.

1470d ago / 9:58 PM UTC

Pence aide Kellogg says he 'heard nothing wrong or improper' on July call

1470d ago / 9:44 PM UTC
1470d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Morrison: July 25 call confirmed back-channel diplomacy

Morrison testified that when he heard Trump request an investigation into Burisma and the Bidens in the July 25 call, it “confirmed” something he’d already been warned about by his predecessor, Fiona Hill, in their handoff meetings.

“She mentioned the traditional […] process and the parallel process, and in the context of discussing the parallel process, she mentioned issues like Burisma, which were noteworthy to me at the time because I had never heard of them before," he said. "Upon hearing them in the call, it wound up confirming, OK, there’s something here."

The concept of diplomatic back channel has been a major theme during the impeachment proceedings.

Morrison said Hill told him the parallel process included Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani.

1470d ago / 9:37 PM UTC

Morrison calls handling of July 25 transcript was an 'administrative error'

Morrison was asked by Goldman about the highly unusual effort to "lock down" the transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukranian president and said that it was put on the secure server by mistake. 

"It was an administrative error," he said. 

In his closed-door testimony, Morrison said, “it was a mistake.”

The way that the transcript was handled created a lot of consternation among former national security officials and Democrats who saw it as irregular. 

1470d ago / 9:29 PM UTC

Volker is asked how he felt Biden, Burisma were different

Volker, under questioning from Goldman about the Bidens and Burisma, reiterated that he “did believe that they were separate.”

“Allegations against Biden are self-serving and not credible,” Volker said. 

But that, he added, was “separate” from the issue of potential investigations into corruption at Ukrainian companies like Burisma.

1470d ago / 9:18 PM UTC
1470d ago / 9:17 PM UTC
1470d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

Volker testimony includes major changes from private deposition


Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is amending his testimony from his Oct. 3 private deposition, and now says he didn’t know at that time that military aid to Ukraine had been linked to Ukraine launching investigations that would have been politically advantageous to the president.

“Since I gave my testimony on Oct. 3, a great deal of additional information and perspectives have come to light. I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question,” Volker said in his opening statement.

“I did not know of any linkage between the hold on security assistance and Ukraine pursuing investigations. No one had ever said that to me — and I never conveyed such a linkage to the Ukrainians," Volker said.

Volker also said that, in hindsight, he now understands the desired investigation into Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined as a board member in 2014 —  was, in fact, intended as an investigation into the Bidens.

“In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections,” he added.

These are significant amendments and reinforce the emerging narrative being established by House Democrats that military aid for Ukraine was, in fact, conditioned on the launching of investigations by Ukraine into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Read the full story.

1470d ago / 9:04 PM UTC
1470d ago / 8:54 PM UTC

6 things we learned from Vindman's and Williams' impeachment testimony

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams — who both listened in on the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy at the center of the House's impeachment inquiry — spent more than four hours testifying before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

During the hearing, both Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Williams, a special adviser on Europe and Russia to Vice President Mike Pence, said that call gave them cause for concern, while Vindman faced repeated personal attacks by Republicans on the committee.

Here are six takeaways from their public appearance.

1470d ago / 8:53 PM UTC

Morrison: ‘My fears have been realized’

Morrison used his opening statement to share his concerns about the hearings. He said he does not know who the whistleblower is and declined to speculate. Morrison said that he did not feel pressured to resign from his post or fear retaliation, but he was very concerned about the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. 

"I feared at the time of the call on July 25 how its disclosure would play in Washington's political climate. My fears have been realized,” he said. 

He then used his statement to urge lawmakers to not lose sight of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia after the illegal annexation of Crimea and that these hearings could hurt Ukraine’s efforts to fight the Kremlin. 

1470d ago / 8:52 PM UTC

Witnesses sworn in

Image: Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Alex Brandon / AP
1470d ago / 8:45 PM UTC

Nunes slams witness choice before GOP-chosen witness testimony

Rep. Devin Nunes again railed against the impeachment inquiry — calling it “a farce”—  and the Democrats leading the process. He complained that the public hearings were not a fact-finding missions but instead designed to “showcase” witnesses chosen by the Democrats.

