In a Freudian slip, Nunes accidentally referred to Volker and Morrison as 'your witnesses' to Democrats, a telling sign of how badly this impeachment hearing is going for the GOP

Sonam Sheth

 

  • This week's impeachment hearings kicked off on Tuesday with four officials scheduled to testify.
  • They are: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, top Ukraine expert on National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, foreign service aide detailed to Vice President Mike Pence; Tim Morrison, NSC's former official in charge of overseeing Russia and Europe policy; and Kurt Volker, the US's former Special Representative to Ukraine.
  • Vindman and Williams directly listened in on the July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry. They testified together beginning at 9 a.m. ET.
  • Volker and Morrison testified to how the phone call was just one data point in President Donald Trump's months-long campaign to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt while holding up military aid and a White House meeting.
  • Scroll down to watch the hearing and follow Insider's live coverage.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

This week's impeachment hearings kicked off on Tuesday with four current and former administration officials scheduled to testify in open session.

Here's who's testifying:

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.
  • Jennifer Williams, a foreign service aide detailed to Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Tim Morrison, the NSC's former official in charge of overseeing Russia and Europe policy.
  • Kurt Volker, the US's former Special Representative to Ukraine.

Vindman and Williams testified together beginning at 9 a.m. ET before the House Intelligence Committee. Morrison and Volker jointly testified in a second hearing beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Watch the first hearing here:


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Watch the second hearing here:


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Morrison confirms investigating the Bidens 'was not a policy objective,' blowing a hole through Trump's insistence that he had no personal stake in pushing for investigations

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Morrison testified that investigating the Bidens was "not a policy objective" of the US. This is a significant statement because it further confirms the fact that Trump's push for investigations were not borne out of a policy or national security interest, but for personal gain.

"How many times when you talked to your Ukrainian counterparts did you ask them to investigate the Bidens?" Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell asked Morrison.

"Never, sir," Morrison responded.

"Why not?" Swalwell asked.

"Sir, it was not a policy objective that I was aware of," Morrison said.

"But with all due respect, Mr. Morrison, you're not in the White House to carry out your policy objectives," Swalwell said. "You just testified that the president sets the foreign policy objectives for the United States and the one call that you listened to between the President of the United States and the president of Ukraine, the President of the United States' priorities were to investigate the Bidens."

"And I'm asking you, sir, why didn't you follow up on the president's priorities when you talked to the Ukrainians?" Swalwell pressed.

"Sir, I did not understand it as a policy objective," Morrison repeated.

 





In a telling flub, Nunes accidentally calls Volker and Morrison Democratic witnesses despite the fact that they were on the GOP witness list

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

At one point, Nunes said Volker and Morrison were "your witnesses" while addressing Democrats.

But both men were on the GOP witness list. Nunes' flub is telling because it speaks to the disappointment Republicans are likely feeling about Volker and Morrison's testimony.



Volker: Rudy Giuliani's activities in Ukraine were 'a problem'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Rep. Brad Wenstrup asked Volker if his job involved working "through any means available," including working with Giuliani, to get his "message and advice" to Trump.

Volker replied that he believed "the messages being conveyed to Giuliani were a problem" because they were "at variance with our official message to the president" and "not conveying that positive assessment" Volker and others had of the newly inaugurated Zelensky.

"So I thought it was important to try to step in and fix the problem," Volker said.



Volker and Morrison are the GOP's witnesses, but they've undermined most of Trump's case

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

"I want to turn our attention back to the July 25 call," Steve Castor, the minority counsel, said to Morrison. "You were in the room. Did anything concern you on the call?"

"No," Morrison replied.

This exchange was perhaps the most helpful information for Republicans to use from the impeachment hearings so far. The GOP called both Volker and Morrison to testify, but so far the two men have offered testimony that appears to undermine Trump's case.

They testified about their discomfort with Giuliani's involvement in the Ukraine pressure campaign as Trump's personal lawyer. They also testified about the unusual nature of Trump's request that Ukraine investigate Burisma Holdings. 

