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Key Witnesses Questioned in Public Impeachment Hearing; Williams: I found July 25th Call "Unusual...Political in Nature"; Vindman: I Call Myself "Never Partisan". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 19, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

CASTOR: OK.

And how did you hear about that?

WILLIAMS: I was called by -- by a colleague in the -- my -- the vice president's chief of staff's office and told to stop the trip planning.

CASTOR: OK.

And as I understand it, it was the assistant to the chief of staff?

WILLIAMS: That's correct.

CASTOR: OK.

And so, you didn't hear about it from General Kellogg or the chief of staff or...

WILLIAMS: Correct.

CASTOR: ... or the president or the vice president, you heard about it from a -- Mr. Short's assistant?

WILLIAMS: That's right.

CASTOR: And did you have any -- any knowledge of the reasoning for stopping the trip?

WILLIAMS: I asked my colleague why we should stop trip planning and why the vice president would not be attending, and I was informed that the president had decided the vice president would not attend the inauguration.

CASTOR: OK.

And -- but do you know why the president decided?

WILLIAMS: No, she did not have that information.

CASTOR: OK.

And ultimately the vice president went to Canada for a USMCA event...

WILLIAMS: That's right.

CASTOR: ... during this -- this window of time, correct?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

CASTOR: So it's entirely conceivable that the president decided that he wanted the vice president to go to Canada on behalf of USMCA instead of doing anything else, correct?

WILLIAMS: I'm really not in a position to speculate what the motivations were behind the president's decision.

CASTOR: Well, you know the vice president's done quite a bit of USMCA events, correct?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Yes, sir.

CASTOR: OK.

And are you aware of whether the -- anyone at the State Department inquired with your office about the vice president's availability for the trip to Canada?

WILLIAMS: For the -- at what point?

CASTOR: Early May. Maybe May 8th.

WILLIAMS: I -- I was not involved in the trip planning for Canada. One of my colleagues who covers Western Hemisphere was in charge of that. So, I'm not aware of specific requests about the vice president's availability.

CASTOR: OK.

WILLIAMS: I was aware from my colleague who was planning that trip that we had competing trips potentially for the same window.

CASTOR: OK.

WILLIAMS: But I was told that the Ukraine trip would take priority.

CASTOR: OK.

But ultimately you don't know?

WILLIAMS: I don't know about the Canada trip? Or...

CASTOR: You don't know the reason as to why the vice president was sent to Canada for a USMCA event instead of going to the Ukraine?

WILLIAMS: I would say I don't know the reason behind why the president directed the vice president not to go to Ukraine. I can't speak to the motivations or the -- about the Canada trip. CASTOR: Colonel Vindman, I'd like to turn a little bit to the July 10th meeting in Ambassador Bolton's office, and the subsequent post- meeting in the Ward Room.

Who all was in the July 10th meeting, to the best of your recollection?

VINDMAN: Are we talking about the Ward Room or are we talking about the actual meeting with Ambassador Bolton?

CASTOR: We'll start with the first meeting in the ambassador's office.

VINDMAN: So, from the U.S. side, we had Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, I believe there was another -- a special assistant to the president, Wells Griffith was in there, from our -- and them myself. From the Ukrainians...

CASTOR: Who from the Ukrainians -- oh, sorry.

VINDMAN: From the Ukrainian side, we had Oleksandr Danylyuk, Andrea Yermak and I think Oleksandr Danylyuk's adviser Alexis Sumitty (ph).

CASTOR: OK.

And you testified that you couldn't recall exactly why Ambassador Bolton stopped the meeting short and you only learned it subsequently talking to Dr. Fiona Hill?

VINDMAN: Yeah. I noted that, you know, it ended abruptly, but I didn't, frankly, you know -- I didn't exactly know why.

CASTOR: And in -- in the -- in the Bolton meeting, you don't remember Ambassador Sondland using the word "Biden"?

VINDMAN: He did not.

CASTOR: OK.

VINDMAN: To the best of my recollection, I don't think he did.

CASTOR: And then the group decamped to take a photo, correct?

VINDMAN: Correct.

CASTOR: OK.

So the general feeling of the group was a positive one at that time, even though it may have ended abruptly?

VINDMAN: I think Ambassador Bolton was exceptionally qualified and he understood the strategic communications opportunity of having a photo. And we prompted him to -- before we completely adjourned to see if he was willing to do a photo and he did.

CASTOR: OK. So you went out to West Executive Ave. or wherever in the White House and you took a photo. I think you said you took it. VINDMAN: I certainly took a couple of them, yes.

CASTOR: OK.

And in the photo is Secretary Perry, Ambassador Bolton, Ambassador Volker...

VINDMAN: That's right.

CASTOR: ... Mr. Danylyuk and Mr. Yermak?

VINDMAN: Yes.

And I apologize, when I was running through the U.S. side, of course Ambassador Bolton, Volker and Sondland were there and Secretary Perry was there.

CASTOR: OK.

Now, you testified that before the July 10th meeting, you had developed concerns about the narrative involving Rudy Giuliani, is that correct?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

[11:05:00]

CASTOR: And had you heard a firsthand account from anyone on the inside or had you just been following news accounts?

VINDMAN: So, I certainly was following news accounts. And that's from the Ukrainian side -- Ukrainian press and U.S. press.

CASTOR: OK, and then...

VINDMAN: And then my colleagues in the interagency also were concerned about this. And this had started in the March timeframe kind of emanating from the John Solomon story all the way through. So there'd been ongoing conversations, so several different sources.

CASTOR: OK.

And so when Ambassador Sondland mentions the investigations, you, sort of, had a little bit of a clue of what the issue was?

VINDMAN: Oh, definitely.

CASTOR: OK.

And then you took the photo -- a very nice photo -- and then you went to the Ward Room?

VINDMAN: Correct.

CASTOR: And do you remember -- I think you conceded to us that you had a hard time remembering exactly what was said in the Ward Room. Again, it's four months ago; it's hard to be precise about whether Sondland -- what specific words he used, whether he used "Burisma," "2016," "investigations."

VINDMAN: Yeah. So, I believe that in the deposition the three elements "Burisma," "Bidens" and the 2016 elections were all mentioned.

CASTOR: In the Ward Room?

VINDMAN: Correct.

