EVENT ENDED

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

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

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

Former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison testified beginning around 3:30 p.m. ET. Earlier Tuesday, NSC staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, testified for around 4.5 hours starting at 9 a.m ET.

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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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

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.