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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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Read the latest updates below:

1167d 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. 

1167d 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.

1167d ago / 9:18 PM UTC
1167d ago / 9:17 PM UTC
1167d 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.

1167d ago / 9:04 PM UTC
1167d 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.

1167d 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. 

1167d 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
1167d 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.

1167d 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. 

1167d 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
1167d 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.

1167d ago / 8:15 PM UTC
1167d 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
1167d 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
1167d 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.

1167d 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
1167d 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
1167d 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.

1167d 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. 

1167d ago / 6:41 PM UTC

Williams, Vindman hearing over

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

1167d ago / 6:39 PM UTC
1167d 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."

1167d 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.

1167d 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.

1167d ago / 6:19 PM UTC

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

1167d 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
1167d 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:

1167d 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.

1167d ago / 5:52 PM UTC

Lindsey Graham criticizes 'bribery' charge

1167d 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.

1167d 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.

1167d 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.”

1167d ago / 5:21 PM UTC
1167d 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.

1167d 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.”

1167d 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. 

1167d 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.”

1167d ago / 4:53 PM UTC

Trump tweets out new impeachment ad

1167d 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.”

1167d 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.

1167d 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.

1167d ago / 4:29 PM UTC
1167d 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.

1167d 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. 

1167d ago / 4:12 PM UTC
1167d 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.

1167d 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. 

1167d 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."