CASTOR: I think -- you know, I think -- maybe we can go back to this but I think on page 64 of your testimony you told us that you don't remember them using "2016" in the Ward Room.

VINDMAN: I believe that I actually followed up and when you -- because this question was asked multiple times.

CASTOR: Yes.

VINDMAN: I said all three elements were in there, so if you picked out...

CASTOR: OK.

So when we asked the question, it sort of refreshed your recollection?

VINDMAN: Yes, I guess that's a term now.

CASTOR: There was some discussion of, you know, whether when Mr. Morrison took over the portfolio for Dr. Hill whether you were sidelined at all. Did you feel like you were?

VINDMAN: So, I certainly was excluded or didn't participate in the trip to Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus at the end of August, and I wasn't -- initially before it changed from a POTUS trip to a vice president trip to Warsaw, I wasn't participating in that one. So, I didn't miss that, no.

CASTOR: Did you express any concerns to Mr. Morrison about why you weren't included on those trips?

VINDMAN: So, Mr. Morrison -- I was on leave -- I was supposed to be on leave from the 3rd of August through about the 16th or so of August, and he called me and asked me to return. There was obviously high- priority travel to the region and he needed my assistance to help plan for it. And in asking me to return early from leave, which I take infrequently, I assumed that I'd be going on the trip.

So when I was -- after returning from leave early, when I was told I wasn't going, I inquired about it, correct.

CASTOR: OK.

And what feedback did he give you?

VINDMAN: He initially told me the aircraft that was acquired, the MILAIR, was too small and there wasn't enough room.

CASTOR: Did -- had you ever had any discussion with Mr. Morrison about concerns that he or Dr. Hill had with your judgment?

VINDMAN: Did I ever have any conversations with Mr. Morrison about it? No.

CASTOR: OK.

Did Mr. Morrison ever express concerns to you that he -- he thought maybe you weren't following the chain of command in all instances?

VINDMAN: He did not.

CASTOR: And did Dr. Hill or Mr. Morrison ever ask you questions about whether you were trying to access information outside of your lane?

VINDMAN: They did not.

CASTOR: And another, you know, aspect of the Ukraine portfolio that you were not a part of were some of the communications Mr. Morrison was having with Ambassador Taylor?

VINDMAN: Correct.

CASTOR: And did you ever express concern that he was leaving you off those calls?

VINDMAN: Well, certainly it was concerning. He had just come on board. He didn't have the -- you know, he wasn't steeped into all the items that we were working on, including the policy that we had developed over the preceding months. And I thought I could contribute to that, to his -- to the performance of his duties.

CASTOR: OK.

When you were -- you went to Ukraine for the inauguration?

VINDMAN: Correct.

CASTOR: At any point during that trip did Mr. Danylyuk offer you a position of defense minister with the Ukrainian government?

VINDMAN: He did.

CASTOR: And how many times did he do that?

VINDMAN: I believe it was three times.

CASTOR: And do you have any reason why he asked you to do that?

[11:10:00] VINDMAN: I don't know, but every single time I dismissed it.

Upon returning I notified my chain of command and the -- the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this -- the offer. CASTOR: Well, Ukraine is a country that's experiencing a war with Russia . Certainly their minister of defense is a pretty key position for the Ukrainians. President Zelensky, Mr. Danylyuk to bestow that honor on you, at least asking you, that was a big honor, correct?

VINDMAN: I think it would be a great honor. And, frankly, I'm aware of servicemembers that have left service to help nurture the developing democracies in that part of the world, certainly in the Baltics, former officers. And if I recall correctly, it was an Air Force officer that became a minister of defense.

But I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler. And I immediately dismissed these offers; did not entertain them.

CASTOR: When he -- when he made his offer to you initially did you leave the door open? Was there a reason that he had to come back and ask a second and third time? Or was he just trying to convince you?

VINDMAN: Counsel, you know what? It's the whole notion is rather comical that I was being asked to consider whether I'd want to be the minister of defense. I did not leave the door open at all...

CASTOR: OK.

VINDMAN: ... but it is pretty funny for a lieutenant colonel of the United States Army, which really isn't not that senior, to be offered that illustrious a position.

CASTOR: When he made this offer to you, was he speaking in English or Ukrainian?

VINDMAN: Oh, Mr. Danylyuk is an absolutely flawless English speaker. He was speaking in English.

CASTOR: OK.

VINDMAN: And just to be clear, there were two other staff officers -- Embassy Kyiv staff officers that were sitting next to me when this offer was made.

CASTOR: OK. And who were they?

VINDMAN: So, one of them you may have met. It was Mr. David Holmes. And the other one was -- I don't know, I mean I guess I can -- it's another Foreign Service officer, Keith Bean.

CASTOR: OK.

Yes, we met Mr. Holmes last Friday evening.

VINDMAN: I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

He's a delightful fellow. CASTOR: And you said, when you returned to the United States you papered it up, given your -- you know, with SCI clearance whenever foreign government makes an overture like that you have to -- you paper it up and you tell your chain of command?

VINDMAN: I did, but I also don't know if I fully entertained it as a legitimate offer. I was just making sure that I did the right thing in terms of reporting this.

CASTOR: OK.

And did any of your supervisors, Dr. Hill at the time, or Dr. Kupperman, or Ambassador Bolton ever follow-up with you about that?

It's rather significant, you know, that Ukrainians offered you the post of defense minister. Did you tell anyone in your chain of command about it?

VINDMAN: After I spoke to -- and I believe it -- that deputy -- or Deputy Senior Director John Erath was there. I -- once I mentioned it to both of them, I don't believe there was ever a follow-up discussion.

CASTOR: OK.

So it never came up with Dr. Kupperman or Dr. Hill?

VINDMAN: Following that conversation I had with Dr. Hill, I don't believe there was a subsequent conversation. And I don't recall ever having a conversation with Dr. Kupperman about it.

CASTOR: OK.

And did you brief Dr. -- or, sorry, Director Morrison when he came on board?

VINDMAN: No, I completely forgot about it.

CASTOR: OK.

And subsequent to the May trip, did Mr. Danylyuk ever ask you to reconsider? Were there any other offers?

VINDMAN: No.

CASTOR: OK.

When he visited for the July 10th meeting in -- with Ambassador Bolton, did it come up again?