He failed to mention, however, that the witnesses about to be interviewed were requested by the minority party, according to the committee chairman.

1470d ago / 8:36 PM UTC

Schiff lays out the timeline in his opening statement

In this afternoon hearing, Schiff used his opening statement to lay out the timeline and facts of the Trump administration's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

He noted how Volker texted a Ukrainian official ahead of the July 25 call and said that Trump wanted the investigations open before a meeting with Ukraine's president was scheduled at the White House. 

Schiff also noted how Morrison was “troubled” by Trump’s call, which prompted him to visit the legal adviser of the National Security Council. 

Schiff has consistently used his time in his opening statements to give the viewers and those in the hearing a primer on why these witnesses are key to uncovering Trump’s apparent campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. 

1470d ago / 8:32 PM UTC

Schiff opens hearing with Volker, Morrison

Schiff just gaveled in the second impeachment inquiry hearing of the day with Ambassador Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison at roughly 3:25 p.m.

Image: Tim Morrison
Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
Ambassador Kurt Volker
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Julio Cortez / AP
1470d ago / 8:27 PM UTC

Volker, Morrison hearing begins

The second hearing of the day, with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former NSC official Tim Morrison, was gaveled in by Intelligence Chairman Schiff at about 3:25 p.m.

1470d ago / 8:15 PM UTC
1470d ago / 8:13 PM UTC

Former NSC official Tim Morrison and ex-envoy Kurt Volker arrive for testimony

Image: Tim Morrison
Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
Ambassador Kurt Volker
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.Julio Cortez / AP
1470d ago / 8:07 PM UTC

Pence on impeachment: 'What else is new?'

Vice President Mike Pence spoke about impeachment Tuesday on the "Tony Katz and the Morning News" radio show on WIBC in Indianapolis.

"I think it's politics as usual, and frankly, it's what the Democrats have been doing for the last three years," Pence said. "I mean what else is new? That literally, from the day of our inauguration, there were press reports that the quest for impeachment begins.

"I think there was a headline in the Washington Post on Inauguration Day, and for two and a half years, while the president was delivering on rebuilding our military, reviving the American economy, nearly 7 million new jobs created, rolling back regulation, unleashing American energy, fighting for free and fair trade, 161 conservatives to our courts, America standing tall, engaging the world in new and in renewed ways, what the Democrats in Washington have been spending their time on is trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election."

Image: Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2019.
Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file
1470d ago / 7:53 PM UTC

McConnell: 'Way too early' to outline Senate plan on impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday that "it's way too early to scope out or announce how we might handle impeachment when it gets to the Senate."

McConnell was responding to a question about whether the Senate would call witnesses that House investigators haven't. 

"We're all having what-if discussions, but I think just laying out various hypotheticals now is not helpful," McConnell said.

The majority leader did opine on the likelihood of the Senate backing House impeachment, however. "It's inconceivable to me that there would be 67 votes to remove the president from office," he said.

1470d ago / 7:26 PM UTC

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, departs after testifying

Image: Jennifer Williams
Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, departs after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 19, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP
1470d ago / 7:23 PM UTC

Lt. Col. Vindman exits the Capitol after over four hours of testimony

National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman leaves the Longworth building after testifying during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 19, 2019.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's Ukraine expert, leaves the Longworth building on Tuesday after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images
1470d ago / 7:15 PM UTC

Graham says Trump shouldn't testify at impeachment hearings

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was asked by reporters during a break in the hearing on Tuesday about President Donald Trump possibly testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.

Q: Do you think the president should come testify in the House impeachment trial? He said he's strongly considering it.

"If I were him, I wouldn't," Graham responded.

1470d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

Nunes calls hearings ‘poison,’ Schiff says they're a ‘duty’ to the country

In their closing statements, ranking member Nunes and Chairman Schiff, again, offered wildly different interpretations of the nearly five-hour public hearing.

Nunes said that the hearings, as led by Democrats, “poison” the American people and that today's hearing offered no evidence that the president had pressured Ukraine.

