Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Key Witnesses Questioned in Public Impeachment Inquiry; Vindman States July 25th Call "Was Improper". Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 19, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JORDAN: -- Mr. Eisenberg had told me to take my concerns to him.
Then I ask you did -- did Mr. Eisenberg tell you not to report, to go around Mr. Morrison. And you said actually he did say that I shouldn't talk to any other people. Is that right?
VINDMAN: Yes, but there's a whole -- there's a period of time in there between when I spoke to him and when he circled back around. It wasn't that long a period of time but it was enough time for me to ...
JORDAN: Enough time for you to go talk to someone that you won't tell us who it is right.
VINDMAN: I've -- I've -- I've been instructed not to, Representative Jordan.
JORDAN: Well, here's what I'm getting. The lawyer told you don't talk to any other people and you interpret that as not talking to your boss but you talk to your brother, you talk to the lawyers, you talk to Secretary (inaudible), you talk to the one guy Adam Schiff won't tell you -- won't let us -- won't let you tell us who he is. Is that right.
VINDMAN: Representative Jordan, I did my job.
JORDAN: I'm not saying you didn't. All I'm saying is you -- your -- the instructions from the lawyer was you shouldn't talk to anybody and you interpret that as don't talk to my boss but I'm going to go talk to someone that we can't even ask you who that individual is.
VINDMAN: That is incorrect.
JORDAN: Well, I just read what you said. I shouldn't talk to any other people.
SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired.
VINDMAN: There's -- I'm sorry, Chairman, but that sequence is not the way it played out.
JORDAN: I'm reading through (ph) the transcript Colonel Vindman.
SCHIFF: Jordan, please let Colonel Vindman ...
VINDMAN: There's -- the sequence played out where immediately afterwards I expressed my concerns. I did my coordination function, Mr. Eisenberg circled back around, told me not to talk to anybody else. In that period of time I did not manage to talk to ...
JORDAN: So that's when it happened. That's when you talked to someone.
SCHIFF: Mr. Heck, you are recognized. Mr. Heck.
VINDMAN: That's right.
HECK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Colonel Vindman, let's go back to that pair of meetings on July 10 in Ambassador Bolton's office and down in the war (ph) room where you witness Ambassador Sondland inform the Ukrainian officials that as a prerequisite to a White House meeting between the two presidents, quote, the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens, end quote.
You said that Ambassador Sondland was quote, calling for an investigation that didn't exist into the Bidens in Burisma, is that correct?
VINDMAN: That is correct.
HECK: It's that same afternoon you went to Mr. Eisenberg, the council, correct?
VINDMAN: That meeting occurred in the afternoon and within, you know, a couple -- I'm sure it was within a couple hours I spoke to Mr. Eisenberg.
HECK: How did he react?
VINDMAN: He was cool, calm, and collected. He took notes and he said he would look into it.
HECK: And did he not also tell you to feel free to come back if you had additional concerns.
VINDMAN: He did. He did, Congressman.
HECK: Ambassador Sondland had told you that his request the Ukrainians had been coordinated with the chief of staff -- acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. Did you report that to Mr. Eisenberg?
VINDMAN: I did.
HECK: And what was his reaction?
VINDMAN: He -- he took notes and he said he was going to -- he'll follow up or look into it. I don't recall exactly what he said.
HECK: Colonel, you've also testified that on the July 25 call now between the two presidents, quote, there was no doubt, end quote, that President Trump asked for investigations into the 2016 election and Vice President Biden's son in return for a White House meeting. Within an hour of that call you reported back to Mr. Eisenberg, did you not?
VINDMAN: I did.
HECK: Went back to him just to see (inaudible) suggestion would be appropriate.
VINDMAN: He's an assistant the president. He -- it was less a suggestion and more than -- more of an instruction.
HECK: Did you tell the lawyers that President Trump asked President Zelensky to speak to Mr. Giuliani.
HECK: And the lawyers -- it was at this point, told you not to talk to anyone else.
VINDMAN: That is -- that's -- that is not correct with regards to timing. They didn't fall back -- they didn't circle back around. What ended up happening is in my coordination role I spoke to state (ph) -- I spoke to number (ph) of intelligence community and the general counsel from one of the intelligence bodies notified Mr. Eisenberg that there was -- you know that there was information on the call, on the July 25th call, as that point Mr. Eisenberg told me I shouldn't talk to anybody else about it.