VINDMAN: It never came up again.

CASTOR: OK.

And did you ever think that, possibly if this information was got out, that it might create the -- at least a perception of a conflict that the Ukrainians thought so highly of you to offer you the defense ministry post -- you know, on one hand but, on the other hand, you're responsible for Ukrainian policy at the National Security Council?

VINDMAN: So frankly, it would be -- it's more important about what my American leadership, American chain of command thinks than any of the -- and this is, these are honorable people.

I'm not sure if he meant it as a joke or not. But it's much more important what my civilian White House National Security Council chain of command thinks, more so than anybody else.

And frankly, if they were concerned about me being able to continue my duties...

CASTOR: Of course.

VINDMAN: ... they would have brought that to my attention. Dr. Hill stayed on for several more months and we continued to work to advance U.S. Policy.

CASTOR: OK.

During the times relevant of the committee's investigation, did you have any communications with Mr. Yermak or Danylyuk outside of the July 10th meeting?

[11:15:00]

VINDMAN: I recall a courtesy note from Mr. Yermak within days of his return to (ph) July in which he wanted to preserve an open channel of communication. And I said, you know, please feel free to contact me with any concerns.

CASTOR: And were you following this, you know, there was sort of two tracks, Ambassador Taylor walked us through it during his testimony last Wednesday. There was a -- he called it a regular channel and then he called it an irregular but not outlandish channel with Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker.

Were you tracking the Sondland and Volker channel during this time period?

VINDMAN: Yes, so I'm trying to recall at which point I became aware of ambassador -- certainly, I was aware the fact that they were -- they were working together, Sondland -- Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, and Secretary Perry were working together to advance U.S. policy interests that were in support of what had been agreed to.

But I didn't really learn, like I said, until the July 10th -- actually, that's -- there may have been a slightly earlier point.

I recall a meeting in which Ambassador Bolton facilitated a meeting between Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Bolton in the June timeframe, and there may have been some discussion about this external channel. But...

CASTOR: OK.

VINDMAN: ... I, frankly, didn't become aware of these particular U.S. government officials being involved in this alternate track until on July 10th.

CASTOR: OK.

And I think we -- we had some discussion that, you know, Mr. Giuliani was promoting a negative narrative about the Ukraine and -- and certain officials were trying to help the president understand that with Zelensky it was a new day and Ukraine's going to be different. Is that your understanding?

VINDMAN: That is correct. That is exactly what was being reported by the Intelligence Community, the policy channels within the NSC and the concerted (ph) voices of the various people that have actually met with him, including foreign officials.

CASTOR: And to the extent that you're aware of what Ambassador Sondland's goals were here and Ambassador Volker's goals were here, I mean, you think they were just trying to do the best they could and try to advocate in the best interests of the United States?

VINDMAN: That -- that is -- that is what I believed and that is what I still believe, frankly.

CASTOR: And so to the extent Mr. Giuliani may have had different views, they were trying to help him understand that it was time to change those views?

VINDMAN: I think they were trying to bring him into the tent and have him kind of support the direction that was -- that we had settled on.

CASTOR: And you never conferred with Mr. Giuliani?

VINDMAN: No.

CASTOR: You never had any meetings, phone calls, or anything of that sort?

VINDMAN: I did not.

CASTOR: And did you have any...

VINDMAN: I only know him as New York's finest mayor.

CASTOR: ... America's mayor.

(LAUGHTER)

VINDMAN: America's mayor.

CASTOR: And did you -- did you have any discussions, communications during this relevant time period with the president?

VINDMAN: I'd -- I -- I've never had any contact with the president of the United States.

CASTOR: OK.

My time's expired, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman.

We're going to now move to the five-minute member rounds.

Are you good to go forward or do you need break?

VINDMAN: I think we'll elect to take a short break.

SCHIFF: OK.

Let's try to take a five- or ten-minute break and we will resume with the five-minute rounds.

Oh, if I could ask the audience and members to please allow the witnesses to leave the room first.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As the committee takes a short break, I'm Jake Tapper, live in Washington.

This is the first round of the impeachment hearings this week. Jennifer Williams, a State Department aid to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine adviser at President Trump's White House, they have been answering the Intelligence Committee's questions.

Much of the testimony so far has surrounded that July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Both Williams and Vindman were on that call, listening in.

Jeffrey Toobin, let's start with you.

What's your reaction to the testimony so far?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: There was a sound you can hear during a lot of the testimony today, which was Republican talking points disintegrating like crystals falling apart.

TAPPER: How so?

TOOBIN: Three of them. For example, the idea that all of the information that the Democrats have produced so far was secondhand. Well, obviously, today, we heard a great deal about the president's own role in the July 25th phone call.

The second point was that, well, Ukraine didn't know that the aid was conditioned on pursuing these investigations for the president's political benefit. Colonel Vindman refuted that, convincingly.

TAPPER: Because of that July 10th meeting --

TOOBIN: -- in the July 10th meeting with others -- TAPPER: About the Ukrainians?

TOOBIN: Correct.

[11:20:07]

And third, the idea that, well, what difference does this make? Because Ukraine got the money anyway. That's another Republican talking point.

But Dan Goldman, the counsel, did a very effective job of showing that the reason the aid was produced was that the whistleblower had come forward at that point.

That basically, the Trump administration was busted. They got caught and that's the reason they released the money, not because they had any -- you know, any good reason to release the money.

So those three Republican talking points, I think, were severely impacted by this morning's testimony.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And here's another one I'll add to that, which is that these witnesses are, you know, people with an anti-Trump, pro-Democratic agenda and that they were pushing out information.

The way that Devin Nunes tried and failed --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The Republican ranking member on the committee --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: The Republican ranking member -- to get them to say that they were the ones that leaked the information, and the fact that their answers were, no, you know, definitively no, gave them even more credibility, than we saw in the past.

The one thing that we didn't know, which the Republicans did successfully keep under wraps, is that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman got a job offer from the Ukrainians. And that is going to feed into every single conspiracy theory that is already out there about his dual loyalty.