Schiff, instead, thanked the witnesses for their service to the country and went through a list of evidence that he said showed Trump tried to pressure Ukraine.

He said Trump’s explanation and the GOP’s talking points are not sufficient because if the president was concerned about corruption he would have brought it up much earlier and would not have recalled an ambassador who led an anti-corruption effort in Ukraine. He said corruption was only a pretense to help the president’s re-election campaign. 

1470d ago / 6:41 PM UTC

Williams, Vindman hearing over

The Williams and Vindman hearing has concluded after roughly 4.5 hours.

1470d ago / 6:39 PM UTC
1470d ago / 6:28 PM UTC

Vindman gets audience cheers after saying 'right matters' in America

Vindman got a round of applause from some in the audience during an exchange with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.

Maloney asked Vindman how he could be confident in telling his father not to worry about raising alarms about Trump's conduct.

"This is America," Vindman said. "This is the country I've served and defended. That all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters."

1470d ago / 6:25 PM UTC

GOP spins who's partisan and who isn't

As the GOP side suggests Vindman is partisan and disloyal to his country, they’re promoting the words of Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council official who oversaw Russia and Europe policy.

It’s worth noting the asymmetry here: Vindman has served his career in explicitly nonpartisan roles. Morrison was a longtime aide to House Republicans on the Armed Services Committee. That is, the lawmakers in the hearing are positioning a declared partisan actor as nonpartisan and a declared nonpartisan actor as partisan.

1470d ago / 6:21 PM UTC

Heck: A 'painful irony' Trump pardons war criminals and demeans Vindman

Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., gave an impassioned defense of Vindman, who has been attacked by the GOP and Trump allies. Heck said there was a “rich but incredibly painful irony” in the GOP and the president attacking Vindman within a week of Trump, contrary to the advice of military advisers, pardoning military officers who were convicted of war crimes. 

Heck has played this role before in the last two hearings, often using his time to thank the witnesses for their service and serve as a sort of anger translator to push back on GOP attacks.

1470d ago / 6:19 PM UTC

Former Obama official on White House tweet criticizing Vindman: 'Astonishing'

1470d ago / 6:13 PM UTC

Ratcliffe uses a poster of Pelosi during questioning

Image: John Ratcliffe
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, uses a poster of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as he questions National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Nov. 19, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP
1470d ago / 6:00 PM UTC

Castro’s twin quip offers a moment of levity

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, drew laughter in the hearing room when he quipped about being an identical twin before questioning Vindman, who also has an identical twin brother. 

“It’s great to talk to a fellow identical twin. I hope that your brother is nicer to you than mine is to me and doesn’t make you grow a beard,” Castro said.

Castro’s brother, Julián Castro, is the former HUD secretary and 2020 presidential hopeful. The two have been regularly mistaken for each other, especially since Julián’s presidential run. 

Julián Castro fired back on Twitter shortly after:

1470d ago / 5:58 PM UTC

Hurd points out Trump doesn’t ever stick to talking points

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas., is making it clear in his questioning of Vindman that there was nothing out of the ordinary with Trump not addressing corruption with Zelenskiy in his April 21 phone call, even though Vindman had put together talking points suggesting he do so.

Hurd, reminding Vindman that he regularly prepared talking points for his superiors, asked him, “Do they always use them?”

“No,” Vindman replied.

“Is President Trump known to stick to a script?” Hurd asked.

“I don't believe so,” Vindman said.

“So is it odd he didn’t use your talking points?” Hurd asked.

“No,” Vindman said.

A summary of the April 21 call released by the White House last week did not mention corruption.

1470d ago / 5:52 PM UTC

Lindsey Graham criticizes 'bribery' charge

1470d ago / 5:35 PM UTC

Vindman explains why he corrected Nunes

As GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah questioned Vindman on why he wanted Nunes to address him as "Lt. Col." instead of "Mr.," Vindman says "the attacks I've had in the press and Twitter have kind of" served to marginalize "me as a military officer.”