Morrison told lawmakers that Trump's reference to CrowdStrike and an alleged hidden DNC server weren't part of the list of talking points for the July phone call. "I was hoping for a more full-throated support for President Zelensky's reform agenda," he said.

Volker, meanwhile, said that he now understands the Burisma investigation was directly linked to Biden.

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



Volker says he 'did not know' about Bolton's 'strong concerns' about the investigations

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Volker testified that he "did not know about the strong concerns" that Bolton expressed "regarding the discussion of investigations" that Trump wanted from Ukraine.

But Volker was a participant at the July 10 White House meeting that Bolton abruptly ended after Gordon Sondland brought up the investigations.

After the meeting, Bolton told Fiona Hill, who at the time was the White House's senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, to flag the meeting to the NSC's chief lawyer, John Eisenberg.

Bolton told Hill to notify Eisenberg that he wasn't involved in the "drug deal" Sondland and others were "cooking up" in Ukraine.



Volker dramatically reverses his previous testimony

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Volker significantly altered his public testimony compared to what he told lawmakers behind closed doors.

When he first testified, Volker categorically denied that any investigations into Biden, Burisma, or the 2016 election were raised during a July 10 White House meeting wih Ukrainian officials.

On Tuesday, Volker acknowledged that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, brought up the investigations and that he found it "inappropriate."



Volker's opening statement contained some irregularities that were at odds with documentary evidence

AP

Volker testified about his involvement in the Trump administration's shadow foreign policy toward Ukraine.

"At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former VP Biden," he said. "As you know from the extensive, real-time documentation I have provided, VP Biden was not a topic of our discussions."

Volker added that he didn't know until recently that "Burisma" was linked to Biden. Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian natural gas company whose board employed Biden's son, Hunter, until earlier this year.

But on July 19, he discussed the possibility that Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma may have influenced the elder Biden in his role as vice president.

He also had a May 26 text exchange with Bill Taylor, the US's chief diplomat in Ukraine, in which Taylor wrote, "Can anyone hope to succeed with the Giuliani-Biden issue?"

Volker replied: "I don't know if there is much to do about the Giuliani thing."



The Republican strategy: Showmanship over substance

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Republican strategy throughout the public impeachment hearings has been abundantly clear: less focus on substance, more focus on showmanship and throwing verbal grenades at the president's critics.

Jordan has established himself as Trump's main attack dog in the hearings, but Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas isn't far behind.

He pulled out a large stack of papers on Tuesday that he said were printed depositions of all the witness testimony in the impeachment inquiry so far.

Ratcliffe tried to make the point that there was no mention of bribery on the part of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine while pointing to the "hundreds of hours of testimony" contained in 3,500 pages of paper.

The word "bribery" was only mentioned once, Ratcliffe said, but it was in the context of former Vice President Joe Biden's conduct.

Legal experts and national security veterans say Trump opened himself up to a slew of potential charges by conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Ukraine investigating his political rival:

  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Misappropriation of taxpayer funds
  • Soliciting foreign election interference



Vindman draws applause: America 'is the country that I have served and defended and all of my brothers have served, and here, right matters'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The hearing room broke into applause when Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York asked Vindman why he had "confidence that you can do that and tell your dad not to worry."

"Congressman, because this is America," Vindman said. "It is the country that I have served and defended and all of my brothers have served, and here, right matters."

 

 



Democratic Rep. Denny Heck draws a stark comparison between Trump's attacks on Vindman and his decision to pardon war criminals

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Speaking to Vindman, Heck said he was disturbed by Trump's treatment of the lieutenant colonel, particularly in light of the president's decision to pardon several military servicemembers who have been accused or convicted of war crimes.

Heck said it was a "rich but incredibly painful irony" that Trump tried to "demean" Vindman's record that within a week of issuing those pardons against the advice of the Pentagon.

"What is at peril is our Constitution, and the very values upon which it is based," Heck said. "I want to say thank you for your service, but you know, thank you doesn't cut it, please know that it comes from the bottom of my heart and from the hearts of countless other Americans."