Which, you know, just to kind of pre-react to, pre-act, if that's a word. Look at him. He's in the uniform of the United States Army. And he,

you know, almost was emotional at the end of his opening statement, talking about how grateful he is to his father, who left the then Soviet Union to give him a life, to give him an opportunity to serve in this uniform and to be able to tell a freely Democratic elected Congress what he sees as the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let's take a break and listen to that sound byte, because it was one of the most striking moments of the hearing so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. capitol, talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman talking there to his father, who fled Russia with his three children. I think, the mother, his wife, had passed away.

And that was a moment, Dana Bash, where Vindman was talking about how he could not do what he is doing right now, had he stayed in the then Soviet Union, now Russia, because he would be killed.

BASH: He would be killed.

TAPPER: That's what he was saying.

BASH: And it was a very dramatic moment to set up the place that he's coming from.

One more thing, I was surprised that Republicans didn't point out, flatly, that his very clear opinion was that what he saw and heard on the call, what he saw going on with regard to Ukraine was inappropriate.

It is his opinion. It might be factually based, it might be based on the policy and traditions of United States, but I was surprised the Republicans didn't try to call him out.

TAPPER: Well, it's early yet.

And, John King, one of the things we did hear from Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, was not a defense of President Trump or a defense of the phone call, but really just an attack on the media.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you see in the competing strategies almost the parallel universe we're operating in here. The Democrats are trying to do a building blocks to get us to Ambassador Sondland later in the week, who will be the key witness. They're trying to talk about the call, how the process worked, who was key to it, who had the most access to the president. That is the building block approach that the Democrats are taking.

Chairman Nunes, leading the Republicans, and then Mr. Castor, the Republican counsel -- first, did you leak? Are you disloyal to your country and your --

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: Both denied that they leaked.

KING: Yes. Both denied that they leaked.

Then the idea of trying to, right there in a public hearing, to out the whistleblower. Who did you talk to? And he said he talked to George Kent and an individual in the Intelligence Community. Devin Nunes wanted him to name that individual.

On the advice of counsel and with the help of the Democratic Chairman, Colonel Vindman refused to do that. But it was a deliberate, obvious, effort to out the whistleblower, back to Dana's point about what the conspiracy theories are.

And then in the conversation with Colonel Vindman about this officer, he says the national security adviser to the new Ukrainian president offered him the job of defense minister. Which is new information. All of us say, wow, that's a big deal. A colonel in the United States Army being offered this job in Ukraine because of his heritage.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: In Ukraine.

KING: Then the counsel was asking him, what language were they speaking. Essentially getting to the point, were you speaking in Russian or Ukrainian in these officials. And he says, no, they were speaking in English.

[11:25:00]

And Colonel Vindman also, smart enough to add -- these are both very smart witnesses, very smart -- I immediately reported this to my superiors. We had a laugh about it. They never questioned my loyalty. He asked three times in a meeting and never came back to it. And he made clear that he got it on the record and worked for several months with Mr. Fiona Hill, who has now departed.

But the way the questions were asked, they were trying to impugn his loyalty to the United States of America, a man who got a Purple Heart serving in Iraq.

TAPPER: Combat operations in Iraq.

Laura Coates is with us here also.

And, Laura, both of these witnesses said that they did not leak anything about the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky to the meeting. Jennifer Williams, the Pence aide, said she didn't talk about it with anybody, not even her superior, who was also on the call. And Lieutenant Colonel Vindman also objected to it and he said he took it up the proper chain of command.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So you're seeing time and again from the whistleblower complaint to now, proper channels are being used, which is exactly what you would like to have happen. You would like people to have a "if you see something, say something" philosophy.

What they're trying to do by saying, the process is a problem here, time and time again, when you cannot attack the underlying facts that are being stated, if they have been corroborated not only the rough transcript of the president's phone call himself, the president's own statement and other people, at least over a dozen witnesses, what do you do? You try to go over the way in which the vehicle of information was actually traveling.

So what you're seeing here, time and again, is not only with John talking about the impugning of integrity of one's loyalty. But also the idea, why are you not asking questions about the underlying substance of it? Why are you asking the leaking to the media if again the idea of trying to shoot the message as opposed to talking about the underlying complaints.

And all of this right now tells us, time and again, we have the same story. We have this July 25th telephone call that raised eyebrows, suspicions. It was raised up the chain. None of that has changed now.

TAPPER: And if you're just tuning in, the House Intelligence Committee has taken a quick break in hearing from witnesses. And when they gavel back, we will bring that to you immediately live.

But we're chatting over what we heard this morning.

And let me go to Scott Jennings, the Republican on the panel here.

What do you make of all of it? What do you make of Devin Nunes' instead of, you know, discussing the facts, being debated, talking about how awful the media is?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, these are common Republican complaints. You know, that the media has time and again gotten things wrong about Donald Trump. It wasn't germane exactly to the testimony today, but it is a common Republican rallying cry.

I mean, my view of the witnesses is, they were honorable, honest, patriotic, earnest. They were there to do the right thing.

The moment where he was talking to his dad struck me because when I was working in the Bush White House and received a subpoena and it was in the news, I remember getting an email from my dad back home in Kentucky saying, is everything going to be OK? And so that moment, you know, sort of struck a personal chord with me.

I think what you're going to hear from Republicans is that, look, this testimony doesn't change anything. It's the president that sets the foreign policy, not these witnesses, no matter how honest and honorable they are. It's not uncommon to withhold aid for various reasons.

And there are admissions today and ongoing admissions that there's a need to root out corruption, broadly, in the Ukraine. So I think that will be a theme that you see heading throughout the rest of the afternoon.

TAPPER: John Dean, this is not your first impeachment proceeding, so what do you make of it all?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I thought it was a bad morning for the Republicans. They really have no defense. As Jeffrey said, we saw it crumble this morning. A few items they've been hanging on to. The effort to out the whistle-blower totally failed. And these are good witnesses. And they are performing at the highest level.

TAPPER: You know what, I just want to drill down on that a little bit. Because I think people at home may not have understood the subtext of what was going on when, who was it, Steve Castor, the Republican, was asking Vindman, lieutenant colonel Vindman, who he spoke with.

Just so people know at home, behind the scenes during the closed-door testimony, there were attempts to introduce the name of the alleged or suspected name of the alleged whistleblower and ask Lieutenant Colonel Vindman if he had, in fact, spoken to that individual and the objections came up at the time, as well.

And I guess it was Nunes, maybe --

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: It was Nunes.

