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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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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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22d ago / 11:54 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.
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.
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22d ago / 1:01 AM 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.
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Jane C. Timm
22d ago / 12:13 AM 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.