 



Rep. Jim Himes tears into GOP attacks on Vindman's patriotism: 'It's the kind of thing you say when you're defending the indefensible'

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Himes asked Vindman a series of questions to highlight his military service. Vindman laid out his experience serving in the army and how he was injured while serving in Iraq in 2004.

"The day after you appeared for your deposition, Lt. Col., President Trump called you a Never Trumper," Himes said. "Col. Vindman, would you call yourself a Never Trumper?"

"Representative, I'd call myself never partisan," Vindman said.

Himes also asked Vindman about if he had any political motivations in testifying in the impeachment inquiry.

"None," Vindman said.

Himes then detailed the bevy of attacks that Trump's allies, including Giuliani and the right-wing media, have launched against Vindman. Among other things, they've accused him of espionage and of harboring dual loyalty for Ukraine.

"They make these accusations based only on the fact that your family, like many American families, immigrated to the United States," Himes said. He also singled out Castor's questions from earlier about the offers Vindman got to be Ukraine's defense minister.

"The three minutes that were spent asking you the offer made to make you the minister of defense, that may have come cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit and in parliamentary language, but that was designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties," Himes said as Vindman nodded.

"I want people to understand what that was all about," Himes continued. "It's the kind of thing you say when you're defending the indefensible. It's what you say when it's not enough to attack the media ... or to attack the Democrats, but it's what you stoop to when the indefensibility of your case requires that you attack a man who is wearing a Springfield on a field of blue above a Purple Heart."



Williams responds in real time to Trump's Twitter attacks against her: 'I was not expecting to be called out by name'

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut put up a tweet from Trump attacking Williams on the big screen.

Himes then read out the tweet: "Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement [sic] from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!"

"Miss Williams, are you engaged in a presidential attack?" Himes asked as Williams looked on with a stony expression.

"No, sir," she said.

"Miss Williams, are you a Never Trumper?" Himes asked.

"I'm not sure I know an official definition of a Never Trumper," Williams said, before saying she "would not" describe herself that way.

Williams added that the tweet "certainly surprised me."

"I was not expecting to be called out by name," she said.

"It surprised me too, and it looked a lot like witness intimidation and tampering in an effort to get you to, perhaps, shape your testimony today," Himes said.



The White House attacked Vindman while he was testifying

Reuters

The White House weighed in on Vindman via tweet while he was in the middle of testifying.

"Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman's judgment," the tweet said. Morrison was the senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs on the NSC but recently resigned to work in the private sector.

He will testify in the second impeachment hearing beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Some Democratic lawmakers said the White House's tweet could amount to attempted witness intimidation. Trump fielded similar accusations last week, when he lobbed Twitter attacks on Masha Yovanovitch, the US's former ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly recalled after what she characterized as Trump's and Giuliani's smear campaign against her.



GOP attack dog Jim Jordan accuses Vindman of leaking information. Vindman calls that 'preposterous'

Leah Millis/Reuters

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan pulled no punches while questioning Vindman. He kicked things off by accusing Vindman of having bad judgment. He also accused Vindman of leaking sensitive information to the media.

"So, your boss had concerns about your judgment, your former boss, Dr. Hill, had concerns about your judgment, your colleagues had concerns about your judgment, and your colleagues felt that there were times when you leaked information," Jordan said. "Any idea why they have those impressions?"

Vindman responded by reading Hill's own evaluation of him which took place in July, before Hill left the White House. Hill praised Vindman as being one of the best army officers she'd worked with and described him as "brilliant, unflappable, and [exercising] good judgment."

Jordan then zeroed in on the allegation that Vindman leaked information to the media.

"I never did, I never would, and that is preposterous that I would do that," Vindman replied.



Former national security adviser John Bolton is all over this hearing

Andrew Harnik/AP

Bolton featured prominently in the hearing despite the fact that he hasn't yet testified.