TAPPER: -- who brought it up this time.

Let's listen to that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.

VINDMAN: Ranking Member, it's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.

NUNES: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, you testified in the deposition that you did not know who the whistleblower was or is?

VINDMAN: I do not know who the whistleblower is. That is --

NUNES: How is it possible for you to name these people and then out the whistleblower?

VINDMAN: I -- per the advice of my counsel, I have been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the Intelligence Community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:30:08]

TAPPER: And what's going on here, John Dean -- and you can shed a little bit more light on this -- is Chairman Schiff is very sensitive to the idea of the whistleblower being outed, even though he had previously said that the whistleblower wanted to talk to the committee. And there have been Republican attempts to find out who the whistleblower is.

DEAN: It's a law that's obviously going to be amended after this episode. It never contemplated that a president of the United States would try to out a whistleblower. It was never contemplated that Congress would try to out a whistleblower.

I think those will be parts of the statute in the future. Because clearly, they're trying to do it. And it would be so contrary to the thrust of the law, where somebody who follows the procedure that's set out, that they can come forward with information.

It's vital not only to government, it's vital to private industry. There are whistleblower laws there, too. And these help the system. They keep it operating properly.

TAPPER: You know what's interesting about that, also, is we often hear complaints from Republicans about leakers, people in the White House who just leak to the media. Here we have an individual who went through the proper channels.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN ANALYST: And there's no branch more dependent on the whistleblowers than Congress. That's how they find out about the most significant and serious instances of fraud, waste, and abuse within government, is when folks feel empowered to use those laws and the protection they afford to make their concerns known to members of Congress.

Senator Grassley has been a huge champion of whistleblower rights --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: For decades.

MCCABE: For decades.

So to see, particularly the Republicans, striking out against the whistleblower this case is really remarkable.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: What's also weird about this, Laura Coates, is I remember when I was at the White House during the Obama years, covering the Obama years, and the whistleblowers that were coming forward to talk about Benghazi, which was a legitimate scandal in its own right, and the fact that there was a lot of respect for them, regardless of their personal politics, from the same Republicans that we hear trying to out the whistleblower today.

COATES: What you described is convenient hypocrisy, right?

But you also know from the Obama administration is that the Intelligence Community members who would file a whistleblower complaint remain the most vulnerable group of people in all of whistleblowers.

Most people have the ability not to be retaliated against in any industry, whether it's private or, of course, the federal government, but the Intelligence Community was singled out as the group that would not have full access to the courts in the event that they were retaliated against because of the sensitive nature of the classified information they would have. Their very perch made them continuously vulnerable.

And you think about that, these Congressmen and women are well aware about the vulnerability of the intelligence members, about the notion they don't have resource from the courts. And yesterday, they're still insisting that they should have that particular vulnerability and still be outed.

What would possibly be the incentive of anyone going forward in the Intelligence Community or otherwise to say, listen, we've got a matter of extreme importance. I am privy alone to the information by virtue of my position. And I'm not going to have recourse in courts and I won't have support in members of Congress, and the executive branch is also going to throw me under the bus.

What information do the American people hope to gain in the future?

TAPPER: And let's remember that that might be the case for a whistleblower during a Democratic administration that wants --

COATES: Yes, absolutely.

TAPPER: -- to come forward. These precedents are there for a reason.

Jeffrey Toobin, what are we expecting Democrats to do as they -- as individual members get their chance to ask questions of the witnesses? And what are you expecting Republicans to do?

TOOBIN: The Democrats, I expect, are going to talk about Donald Trump. The criticism, which the Republicans have raised in the first day of hearings, which I thought had some legitimacy --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: -- which is that it was -- the testimony was somewhat remove from the president, second or third hand.

I thought Dan Goldman, who is the counsel for the Democrats, put almost all of his questioning of the two witnesses on the July 25th phone call with the president and going over it in relation to everything else that was going on.

I think with the Republicans, it's going to be more attempts to identify the whistleblower, more complaints about the process. And it just diminishing the importance of the testimony overall.

But I think you're going to hear a lot about Donald Trump from the Democrats. TAPPER: And, Dana Bash, very quickly, as we're waiting for this

hearing to resume, one of the other points you were touching on is we expect for some of the savvier Republicans is to talk about how much Vindman and Williams are being asked about their opinion.

BASH: Yes, it's hard to imagine that they won't ask that. It's easy for them to answer, saying they've worked for presidents of both parties.

TAPPER: OK, they're gaveling back in. Let's listen in.

Thank you so much.

SCHIFF: We'll now begin a period of five-minute questions from the members. I recognize myself for five minutes.

I want to ask you both about some of the questions you were asked by my colleagues in the minority.

[11:35:00] First, if I could ask you, Ms. Williams and Colonel Vindman, you were asked a series of questions by the ranking member at the outset. Were you aware of the fact that -- and then there was a recitation of information about Burisma, Zlochevsky, the Bidens. Is it fair to say you have no firsthand knowledge of any of the matters that were asked in those questions?

WILLIAMS: That's correct.

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: Ms. Williams, you were also asked a series of questions about the vice president's schedule and whether he could have made the inauguration, or was the president traveling or the trip to Canada. But let's be clear about something. The president -- you were instructed that the president had told the vice president not to go before you even knew the date of the inauguration. Is that correct?

WILLIAMS: Yes, that's correct.

SCHIFF: So at the time he was told not to go, there was no calculation about where he might be or where the president might be because the date hadn't even been set yet, is that right?

WILLIAMS: That's right. The date had not been set, so were weighing a number of different scenarios of when -- when the inauguration might fall.

SCHIFF: Now, I think you said that originally, the president had told him to go. And then you received the instruction that the president no longer wanted him to go. Were you aware in the interim between the president telling him to go and the president telling him not to go, that Rudy Giuliani had to abort a trip that he was going to make to Ukraine?

WILLIAMS: I had seen that in the press, yes.

SCHIFF: And had you seen in the press that Rudy Giuliani blamed people around Zelensky for having to cancel the trip?

WILLIAMS: For having to cancel his trip?

SCHIFF: Yes.

WILLIAMS: I had read that in the press reporting, yes.

SCHIFF: And did you read in the press reporting also that Giuliani wanted to go to Ukraine to, as he put it, not meddle in an election but meddle in investigations?