Stewart says he is sure Nunes meant “no offense” by not referring to him by his military title.

Stewart then segued into suggesting that, because Vindman is a military officer, he might have wrongly assumed Trump was demanding the investigations from Zelenskiy — because Trump doesn't have a military background so maybe he was just asking and didn't know better.

Vindman said earlier, citing his military background, that when a superior such as Trump asks for something, it's an order, not just a request, especially when the person being asked is someone far less powerful, like Zelenskiy.

1470d ago / 5:33 PM UTC

Army providing 'supportive assistance' to Vindman during impeachment inquiry

, and

Vindman is receiving “supportive assistance” from the Army amid his role in the impeachment inquiry and as he draws public attention, a Defense Department official said Tuesday as Vindman testified on Capitol Hill. 

“The Army is providing supportive assistance to help Colonel Vindman with the public attention,” said Col. Kathy Turner, an Army spokeswoman. 

She wouldn’t elaborate on that assistance, such as safety or security measures.

“As a matter of practice, the Army would neither confirm nor deny any safety or security measures taken on behalf of an individual; however, as we would with any soldier, the Army will work with civilian authorities to ensure that he and his family are properly protected,” Turner said. 

According to The Associated Press, the Army and local law enforcement are providing security for Vindman. This comes after the Army conducted a security assessment to assess whether Vindman and his family are secure, the official told the AP. 

A U.S. official told NBC News that the Army will put necessary measures in place to ensure Vindman can serve his country. The official said that some of the options for security could be moving Vindman and his family to a military base. 

The U.S. official, however, said there is no imminent threat to Vindman.

1470d ago / 5:28 PM UTC

Vindman says he’s seen changes at work due to his role in inquiry

Responding to questions from Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., about whether they’ve been treated differently at their respective jobs in the weeks since their roles in the impeachment inquiry became public, Vindman and Williams answer differently.

While Williams replied, “I have not,” Vindman said he has.

“I did notice I was being excluded from several meetings that would have been appropriate for my position,” he said. 

When asked by Speier whether he felt those exclusions merited “reprisals” for his role, Vindman said, “I’m not sure if I could make that judgment.”

Vindman added, however, that it was “out of the course of normal affairs.”

1470d ago / 5:21 PM UTC
1470d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

Vindman says Giuliani’s efforts did not ‘help’ U.S. foreign policy

Vindman testified that Guiliani’s work in the Ukraine and efforts to open investigations into the Bidens was not part of and did not help official U.S. foreign policy.

“It certainly wasn’t helpful and it didn’t help advance U.S. national security interests,” he told Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

This is not the first time a witness has said this, but it underscores the Democrats’ claim that this was an unusual, off-the-books operation that is not a part of any official administration policy, but designed to help the president’s re-election.

1470d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

Trump: GOP 'absolutely killing it' during hearing


Trump told reporters that he thought Republicans were "killing it" at the impeachment hearing today.

“I just got to watch” the hearing and Republicans “are absolutely killing it,” he said. He said Democrats are using this as a political game and touted his poll numbers.

When NBC News asked if he found Vindman — whose testimony was still ongoing as the president met with his Cabinet — to be a credible witness, Trump said that he had watched the hearing for just a “little while” prior to the meeting, but “had never heard of him.”

“I don't know him,” Trump said. “I never saw the man. ... What I do know is that even he said the transcripts were correct.”

1470d ago / 5:05 PM UTC

Williams ‘surprised’ by president's 'never Trumper' attack, Vindman responds he’s ‘never partisan’

When questioned by Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., Williams said she did not expect to be attacked by Trump, who called her testimony a “presidential attack” and dubbed her a “never Trumper.” 

“It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name,” she said before saying she is not biased against the president.

Himes also asked Vindman if he was a "never Trumper," to which he replied, “I am a 'never partisan.'” 

Himes also excoriated the Republicans for questioning Vindman’s loyalty to the U.S., saying it’s a new low from the GOP to try to cast such doubt on someone who won medals after being wounded in front-line combat. 