He was a key figure in a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials in the White House. Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the EU, was also there, as were Vindman and Fiona Hill, who was the NSC's top Russia analyst at the time.

Vindman and others have testified that the meeting was going well until Sondland interjected and told the Ukrainians that they would have to provide a "deliverable" by giving Trump the investigations he wanted in order to secure a White House meeting.

At that point, Vindman testified, Bolton "abruptly" ended the meeting and immediately told Hill to inform John Eisenberg, the NSC's chief lawyer, about what had occurred. He also told Hill to tell Eisenberg he wasn't part of the "drug deal" Sondland and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, were "cooking up" in Ukraine.

Bolton was subpoenaed as part of the impeachment inquiry but wants a judge to rule on whether he and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, should comply with the subpoena in defiance of the White House.



Republicans allude to an absurd and baseless allegation that Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient, has dual loyalty to the US and Ukraine

Andrew Harnik/AP

When the Republicans were up to question Vindman, the minority counsel, Steve Castor, alluded to a baseless allegation that Vindman, whose family is from Ukraine, could have dual loyalty to the country.

"You went to Ukraine for the inauguration?" Castor asked, referring to Zelensky's inauguration earlier this year.

"Correct," Vindman said.

"At any point, did Mr. Danylyuk offer you a position of defense minister for the Ukrainian government?" Castor asked. Oleksandr Danylyuk is Ukraine's former national security chief.

"Yes," Vindman said. 

"And how many times did he do that?" Castor pressed.

"I believe it was three times," Vindman said.

"Do you have any reason why he asked you to do that?" Castor asked.

"I don't know but every single time, I dismissed it," Vindman replied. "Upon returning, I notified my chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this offer."

Castor then highlighted how high up the defense minister position is and pushed Vindman to acknowledge that it would be a "great honor" to serve in that role.

"I think it would be a great honor and frankly I'm aware of service members that have left service to help nurture the developing democracies in that part of the world," Vindman said.

He added: "But I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers. I did not entertain them."



Nunes used his time to try outing the whistleblower before Schiff shut him down

Reuters

Nunes used a significant portion of his time to try goading Vindman into revealing the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Specifically, Nunes asked Vindman to recount who he spoke to about Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky. Vindman responded by saying he spoke to a few "cleared government officials with appropriate need to know" what had transpired. One of those people was an individual "within the intelligence community," Vindman said.

"As you know, the intelligence community has 17 different agencies. What agency was this individual from?" Nunes asked.

Schiff then jumped in. "If I could interject here, we don't want these proceedings —"

"It's our time —" Nunes began, before Schiff cut him off.

"I know, but we need to protect the whistleblower," the chairman said.


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Nunes: "What agency was this individual from?"

Schiff: "If I could interject here, we don't want to these proceedings --"

Nunes: "It's our time --"

Schiff: "I know, but we need to protect the whistleblower."#VindmanTestimonyhttps://t.co/aLkMmy4baxpic.twitter.com/RTLrItJ5ek

 



'Lt. Col. Vindman, please': Vindman corrects Nunes after Nunes calls him 'Mr. Vindman'

Associated Press

It was quite a moment.


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"It's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please."

Lt. Col. Vindman asks @DevinNunes to use his title. pic.twitter.com/TZca91tD0n

 



Vindman zeroes in on why Trump's 'request' to Zelensky was actually a 'demand'

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Schiff asked Vindman to detail why he was concerned by Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky.

"It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request — to demand — and investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there's at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation," Vindman said.

He added: "This would have significant implications if it became public knowledge, and it would be perceived as a partisan play that would undermine our Ukraine policy, and it would undermine our national security."

Schiff homed in on Vindman's characterization of Trump's "demand" to Zelensky.

"What is it about the relationship between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the President of the United States asked a favor like this, it's really a demand?" the California Democrat asked.

"Chairman, the culture I come from, the military culture, 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," Vindman replied. "In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations."