WILLIAMS: I did read that, yes.

SCHIFF: And that occurred prior to the president canceling the vice president's trip to the inauguration?

WILLIAMS: It did. I believe it was around May 10th or so.

SCHIFF: Colonel Vindman, you were asked by the minority counsel about the president's words in the July 25th call. And whether the president's words were ambiguous. Was there any ambiguity about the president's use of the word "Biden"?

VINDMAN: There was not.

SCHIFF: It was pretty clear that the president wanted Zelensky to commit to investigating the Bidens, was it not?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: That is one of the favors that you thought should be properly characterized as a demand?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: And there's no ambiguity about that?

VINDMAN: In my mind, there was not.

SCHIFF: It's also true, is it not, that these two investigations that the president asked Zelensky for into 2016 and into the Bidens were precisely the two investigations that Rudy Giuliani was calling for publicly, were they not?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: So when people suggest, well, maybe Rudy Giuliani was acting on his own and maybe he was a freelancer or whatever, the president referred to exactly the same two investigations Rudy Giuliani was out pushing on his behalf. Is that correct?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: Now, Ms. Williams, you were asked about the meeting the vice president had with Zelensky in September, in which the Ukrainians brought up their concern about the hold on the security assistance. Is that right?

WILLIAMS: That's right.

SCHIFF: And you were asked about whether, in that meeting between the vice president, Zelensky, the Bidens or Burisma came up. And I think you said they did not, correct?

WILLIAMS: That's correct, they did not come up.

SCHIFF: Now that bilateral meeting was a large meeting that involved two or three dozen people, wasn't it?

WILLIAMS: It was.

SCHIFF: So in the context of this meeting with two or three dozen people, the vice president didn't bring up those investigations, correct?

WILLIAMS: No, he did not bring up those investigations. He's never brought up those investigations.

SCHIFF: Were you aware that immediately -- and I mean immediately -- after that meeting broke up, Ambassador Sondland has said that he went over to Mr. Yermak, one of the top advisers to Zelensky, and told Yermak that if they wanted the military aid, they were going to have to do these investigations or words to that effect?

WILLIAMS: I was not aware at the time of any meetings, side meetings that Ambassador Sondland had following our -- the vice president's meeting with President Zelensky. I've only learned that through Ambassador Sondland's testimony.

SCHIFF: So at the big public meeting, it didn't come up. And you can't speak to the private meeting that was held immediately thereafter?

[11:40:00]

WILLIAMS: Correct. The vice president moved on with his schedule immediately after his meeting with President Zelensky.

SCHIFF: Now, Colonel Vindman, I want to go back to that July 10th meeting or meetings, the one with Ambassador Bolton and then the one in the Ward Room that followed quickly on its heels.

Were you aware that Ambassador Bolton instructed your superior, Dr. Hill, to go talk to the lawyers after that meeting?

VINDMAN: I learned shortly after she was finished talking to Ambassador Bolton, and after we wrapped up with the Ward Room that she did have a meeting with him and that that's what was expressed.

SCHIFF: Now, you thought you should go talk to the lawyers on your own, correct?

VINDMAN: That is my recollection, yes. SCHIFF: But Bolton also thought that Dr. Hill should go talk to the lawyers because of his concern over this "drug deal that Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up," is that right?

VINDMAN: That is my understanding.

SCHIFF: And in fact, this -- this "drug deal," as Bolton called it, involved this conditioning of the White House meeting on these investigations that Sondland brought up, is that right?

VINDMAN: That is my understanding.

SCHIFF: And in fact, this same conditioning, or this same issue of wanting these political investigations and tying it to the White House meeting, this came up in the July 25th call, did it not, when the president asked for these investigations?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: So the very same issue that Bolton said to Hill, "Go talk to the lawyers," the very same issue that prompted you to go talk to the lawyers, ends up coming up in that call with the president. Is that right?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: And it was that conversation that once again led you back to the lawyer's office?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SCHIFF: Now I yield to the ranking member.

NUNES: Parliamentary inquiry? Mr. Chairman, you took seven minutes, so I assume you're going to give us equal time?

SCHIFF: Yes, Mr. Nunes?

NUNES: I thank the gentleman.

Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, before I turn to Mr. Jordan, I asked Ms. Williams about this, about if she had ever accessed without authorization a fellow employee's computer system. She answered no to the question.

Have you ever accessed anyone's computer system at the NSC without authorization?

VINDMAN: Without their knowledge? No.

NUNES: Knowledge or authorization?

VINDMAN: I'm sorry?

NUNES: Knowledge or authorization? You never accessed someone's computer without their knowledge or authorization? VINDMAN: Correct.

NUNES: Mr. Jordan?

JORDAN: I thank the ranking member.

Colonel, I want to thank you for your service and sacrifice to our great country. This afternoon, your -- your former boss, Mr. Morrison, is going to be sitting right where you're sitting and he's going to testify. And I want to give you a chance -- I think we're bringing you a copy -- I want to give you a chance to respond to some of the things Mr. Morrison said in his deposition, page 82 of the transcript from Mr. Morrison.

Mr. Morrison said this, "I had concerns about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's judgment. Among the discussions I had with Dr. Hill and the transition was our team, its strength, its weaknesses. And Fiona and others had raised concerns about Alex's judgment."

When Mr. Morris (sic) was asked by Mr. Castor, "Did anyone ever bring concerns to you that they believe Colonel Vindman may have leaked something, Mr. Morrison replied, 'Yes.'"

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. Any idea why they have those impressions, Colonel Vindman?

VINDMAN: Yes, Representative Jordan. I guess I'll -- I'll start by reading Dr. Hill's own words as she -- she attested to in my last evaluation that was dated middle of July, right before she left.

"Alex is a top 1 percent military officer and the best Army officer I have worked with in my 15 years of government service. He is brilliant, unflappable and exercises excellent judgment..."

JORDAN: So it was...

VINDMAN: I'm sorry...

JORDAN: OK, I'm sorry.

VINDMAN: "... exemplary during numerous visits," so forth and so on. But I think you get the idea.

Mr. Morrison...

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE)

VINDMAN: The date -- yeah, the date of that was -- yeah, let's see -- I'm sorry -- July 13th.