1470d ago / 4:59 PM UTC

Jordan suggests Vindman had contact with the whistleblower

Responding to questions, Vindman acknowledged that he had discussed the July 25 call with two people.

The first person, he said, was George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and five other countries.

Before he addressed who the second person was, his attorney interrupted to say Vindman won’t say who the second person is other than to say the person is in the intelligence community.

Schiff then, once again, instructed everyone present that “this committee will not be used to out the whistleblower.”

1470d ago / 4:53 PM UTC

Trump tweets out new impeachment ad

1470d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

Vindman brings receipts to respond to allegation he had bad judgment

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Vindman about comments from Tim Morrison, another NSC official, who expressed skepticism about Vindman’s judgment.

Vindman responding by reading a recent performance review filed by Trump’s former top Russia analyst Fiona Hill, which praised his abilities and labeled him a top military official.

VIndman also said he “never” leaked any information.

“Never would,” Vindman said. “Preposterous I would do that.”

1470d ago / 4:44 PM UTC

White House: Nothing to see here

White House officials working on impeachment rapid response say this is the "Democrats’ hearing dud."

One official said the testimonies "have been nothing more than an endless debate over two individuals’ personal opinions about a call that every American can read for themselves." 

"This is a debate over minutiae – neither witness has actually provided any facts about the president taking any improper action," the official said. "No one has testified about anything the president actually did."

"This entire political circus has been about personal opinion and conjecture," the official added.

1470d ago / 4:36 PM UTC

And we're back

The short break has ended. The 5-min round for members to ask questions will now begin alternating between Democrats and Republicans.

1470d ago / 4:29 PM UTC
1470d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

Castor asks Vindman about being offered Ukrainian defense post

Castor asked Vindman whether he was offered the post of Ukrainian defense minister by Ukrainian politician Oleksandr Danyliuk.

Vindman said it occurred three times, but that he dismissed the offers immediately and reported them to his superiors and to counterintelligence authorities.

“I turned it down every time,” he said.

Castor’s questions appear to be a clear effort to discredit the allegiance of Vindman — who was born in Kyiv, then part of the USSR, and fled with his family to the U.S. as a child.

Several conservatives have used the same tactic, including multiple Fox News personalities.

1470d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

Hearing pauses

The committee is now taking a short break in the hearing with Vindman and Williams for roughly 5 to 10 minutes. The 5-minute rounds for questions by individual members will start once they return. 

1470d ago / 4:12 PM UTC
1470d ago / 4:11 PM UTC

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.

1470d ago / 3:59 PM UTC

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. 

1470d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

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."

1470d ago / 3:46 PM UTC

Wallace: Nunes' questioning may backfire

1470d ago / 3:31 PM UTC

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. 

1470d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

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.

1470d ago / 3:21 PM UTC
Image: House Intelligence Committee Continues Open Impeachment Hearings
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
1470d ago / 3:18 PM UTC

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.

1470d ago / 3:16 PM UTC
1470d ago / 3:14 PM UTC

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.

1470d ago / 3:14 PM UTC

Williams says request for probes ‘sounded political to me’

Goldman, the counsel for House Oversight Committee Democrats, pressed Williams for her interpretation of Trump’s request on the July 25 call that Zelenskiy launch an investigation into the Bidens.

“I thought that the reference to specific individuals and investigations, such as former Vice President Biden and his son” was “political in nature,” she said.

She added, “I can’t speak to what the president’s motivation was" but “it sounded political to me.”

1470d ago / 3:05 PM UTC

Vindman address father in opening statement: 'I will be fine for telling the truth'

1470d ago / 3:04 PM UTC

Meet the two seasoned staff prosecutors now in the impeachment spotlight


The fast-moving impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals is not only putting the partisanship on the House Intelligence Committee on full display, it's also catapulting the lead lawyers for both parties into the national spotlight.

Daniel Goldman is the Democrats' lead counsel and Steve Castor represents the Republicans. Both lawyers have extensive experience in Washington and in the courtroom and led the questioning of the closed-door depositions of witnesses in the inquiry. 

Read more about the questioners here.