Vindman blows a hole through Trump's claim that he cares about Ukrainian corruption

White House

Vindman told lawmakers that he told the president to discuss corruption in Ukraine during an initial call he made to Zelensky on April 21 to congratulate him for his recent victory in the country's presidential race.

But Trump ignored those talking points, Vindman said. His testimony blew a hole through Trump's claim that he's concerned with Ukrainian corruption.

It also directly contradicted a White House readout of the call released in July that said Trump discussed corruption with Zelensky. Trump released a transcript of that call earlier this week confirming that corruption was never brought up during the conversation.



Vindman's testimony spotlights the immense pressure career foreign service officers are under as they testify against the president

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Vindman's halting and emotional opening statement was a reminder of how the impeachment inquiry has thrust government officials and career foreign service officers — most of whom rarely speak publicly — into the spotlight.

"I never thought I would be sitting here testifying in front of this committee and the American public, about my actions. When I reported my concerns, my only thought was to act properly and to carry out my duty," he said.

Vindman also called character attacks on his colleagues who have testified or reported their own concerns "reprehensible."

"We are better than personal attacks," he added. This statement was noteworthy because it came in the midst of an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, right-wing media, and the president himself on the officials, including Vindman, who have testified in the impeachment inquiry.



Vindman ends with an emotional message to his father: 'Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.'

Erin Scott/Reuters

Vindman, whose family fled the former Soviet Union when he was a toddler and arrived as refugees in the US, became visibly emotional as he spoke about his pride at being a public servant.

"Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United State of America in search of a better life for our family," Vindman testified. "Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."

He also drew a stark comparison to Russia, where Vindman said "my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life."

"I am grateful for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family's safety," he said.



Vindman: 'I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate.'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Vindman, who also listened in on the July 25 call in which Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, said he was "concerned" by what he heard and that he found it "inappropriate." He added that it was "a partisan play."

He went on to say he immediately flagged the call to John Eisenberg, the National Security Council's chief lawyer.

"When I reported my concerns, I did so out of a sense of duty," Vindman said. "My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for this country."



Williams: July 25 Trump-Zelensky call was 'unusual' because it involved 'what appeared to be a domestic political matter.'

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Williams, a State Department official detailed to Vice President Mike Pence's office who listened to Trump's July phone call with Zelesnky, told Congress she thought the conversation was "unusual" because it involved "what appeared to be a domestic political matter."

Williams' statement directly contradicted Trump's insistence that the call was "perfect."



Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff lays out a timeline of Trump's shadow policy, and GOP ranking member Devin Nunes peddles conspiracy theories

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Schiff, a former prosecutor, made a lengthy opening statement focusing on the extent of the Trump administration's shadow policy in Ukraine that involved strongarming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations that would benefit Trump's reelection campaign.

Specifically, Trump wanted Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption. He also wanted Zelensky to look into a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in the 2016 election.

While employing his confidants to carry out his agenda, Trump withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine and held up a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately wanted.

Schiff also detailed testimony from other officials who said Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the EU, indicated that the "big stuff" Trump cared about with respect to Ukraine wasn't about national security or foreign policy, but about "the Biden investigation" that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was pushing for.

"To press a foreign leader to announce an investigation into his political rival, President Trump put his own personal and political interests above those of the nation," Schiff said.

He continued: "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 reelection 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."

Nunes gave his own opening statement after Schiff spoke. He spent most of that time railing against the media, which he described as "Democrat puppets" and peddling conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality.



What Vindman, Williams, Morrison, and Volker told Congress behind closed doors

Associated Press

Both Williams and Vindman directly listened in on the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Vindman also witnessed efforts by John Eisenberg, the NSC's chief lawyer, to bury records of the call after several officials sounded the alarm over what Trump had said.

During the phone call, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption. He also asked Zelensky to look into a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election and that it did so to benefit Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Volker and Morrison will give testimony showing how the phone call was just one data point in a months-long shadow foreign policy campaign to strongarm Ukraine into delivering Trump the political dirt he wanted. While doing so, the president withheld a $391 million vital military aid package to Ukraine as well as a White House meeting for Zelensky.