HECK: Colonel, I want to go back to 2014 in Iraq. When you were blown up, I presume that given the point in your military career and what else was going on in the world that upon recovery there was the very real prospect or possibility that you might once again find yourself in harms way. Is that correct?
VINDMAN: Yes, Congressman, it happened in 2004, but yes.
HECK: Four, excuse me, thank you. Did you consider leaving the military service at that point?
VINDMAN: No. Frankly, Congressman, I suffered light wounds I was fortunate compared to my counterparts in the same vehicle. And I returned to duty as, I think it may have been that same day.
HECK: But you could have been subjected to additional harm. You chose to continue service in uniform.
VINDMAN: I continued to serve in combat for the remaining 10 or 11 months of the tour.
HECK: You know, Colonel, I have to say I find it a rich but incredible painful irony that within a week of the President contrary to all advise of the Senior Military Officials he pardons those who were convicted of war crimes, which was widely decried in the military community. Within the week of him doing that he is engaged in an effort and allies on his behalf including some here today to demean your record of service and the sacrifice and contribution you have made. Indeed, sir, less than 20 minutes ago the White House officially quoted out, out of context the comments referred to earlier by Mr. Morrison in (ph) your judgment.
I can only conclude, sir, that what we though was just the President is the subject of our deliberations in this inquiry isn't sufficient to capture what's happening here. Indeed what subject to this inquiry and what is apparel is our constitution and the very values upon which it is based. I want to say thank you for your service. But you know thank you doesn't cut it. Please know, however, that it comes from the bottom of my heart and I know on the bottoms of the heart of countless other Americans, thank you for the service, sir. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Sunday the Speaker of United States House of Representatives called the President of the United States an impostor. Speaker of the House called the President an impostor. The guy, 63 million people for, the guy who won an Electoral College landslide, the Speaker calls an impostor. That's what happened to our country, to this Congress. The Speaker statement says it all. The Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people. Democrats don't trust the American people. The American people who wanted to send someone to this town who was willing to shake it up a bit.
They don't trust that and they have tried to do everything they can to undo what the American people decided on November 8, 2016. They've been out to get the President since the day he was elected. The whistleblowers lawyer, the whistleblowers legal team said this January 30, 2017, the President had been in office about a week, "coup has starter, first of many steps". Next sentence "impeachment will follow ultimately". I guess we're in the final step. It started three and half years ago. Congressman Tlaib started this Congress. First day of Congress said "impeach the President".
Representative Greene said if we don't impeach him the President's going to win reelection. We got to do it. Mot importantly, most importantly five Democrat members of this committee voted to move forward with impeachment before the phone call ever happened. The truth is the attacks actually started before the Inauguration even before the election. Ranking Member talked about this. Hi opening statement July 2016 FBI opens investigation so called Trump-Raja (ph) coordination collusion which was never there. Opened an investigation spied on two American citizens associated with the Presidential campaign. My guess is that's probably never happened in American History, but they did it.
And for 10 months Jim Comey FBI investigated the President, guess what after 10 months they had nothing. And you know why we know that because when we disposed Mr. Comey last Congress he told us they didn't have a thing. No matter, Special Counsel Mueller gets appointed and they do a two year $40 million, 19 lawyer unbelievable investigation and guess what they come back and they got nothing. But the Democrats don't care. So now we get this, a bunch of depositions in the bunker and the basement of the Capital, witnesses who aren't allowed to answer questions about who they talked to about the phone call. We get this all based on some anonymous whistleblower, no first hand knowledge biased against the President.
These facts have never changed, we learned these right away. Who worked with Vice President Biden , who wrote a memo the day after somebody talked to him about the call, awaited 18 days to file a complaint, 18 days to file a complaint. What did he do in those 18 days? We all know, ran off and talked with Chairman Schiff's staff. And then hired the legal team that I just talked about, one of those steps in the whole impeachment coup as his legal team has said.
This is scary what these guys are putting our country through. It is sad, it is scary, it is wrong. And the good news is the American people see through it all, they know the facts are on the President's side as Representative Stefanik said, four facts will never change. We've got the transcript which they never thought the President would release. Shows no coordination, not conditionality, no linkage. We got the two guys on the call President Trump, President Zelensky, who have side nothing wrong no pressure no pushing here. We've got the fact that Ukrainians didn't even know aid was held up at the time of the call and most importantly we have yet to have one witness tell us that the any evidence from anyone that President Zelensky did anything on investigations to get the aid released.