[11:45:00]

So, Mr. Jordan, I would say that I can't say what Mr. Morrison -- why Mr. Morrison questioned my judgment. We had only recently started working together. He's -- he wasn't there very long and we were just trying to figure out our relationship. Maybe it was a different cultures, military culture versus...

JORDAN: And, Colonel, you never leaked information?

VINDMAN: I never did, never would. That is -- that is preposterous that I would do that.

JORDAN: OK.

Colonel, it's it's interesting. We deposed a lot of people in the bunker and the basement of the Capitol over the last several weeks, but of all those depositions, only three of the individuals we deposed were actually on the now somewhat famous July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. There was you. There was the individual sitting beside you, Ms. Williams, and then were, of course, was your boss, Mr. Morrison, who I just read from his deposition.

When we asked Ms. Williams who she spoke to after the call about the call, she was willing to answer our questions and Chairman Schiff allowed her to answer her questions. When we asked Mr. Morrison who he spoke to after the call about the call, he was willing to answer our question and Mr. Schiff allowed -- Chairman Schiff allowed him to answer our question.

But when we asked you, you first told us three individuals at the NSC, your brother and the two lawyers. And then you said there was a group of other people you communicated with, but you would only give us one individual in that group, Secretary Kent. And the chairman would only allow you to give us that name. When we asked you who else you communicated with, you would not tell us.

So I want to know first how many other people are in that group of people you communicated with outside the four individuals I just named?

VINDMAN: Mr. Jordan, on a call readout, certainly after the first call, there were probably half a dozen or more people that I read out. Those are people with the proper clearance and the need to know. In this case, because of the sensitivity of the call and Mr. Eisenberg told me not to speak to anybody else, I only read out, outside of the NSC, two individuals.

JORDAN: Two individuals.

VINDMAN: DASS Kent and one other person.

JORDAN: And you're not willing to tell us who that other individual is?

VOLKOV: Mr. Chairman, point of order?

JORDAN: Mr. Chairman...

VOLKOV: Mr. Chairman, point of order? SCHIFF: The gentleman will suspend. Counsel?

VOLKOV: Mr. Chairman, I would ask you to enforce the -- the rule with regard to the disclosure with regard to the intelligence officers (ph).

SCHIFF: Thank you, Counsel.

You know, as I indicated before, this committee will not be used to out the whistleblower. That same...

JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, can you...

SCHIFF: ... necessity to protect the whistleblower...

JORDAN: ... first stop the time so I don't lose the time?

SCHIFF: ... will persist.

You are recognized again, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, I don't see how this is outing the whistleblower. The witness has testified in his deposition that he doesn't know who the whistleblower is. You have said -- even though no one believes you, you have said you don't know who the whistleblower is, so how is this outing the whistleblower to -- to find out who this individual is?

SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan, this is your time for questioning. You can use it any way you like, but your question should be addressed to the witness...

JORDAN: What I'd like to...

SCHIFF: And your questions should not be addressed to trying to out the whistleblower.

JORDAN: Well, OK. OK.

Colonel Vindman, there's another thing Mr. Morrison told us in his deposition. He said he was not concerned about the call itself. He said there was nothing illegal or improper on the call, but he was concerned about the call leaking, the contents of the call leaking.

(UNKNOWN): Excuse me.

JORDAN: ... He said this, he was concerned, "how it would play out in Washington's polarized environment," how the contents, "would be used in Washington's political process."

(UNKNOWN): Excuse me.

JORDAN: Mr. Morrison was right.

(UNKNOWN): Excuse me, Mr. Jordan. Could I get a page?

JORDAN: Page 44.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

JORDAN: Mr. Morrison was right. The call leaks, the whistleblower goes to Chairman Schiff's staff. Then he runs off to the lawyer. The same lawyer who said in January of 2017, the coup has started against President Trump.

The one thing the Democrats didn't -- one thing they didn't count on. One thing they didn't count on was the president releasing the call transcript and letting us all see what he said. They didn't count on that.

The transcript shows no linkage. The two individuals on the call have both said no pressure, no pushing, no linkage with security assistance dollars to an investigation.

Ms. Williams, after the call on the 25th, we know that Colonel Vindman talked to several people. After the call on the 25th, how many people did you talk to about the call?

WILLIAMS: I did not speak to anybody about the call.

JORDAN: Didn't speak to anybody?

WILLIAMS: No.

JORDAN: I yield back.

SCHIFF: Mr. Himes?

HIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to enter the Lieutenant Colonel's performance review into the record.

SCHIFF: May I inquire of Colonel Vindman, whether he would like us to do that. If you would, we're happy to. If you would prefer it not be on the record, I'd leave that to you.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) With redactions...

VINDMAN: Yes, I guess, with redactions. It has PII in it, and that should be protected. And maybe the only elements that are relevant are the -- the actual narrative, chairman...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: Did you -- did you read the relative portions, or?

VINDMAN: ... I mean, that was the -- the short version. There were some other paragraphs in there, but...

HIMES: Mr. Chairman, I'll -- I'll withdraw my request.

[11:50:00]

SCHIFF: OK, thank you. HIMES: Thank you both for your testimony.

Ms. Williams, you joined the Foreign Service in 2006, correct?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

HIMES: Prior to becoming a non-partisan career official, you worked as a field representative for the Bush-Chaney campaign in 2004 and then you held a political appointment in the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Chertoff. Is that correct?

WILLIAMS: That's correct, sir.

HIMES: And now, as a Foreign Service Officer you have served three presidents, two Republicans and one Democrat, in a variety of roles, correct?

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

HIMES: And in your current position, you're detailed from State to advise the vice president on foreign policy towards Europe and Russia, correct?

WILLIAMS: That's right.

HIMES: Ms. Williams, on Sunday the president personally targeted you in a tweet. This is after he targeted Ambassador Yovanovitch during her hearing testimony. I'd like to show and read you the tweet.

It reads, "Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read both transcripts of the presidential calls and see the just released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know and mostly never even heard of, and work out a better presidential attack."

Ms. Williams, are you engaged in a presidential attack?

WILLIAMS: No, sir.

HIMES: Ms. Williams, are you a Never Trumper?

WILLIAMS: I'm not sure I know an official definition of a Never Trumper. But...

HIMES: Would you describe yourself that way?

WILLIAMS: ... I -- I would not, no.