1470d ago / 3:02 PM UTC

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."

1470d ago / 2:58 PM UTC

Vindman testimony gets wide praise on Twitter

1470d ago / 2:57 PM UTC

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:

1470d ago / 2:55 PM UTC

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.”

1470d ago / 2:51 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."



1470d ago / 2:43 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."

Here's her full opening statement: 

1470d ago / 2:41 PM UTC

Witnesses sworn in

National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on November 19, 2019.
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
1470d ago / 2:40 PM UTC

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.

1470d ago / 2:26 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.

1470d ago / 2:20 PM UTC

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.”

1470d ago / 2:10 PM UTC

And we're off...

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

1470d ago / 2:01 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.

1470d ago / 1:51 PM UTC

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.
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
1470d ago / 1:44 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.

1470d ago / 1:38 PM UTC

Giuliani lashes out at witnesses ahead of Tuesday hearings

1470d ago / 1:36 PM UTC

Vindman arrives for hearing

Image: Alexander Vindman
National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP
1470d ago / 1:31 PM UTC

'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.

Read the story.

1470d ago / 1:29 PM UTC

Eight weeks of impeachment has taken a toll on Trump

, and

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.

As we wrote on Friday, he can’t compartmentalize.

1470d ago / 11:55 AM UTC
1471d ago / 11:56 PM UTC

Johnson recounts Ukraine conversation with Trump, omits '2016' mention

Sen. Ron Johnson on Monday sent a letter to Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee recounting a discussion he had with Trump about a hold on financial aid to Ukraine — but omitted that Trump had tied the issue to the 2016 campaign in their talk. 

Johnson sent the 10-page letter to Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan after they asked him to share "any firsthand information you have about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019."

Johnson said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland had told him in August that almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine had been frozen because the Trump administration was trying to get a new prosecutor appointed in Ukraine. That prosecutor would move to "get to the bottom of what happened in 2016— if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending," he quoted Sondland as saying.

Johnson told the paper the suggestion made him "wince" because "I don't want to see those two things combined."

Johnson also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that he'd discussed the 2016 election with the president.    

 "He was very consistent on why he was considering it. It was corruption overall generalized, but yeah, no doubt about it, what happened in 2016, what happened in 2016, what was the truth about that, and then the fact that our NATO partners don’t step up to the plate,” Johnson told the paper in an interview posted on the paper's website.

In his letter to Nunes and Jordan, however, Johnson said his memory of that conversation is fuzzy. 

"I did not memorialize the conversation in any way, and my memory of exactly what Sondland told me is far from perfect. I was hoping that his testimony before the House would help jog my memory, but he seems to have an even fuzzier recollection of that call than I do," Johnson wrote.

He said he spoke to former national security adviser John Bolton after talking to Sondland, and Bolton suggested he call Trump and Mike Pence. 

"I requested calls with both, but was not able to schedule a call with Vice President Pence. President Trump called me that same day," Johnson wrote. 

"The president was not prepared to lift the hold, and he was consistent in the reasons he cited. He reminded me how thoroughly corrupt Ukraine was and again conveyed his frustration that Europe doesn’t do its fair share of providing military aid," Johnson wrote.  

Johnson said he asked if "there was some kind of arrangement where Ukraine would take some action and the hold would be lifted. Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed."


1471d ago / 10:46 PM UTC

How to watch week 2 of the impeachment hearings: Schedule, witnesses and more


The first public presidential impeachment hearings in over 20 years continue on Tuesday with lawmakers' busiest day yet, as they're set to hear testimony from four witnesses — three of whom were listening in on the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Two of the three, National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, thought the call was troubling. The third, former NSC staffer Tim Morrison, said at his closed-door deposition that he didn't think there was anything illegal about the call, but recommended it be secured for fear it would leak.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had asked that Morrison and the fourth of the day's witnesses, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, be called to testify publicly. Both have defended the president — but both have also provided information corroborating Democrats' assertions that Trump was withholding aid in order to force its president to announce an investigation into Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Read more about how to watch.

1471d ago / 9:13 PM UTC