Those facts will never change. The facts are on the President's side, the process is certainly not. It has been the most unfair process we have ever seen and the American people understand that. Those 63 million Americans they understand it and frankly I think a lot of other do as well. They see what this for what it is. And they know this is wrong, especially wrong just 11 months before the next election. I yield bank.
SCHIFF: Mr. Welch.
WELCH: Thank you. What this hearing is about, I think was best stated by Colonel Vindman's opening statement. The question before us is this, is it improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate the United States citizen and political opponent? It's very well stated.
I just listened to Mr. Jordan, as you did as well, and I heard his criticisms in the process, nothing really happened, a lot of people are out to get the president. I didn't hear an answer to the question, as to whether it's proper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.
And to date, I haven't heard any one of my Republican colleagues address that question.
Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams, thank you. I want to ask some questions that go through the background. What's come out during this process is that we had two Ukraine policies.
One was bipartisan and long-standing, and that was to assist Ukraine, which had freed itself from the domination of Russia, to fight corruption and to resist Russian aggression. Is that a fair statement, Colonel Vindman?
VINDMAN: I think that's a fair characterization, Congressman.
WELCH: And to give folks a reminder of the extent of corruption, by the way, a legacy of Putin's Russia, is your understanding that when their prior president, Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia into the arms of Mr. Putin, he took with him $30 to $40 billion of that impoverished country?
VINDMAN: Those -- there are different estimates, but it's on that scale, yes.
WELCH: Vast scale for a poor country. And is it your understanding that powerless, but motivated Ukrainians rose up in protest to this incredible graft in theft and abuse by their president?
VINDMAN: That is correct.
WELCH: And that was in the Maidan -- it was called the Maidan Revolution, the Revolution of Dignity, correct?
WELCH: And young people went into that square in downtown Kiev, and demonstrated for months, correct?
VINDMAN: Correct. And 100 died.
WELCH: One hundred and six young people died, and older people died, correct? That is in -- in -- in -- between February 18, 2014 and February 22, is that correct?
WELCH: One hundred and six died, including people who were shot by snipers, kids, and Yanukovych had put snipers on the rooftops of buildings to shoot into that square and kill, murder, slaughter, those young people. Is that your understanding?
VINDMAN: That is correct.
WELCH: In our bipartisan support, and by the way, I want to say to my Republican colleagues, a lot of leadership to have this bipartisan support came from your side, thank you. But our whole commitment was to get rid of corruption and to stop that Russian aggression, is that correct?
VINDMAN: That amounts to some of the key pillars. WELCH: That's right. And the Giuliani, Sondmand (ph), and it appears, Trump policy was not about that, it was about investigations into a political opponent. Correct? I'll take that question back, we know it.
And you know, I'm going to say this to President Trump, you want to investigate Joe Biden, you want to investigate Hunter Biden, go at it. Do it. Do it hard. Do it dirty. Do it the way you do do it. Just don't do it by asking a foreign leader to help you in your campaign. That's your job, it's not his.
My goal in these hearings is two things, one is to get an answer to Colonel Vindman's question. And the second, coming out of this, is for us, as a Congress, to return to the Ukraine policy that Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy both support. It's not investigations, it's the restoration of democracy in Ukraine and the resistance of Russian aggression. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Maloney.
MALONEY: thank you both for being here. You know, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, this may be one of your first Congressional hearings like this, so you may not --
VINDMAN: And hopefully the last.
MALONEY: I can't blame you for feeling that way, sir. Particularly when I've been sitting here listening to my Republican colleagues, one of the advantages of being down here at the kids table, is that you get to hear the folks above your ask their questions. And I've been listening closely to my Republican colleagues and I've heard them say just about everything except to contradict any of the substantive testimony you've both given.
You may have notices, there's been a lot of complaints and there's been a lot of insinuations and there's been a lot of suggestions maybe that -- that you're -- that you're service is somehow not -- not to be trusted.
You know, you were treated to questions about your loyalty because of some half-baked job offer, I guess, the Ukrainians made you, which you, of course, dutifully reported. I guess, Mr. Castor's implying you're -- you've got some dual loyalty, which is, of course, an old smear we've heard many times in our history, to try to demean you as though maybe you're -- you've overstated the your importance of your job.
But, of course, you were -- this -- the guy on the National Security Council responsible for directing Ukrainian policy. We've heard the air out some allocations, with no basis improve, but they just want to get them out there and hope maybe some of those strands of spaghetti, I guess, will stick on the wall if they keep throwing them.