HIMES: Did that make -- did that tweet make an impression on you when you read it?

WILLIAMS: It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to -- to be called out by name.

HIMES: It surprised me, too. And it looks an awful lot like witness intimidation and tampering, in an effect -- and in an effort to try to get you to perhaps to shape your testimony today.

Lieutenant Colonel, you previously testified that you've dedicated your entire professional life to the United States of America.

Colonel, above your left-breast you are wearing a device, which is a Springfield musket on a blue field. What is that device?

VINDMAN: It's a Combat Infantryman's Badge.

HIMES: How do you get the Combat Infantryman's Badge?

VINDMAN: You have to be serving in a brigade and below a tactical unit -- that means a fighting unit, a frontline unit, in combat.

HIMES: Under fire?

VINDMAN: Correct.

HIMES: You're also wearing a Purple Heart. Can you tell us in 20 or 30 seconds why you're wearing a Purple Heart?

VINDMAN: In 2014, in the ramp-up to probably the largest urban operations -- urban operation in decades outside of Fallujah, we were conducting a reconnaissance patrol in conjunction with the Marines. And my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device that penetrated the armor.

HIMES: Were you injured?

VINDMAN: I was.

HIMES: The day after you appeared for your deposition, lieutenant colonel, President Trump called you a Never Trumper. Colonel Vindman, would you call yourself a Never Trumper?

VINDMAN: Representative, I'd call myself never partisan.

HIMES: Thank you.

Colonel Vindman, in your military career you've served under four presidents, two Democrats and two Republicans. Have you ever waivered from the oath you took to support and defend the Constitution?

VINDMAN: Never.

HIMES: You have any political motivations for your appearance here today?

VINDMAN: None.

HIMES: Colonel Vindman, multiple right-wing conspiracy theorists including Rudy Giuliani have accused you of harboring loyalty towards Ukraine. They make these accusations based only on the fact that your family, like many American families, immigrated to the United States. They've accused you of espionage and dual loyalties. We've seen that in this room this morning. The three minutes that were spent asking you about 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.

And I -- I want people to understand what that was all about. It's the kind of attack -- 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, the way the ranking member gave over his opening statement 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 rifle on a field of blue above a Purple Heart.

I, sir, thank you for your serve and yield back the balance of my time.

SCHIFF: Mr. Conaway.

CONAWAY: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I yield my five minutes to Mr. Ratcliffe.

RATCLIFFE: I thank the gentleman for yielding.

In a press conference last Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, said that President Trump committed the impeachable offense of bribery, evidenced in his July 25th call transcript with President Zelensky.

[11:55:00]

In concert with that, multiple Democratic members of this Committee gave TV and radio interviews over this past week discussing how the president's conduct support his impeachment for committing bribery. All of which struck me as very odd, because for the longest time this was all about quid pro quo, according to the whistleblower complaint.

But after witness, after witness, began saying there was no quid pro quo or even that quid pro quo was not even possible, we saw a shift from the Democrats. They briefly started to refer to the president's conduct on the July 25th call as extortion.

And now, it's shifted again, last week, to bribery. Ms. Williams, you used the word unusual to describe the president's call last -- or on July 25th. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, you used the word inappropriate, improper.

Now, I've word searched each of your transcripts, and the word bribery or bribe doesn't appear anywhere in that.

Ms. Williams, you didn't -- you've never used the word "bribery" or "bribe" to explain President Trump's conduct, correct?

WILLIAMS: No, sir.

RATCLIFFE: Colonel Vindman, you haven't either? VINDMAN: That is correct.

RATCLIFFE: The problem is, in an impeachment inquiry that the speaker of the House says is all about bribery, where bribery is the impeachable offense, no witness has used the word "bribery" to describe President Trump's conduct, none of them.

These aren't all of the deposition transcripts. These are just the 10 that have been released: six weeks of witness interviews in this impeachment inquiry, hundreds of hours of testimony, thousands of questions asked, thousands of answers given.

The number of times that witnesses have been asked any question about whether or not President Trump's conduct constituted bribery before Ambassador Yovanovitch was asked by my colleague Congressman Stewart last Thursday, is zero. The number of times witnesses have used the word "bribery" or "bribe" to describe President Trump's conduct in the last six weeks of this inquiry is zero.

In fact, in these 3,500 pages of sworn deposition testimony in just these 10 transcripts released thus far, the word "bribery" appears in these 3,500 pages exactly one time. And ironically, it appears not in a description of President Trump's alleged conduct; it appears in a description of Vice President Biden's alleged conduct.

This is important because as early as next week, my Democratic colleagues are going to say, we need to vote on the evidence from this impeachment inquiry, on the impeachment of the president for bribery. And they're going to send a report to the Judiciary Committee. And because there's more Democrats than Republicans, it's going to likely pass.

And when that happens, the American people need to be clear that when the Democrats, what they are describing as bribery, not a single witness is describing as bribery.

We've heard many times in the course of this proceeding, that the facts of the president are not in dispute. But the American people are asking if the facts are the same, why do the crimes that the president is being accused of keep changing? Why do we go from quid pro quo to extortion, now to bribery?

Chairman Nunes told you the answer. The answer is polling. Washington Times asked Americans what would be the most damning accusation. And it didn't come back quid pro quo, it didn't come back extortion. It came back bribery. So this case is all about bribery.

Look, it's bad enough that the Democrats have forbidden White House lawyers from participating in this proceeding. It's hard enough to defend yourself without your lawyers present. But what's even worse is trying to defend yourself against an accusation that keeps changing in the middle of the proceeding.

If Democrats accuse the president of high crime or impeachable offense, he at least ought to know which one it is. And when Speaker Pelosi says this is all about bribery, she's promised us evidence of bribery that would be compelling and overwhelming. And instead, it's invisible.

I yield back.

SCHIFF: Ms. Sewell?

SEWELL: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to join everyone in thanking both of our witnesses for your service.

Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, as part of your policy portfolio in the White House, you maintain a relationship with Ukrainian officials, do you not?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SEWELL: You explained, earlier in your testimony, that your job within the White House was to coordinate United States and Ukraine policy. Is that right?

VINDMAN: It is to coordinate United States policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, correct.

SEWELL: You testified in the spring of this year that --

[12:00:00]