We've even had a member of this Committee question -- this is my favorite, question why you would wear your dress uniform today. Even though that dress uniform includes a breastplate that has a Combat Infantry badge on it and a Purple Heart metal ribbon.
Seems like if anybody gets to wear their uniform, it's somebody who's got breastplate with those accommodations on it. So, let's do it again, let's do the substance, can we do that? Because we've had a lot of -- a lot of dust kicked up.
Ms. Williams, you heard the call with your own ears, right?
WILLIAMS: Yes sir.
MALONEY: Not second hand, not hear say, you heard the president speak. You heard his voice on the call?
MALONEY: And you conclusion was what he said about investigating the Bidens was your words, unusual and inappropriate, I believe. Am I right?
WILLIAMS: That was my testimony.
MALONEY: And Mr. Vindman, you were treated to a July 10th meeting in the White House, where you heard Ambassador Sondland raise investigations, conditioning a White House meeting on that investigations, that you thought were unduly political, I believe that's how you described them. And you went to NSC Council and you reported, right?
MALONEY: And then later, you too, were on the White House call, am I right? You heard it with your own ears?
MALONEY: Not second hand, not from somebody else, not hear say, right?
MALONEY: You heard the president's voice on the call?
VINDMAN: I did.
MALONEY: And you heard him raise that subject again, that Ambassador Sondland had raised before, about investigating the Bidens, right?
VINDMAN: I did.
MALONEY: And I want to ask you, when you heard him say that, what was the first thought that went through your mind?
VINDMAN: Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. There was probably an element of shock that maybe in certain regards my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out. And how this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. national security.
MALONEY: And you went immediately and you reported it, didn't you?
VINDMAN: I did.
VINDMAN: Because that was my duty.
MALONEY: Do you still have your opening statement handy?
VINDMAN: I do.
MALONEY: Read the last paragraph for me again, not the one -- the very last one, the second to last one. Would you read that one again for me? Because I think the American public deserves to hear it again.
VINDMAN: The dad...
MALONEY: That's the one.
VINDMAN: I think my dad would appreciate this one too.
Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.
MALONEY: You realize when you came forward out of sense of duty that you are putting yourself in direct opposition to the most powerful person in the world. Do you realize that, sir?
VINDMAN: I knew I was assuming a lot of risk.
MALONEY: And I'm struck by that word don't -- that phrase "do not worry," you addressed your dad. Was your dad a warrior?
VINDMAN: He did serve. It was a different military though.
MALONEY: And he would have worried if you were putting yourself up against the president of the United States, is that right?
VINDMAN: He deeply worried about it because in his context there was -- it was the ultimate risk.
MALONEY: And why you have confidence that you can do that and tell your dad not to worry?
VINDMAN: Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.
MALONEY: Thank you, sir. I yield back.
(APPLAUSE) SCHIFF: Ms. Demings.
DEMINGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, Ms. Williams, let me thank you for your service to our nation. It truly matters.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, I had the honor of speaking to a group of veterans this past weekend. And what I said to them was that no words, no words are really adequate or sufficient to fully express our gratitude for their service to our nation. So, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, today I say to you, there are no words that are sufficient to fully express our gratitude to you for what you have done for our nation and, amazingly, what you are still willing to do for our nation.
It is vitally important that the American people understand how President Trumps unethical demand that Ukraine deliver a politically- motivated investigation in exchange for military assistance created a security risk for our, the United States of America, national security. The president was not just playing a political game by upholding military aid and meetings with Ukraine, threatening the hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance that Congress had appropriated has real-life consequences for Ukraine and for the USA.
In your test deposition, Colonel Vindman, you testified, and I quote, "a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to our security interests." Could you please explain why a strong and independent Ukraine is so critical, and why it is so vital to U.S. interests?
VINDMAN: We sometimes refer to Ukraine as a front-line state. It's on the front-line of Europe. It's -- they have actually described to me, the Ukrainians, that that is -- it is a -- they consider themselves as a barrier between Russian aggression and Europe. And what I have heard them describe is the need for U.S. support in order to serve this role in order to protect European and Western security.
DEMINGS: Lieutenant Colonel, this is not just a theoretical conflict between Ukraine and Russia. You have already said this morning that Russia is actively fighting to expand into Ukraine, that Ukraine is in a hot war with Russia right now, is that correct?
VINDMAN: It's stable, but it's still a hot war.
DEMINGS: And isn't it true, Lieutenant Colonel, that even if the security assistance was eventually delivered to Ukraine, the fact that it was delayed, just that fact, could signal to Russia that the bond between Ukraine and the U.S. was weakening?
VINDMAN: That was the concern of myself and my colleagues.
DEMINGS: And was the risk of even the appearance that the U.S.-Ukraine bond is shaky is that it could embolden Russia to act with more aggression, would you say that is correct?
VINDMAN: I believe that was my testimony.
DEMINGS: Just last month, during an interview, President Putin joked about interfering in our political elections. I can only guess that is what we have become to Russia and its president. I think he felt emboldened by the president's reckless actions, both attempts to hold critical military aid from Ukraine and President Trump's effort to blame Ukraine, not Russia, for election interference.
Ms. Williams and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, I can only say that every American, regardless of our politics, should be critically concerned about that. And let me just say this. Yes, we do trust the American people. But you know what, the American people trust us too as members of Congress to support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And we intend to do just that.
Thank you again for your service.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Krishnamoorthi.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams. Thank you for your service.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, I am concerned that your loyalty has been questioned not just because you are bringing forward evidence of wrongdoing against the president, president of United States, but because you are an immigrant. Recently FOX News host Brian Kilmeade said, "he," meaning you, "were born in the Soviet Union, emigrated with his family young, he tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine." I find this statement reprehensible because it appears that your immigrant heritage is being used against you.
Lieutenant Colonel, I came to this country when I was three months old. Your family fled the Soviet Union and moved to America when you are just three-and-a-half years old, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I understand that your father worked multiple jobs while also learning English, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Your father stressed the importance of embracing what it means to be an American, correct?
VINDMAN: That is correct.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You and your family faced difficult times during your childhood, correct?
VINDMAN: Yes. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I can relate. That's my story too. But your father went on to become an engineer, right?
VINDMAN: He reestablished himself in his former profession in the United States.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I can relate. I -- I got a B.S. in engineering. Of course some people claim I practice the B.S. part now.
Your father never gave up working hard to build his very own American dream, did he?
VINDMAN: He did not.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, your father achieved the American dream and so did you and your family. From one immigrant American to another immigrant American, I want to say to you that you and your family represent the very best of America. I assume that you are as proud to be an American as I am, correct?
VINDMAN: Yes, sir.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sir, I want to turn your attention to Yuriy Lutsenko. You called him a disruptive actor in your opening statement, correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general in Ukraine has made various claims about various Americans, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You are unaware of any factual basis for his accusations against Ambassador Yovanovitch. Right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: He also was a source for an article by John Solomon in "The Hill," right?
VINDMAN: That is correct.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you said that key elements of that article as well as his accusations are false. Right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Lutsenko is not a credible source, correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sir, the other side claims that there was absolutely no pressure on this July 25 phone call. I think that's what we heard earlier, right?
VINDMAN: I believe so.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you have termed what President Trump asked in terms of investigations on that phone call as a demand. Correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And you've pointed out the large power disparity between President Trump on the one hand and President Zelensky on the other. Correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: There was pressure on that phone call, right?
VINDMAN: The -- the Ukranians needed the meeting. The Ukrainians subsequently when they found out about it needed the security assistance.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: So the pressure was brought to bear on them, correct?
VINDMAN: I believe so.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sir, Colonel Vindman, last week we heard a decorated military veteran namely Ambassador Bill Taylor come before us. You interacted regularly with Ambassador Taylor and you know him to be a man of integrity and he's a patriotic American. Isn't that right?
VINDMAN: A superb individual.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I asked Ambassador Taylor a series of questions based on his experience as an infantry commander. I asked him quote, is an officer allowed to hold up action placing his troops at risk until someone provides him a personal benefit? Ambassador Taylor responded, no sir. Colonel Vindman, do you agree with Ambassador Taylor?
VINDMAN: I do.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I then asked Ambassador Taylor quote, is that because they would be betraying their responsibility to the nation? Ambassador Taylor responded, yes, sir. Colonel Vindman, do you agree with Ambassador Taylor?
VINDMAN: I do.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I then asked Ambassador Taylor, quote, could that type of conduct trigger a court martial? Ambassador Taylor said yes sir. Do you agree with Ambassador Taylor Colonel Vindman?
VINDMAN: I do.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you for your service.
SCHIFF: That concludes the member questioning. Representative Nunes, you're recognized for any concluding remarks. NUNES: Well Act 1 of today's circus is over. For those of you who have been watching at home, the democrats are no closer to impeachment then where they were three years ago. In the process they've -- the Department of Justice, FBI, State Department, elements within the I.C., the ICIG have all suffered long-term damage. The democrats can continue to put -- to poison the American people with this nonsense. We sat here all morning without any evidence for impeachment which would be a very serious crime, high crime and misdemeanor as it says in the Constitution. No such thing.
Policy disagreements and the democrats failure to acknowledge their involvement in the 2016 election, I would say it's astonishing but that would be putting too little emphasis on their actions. With that I yield back the balance of my time.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman. I want to thank our witnesses today, Ms. Williams, Colonel Vindman, both of you for your service to the country, for your testimony here today and I just want to address briefly some of the evidence you presented as well as others thus far in the impeachment inquiry.
First of all, I want to join my colleagues in thanking you Colonel Vindman for your military service and I should tell you that notwithstanding all of the questions you got on why didn't you go talk to your supervisor. Why didn't you go talk to Mr. Morrison? Why did you go to the national security lawyer as if there is something wrong with going to the national security lawyer.
Are you aware that we asked Mr. Morrison whether he went to the national security lawyer right after the call and that he did.
VINDMAN: I am.
SCHIFF: And are you aware also that we asked him, well if you have this problem with Colonel Vindman not going to you instead of the lawyer, naturally you must have got your supervisor in you know what his answer was? He didn't go to his supervisor, either. He went directly to the National Security Council lawyers. I hope my colleagues will give him the same hard time for not following his chain of command that he complained about with you apparently.
The president may attack you and has. Others on right-wing TV might attack you, and they have. But I thought you should know and maybe you know already that this is what the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about you Colonel Vindman. He is a professional, competent, patriotic and loyal officer. He has made an extraordinary contribution to the security of our nation in both peacetime and combat. I am sure your dad is proud to hear that.
My colleagues have tried to make the argument here today and we've heard it before that the president was just interested in fighting corruption. That's our goal, fighting corruption in Ukraine, this terribly corrupt country. The problem of course with that is there is no evidence of the president trying to fight corruption. The evidence all points in the other direction. The evidence points the direction of the president inviting Ukraine to engage in the corrupt act of investigating a U.S. political opponent.
Ambassador Yovanovitch was known as a strong fighter of corruption so what does the president do? He recalls her from her post. Ambassador Yovanovitch, in fact, was at a meeting celebrating other anticorruption fighters including a woman who had acid thrown in her face on the day she was told to get on the next plane back to Washington. You prepared talking points for the president's first conversation with Zelensky. He's supposed to talk about rooting out corruption. If this President had such a deep interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, surely he would've brought it up in the call but of course we now know that he did not.
We then see Rudy Giuliani not fighting corruption but asking for an investigation of the Bidens and my colleagues say well maybe he was acting on his own. Even though he says he's acting as the President's lawyer, maybe he was really acting on his own but the two investigations that Rudy Giuliani wanted, come up in the meeting you participate in on July 10th at the White House, when Ambassador Sondland brings up the Bidens and Burisma of 2016, tells the Ukrainians who want that meeting at the White House, you've got to do these investigations.
Now they would say Ambassador Sondland was acting on his own, but that doesn't quite work either because we have the call record from July 25th, which the President was forced to release, in which the President doesn't bring up corruption, he doesn't say how are those anti-corruption courts going or great work at the Rada. Of course not.
What does the President say? I want you to invest the -- investigate the Bidens and this debunked conspiracy theory pushed by Vladimir Putin, that also helps me in my re-election. So much for fighting corruption.
The message to Ukraine -- the real message to Ukraine, our U.S. policy message is don't engage in political investigations. The message from the President, however, was the exact opposite -- do engage in political investigations and do it for my re-election.
And it's also made clear they want the White House meeting and ultimately if they want $400 million in U.S. aid, this is what they have to do. The only lament I hear from my colleagues is it wasn't successful, they got caught, they didn't get the political investigations and they still had to release the money. Now, they still haven't gotten the White House meeting but they had to release the money because the whistleblower blew the whistle -- the whistleblower the President wants to punish -- and because Congress announced it was doing investigations, and very soon thereafter, the President was forced to lift the hold on the aid.
They argue well this makes it -- this makes it OK, that it was a failed effort to bribe Ukraine, a failed effort to extort Ukraine. That doesn't make it better, it's no less odious because it was discovered and it was stopped. And we have courageous people like yourself who come forward, who report things, who do what they should do, who have a sense, as you put it, Colonel, of duty -- of duty. Not to the person of the President, but to the presidency and to the country, and we thank you for that.
At the end of the day, I think this all comes back to something we heard from another career foreign service officer just last Friday, in a conversation he overheard with the President in a restaurant in Ukraine, in which the President, not Rudy Giuliani, not anyone else, the President of the United States wanted to know are they going to do the investigation? This is the day after that July 25th call -- are they going to do the investigations? And he's ensured by Ambassador Sondland they're going to do it.
And what does Sondland relate to this foreign service officer after he hangs up that call? The President doesn't give a expletive about Ukraine, he only cares about the big things that help his personal interests. That's all you need to know.
And it isn't just about Ukraine. Of course, Ukraine is fighting our fight against the Russians, against their expansionism. That's our fight, too -- that's our fight, too, at least we thought so on a bipartisan basis, that's our fight, too. That's why we support Ukraine with the military aid that we have.
Well the President may not care about it but we do. We care about our defense, we care about the defense of our allies and we darn well care about our Constitution. We are adjourned. I please ask the -- the audience to allow the witnesses and the members who have to go vote to leave first.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm Jake Tapper, live in Washington.
Today's first round of the impeachment hearings for this week is in the books. We just heard from Jennifer Williams. She's a State Department aide to Vice President Mike Pence. We also heard from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is the National Security Council's top Ukraine advisor at the White House.
House Intelligence Democrats have largely focus on the witnesses' impression of that phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky on July 25th, which both of them were listening to, while Republicans have attempted to discredit and undermine the witnesses, especially Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
Before we get to an analysis, I want to play to what could be a key point of this entire investigation of this entire impeachment hearing.
When you strip away the Democrats talking about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's patriotism, his service, his inspiring story as an immigrant to this country when he was a little boy, when you strip away Republicans trying to undermine him, questions about whether or not he followed the chain of command when it came to his concerns about the call, this is really what this hearing is about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL GOLDMAN, COUNSEL FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATS: So just to summarize in this July 25th call between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine, President Trump demanded a favor of President Zelensky to conduct investigations that both of you ang acknowledge were for President Trump's political interest, not the national interest, and in return for his promise of a much-desired White House meeting for President Zelensky.
Colonel Vindman, is that an accurate summary of the excerpts we just looked at in.
GOLDMAN: Miss Williams?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin, your response?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: When you strip away everything, what we have learned over the past month is one thing, which is for the first time in American history, an American president has used taxpayer dollars to persuade, bribe, extort another president for information that will help him get reelected.
That was the initial accusation. And that's what's been proven over and over again with all these witnesses.
TAPPER: Dana Bash?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And what you haven't heard is any Republican on that day say anything other than that. No Republican has tried, even attempted to poke a hole in that fundamental question, why we are all here, why these hearings are taking place.
What Republicans did instead is question the credibility of the witness, question the story, repeat conspiracy theories that have been debunked by the Intelligence Community.
TAPPER: About whether or not Russia or Ukraine interfered in the election?
BASH: Yes. And by the Trump Justice Department, which we can get to in a second. But just keeping it broad, the fact that Republicans didn't even try to go there on the substance of the allegation and what the picture of these witnesses, just like the ones last week, painted, is very, very telling. It goes to the notion of, OK, he did it. And a lot of these
Republicans have said in other forums, it wasn't the right thing to do but it's not impeachable and the process is bad.
TAPPER: John King, during the hearing, President Trump didn't tweet at Lieutenant Colonel Vindman or Jennifer Williams as he has before about both of them.
But the White House official account did tweet something -- if we could put that tweet up. The White House official account, paid by your tax dollars, if you're an American watching right now, saying, "Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman's former boss, said he had concerns about Vindman's judgement."
Now that is factually accurate to Morrison, who is no longer on the National Security Council. Did say that he had concerns about whether or not Vindman had the right policy making chops for the job.
But it is remarkable to see taxpayer dollars being used to attack a current National Security Council official.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. First, you had the president do it. He's faced a lot of blowback from Republicans, saying please don't do that, please don't attack these witnesses, we're trying to do this on a different track. Now you have the taxpayer accounts, as you mentioned, doing it here.
But it's part of the Republican strategy. Number one -- and you saw some of this in the hearing as well -- Mr. Morrison did say that.
If you read the full transcript of Mr. Morrison, he said something damaging about the president. He, too, went to the National Security Council lawyer and reported his concerns about the call.
They Republicans are and this is smart politically -- it would be smart in a trial for a lawyer -- they're cherry-picking the information that they believe helps them. They're want challenging the facts. I think that is the most important part.
We've now had five witnesses in public hearings, the public impeachment hearings, and the Republicans are not challenging the facts.
The facts are being billed that everyone involved, whether they're in Ukraine or the State Department or today inside the West Wing of the White House, thought this was off the rails, thought it was wrong, thought it was improper, though it was possible illegal when you got to the question of putting the hold on the money. The Republicans aren't challenging that.
What they're trying to do is hold the Republicans in line by raising questions about judgment, about loyalty, about maybe political motivations or we're you leaking. It's all a side show, but it's an important side show politically to keep Republicans from breaking. TAPPER: Laura Coates, your take on, this time, not the president but
the White House itself attacking a witness -- that's my interpretation -- I should say criticizing, publicly airing critical testimony against one witness while that witness was testifying?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What I really have a problem with is this idea in isolation not providing the full context of the statement. When you do that and you use selective quotes, you mislead the public and the job of the White House is not to do just that. It's supposed to guide the public to lead them in genuine fact. In fact, that didn't happen. That led to the quote.
The real issue for me is let's compare last week to now. Last week, it was all about, well, he was inappropriate but not outlandish. Now it's, you described an abuse of power, you described a quid pro quo, but you didn't say the words bribery and extortion, therefore, it's not really a problem. That's the only leg they have to stand on.
That combined with -- the really offensive one here to me was the idea of, who are you to tell me this information, Vindman? They questioned why he had the audacity to want his name referred to as lieutenant colonel instead of mister. Who do you think you are? You have the audacity to wear your uniform in this courtroom, this professional hearing room. Who do you think you are?
And here you are, taking outside --
TAPPER: You see Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother, who also works in the White House, walking through the halls.
COATES: And you have both of them walking the halls and both in positions of real power. But he refused repeatedly to overstate his position. He refused to say that he was somebody who was in charge of policy.
Nobody questioned that he was in charge of policy to the -- that the president of the United States had the prerogative to set foreign policy as the real -- real diplomat. But they tried to attack him for that because they had nothing else there. It was the audacity arguments, the semantics.
I think it's the most effective unpersuasive and effective here. And one was, as Dana was talking about, if you do not have anything to retort to the actual substance, you have to fire shots at the messenger and take the position of, well, it may be important for the world to have heard this, but you were the wrong person to tell us.
If that's the case, Jake, who should it have been?
TAPPER: Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI, you know a little about mean tweets from President Trump and the White House.
TAPPER: So without going through your entire history, we heard Ambassador Yovanovitch last week say, in real time, that she found President Trump's tweet intimidating. Republicans have said that mean tweets cannot be intimidating, it just mean tweets, who cares.
Having been on the end of it, having been on the end of a negative campaign from President Trump, coming from the White House, what is it like? Is it intimidating? And what do you say to people who say, it's just a negative tweet, who cares?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, nobody said that to me because that's not what it is. It's absolutely horrifying. I know that from my time still serving in government, while I was serving as deputy director and acting director.
To be receiving those sorts of attacks from the president that you serve, while you're in a government position, and therefore not in any position to ever respond or reply or defend yourself in public, it is both horrifying to be turned upon like that by our chief executive of the nation.
And also just oddly -- you just feel so defenseless because there's absolutely nothing you can do to respond to it, to respond in a way with the sort of amplification and clarity that the president has when he speaks about anything.
It is absolutely horrifying. It's chilling to your family.
TAPPER: We heard Lieutenant Colonel Vindman say it's not just about the attacks of the president, it's everything it set off.
MCCABE: Right, that it sets off. It unleashes a whole torrent of the president's supporters, people who follow him closely, voters and folks like that. But even worse so, people on the Hill, other folks, elected representatives, in positions of authority, who pick up these false narratives and then begin to repeat the lies that the president says about you.
It's just -- I can't even adequately describe it. And I know exactly how Ambassador Yovanovitch feels.
TAPPER: So stepping back from that tweet from the White House, John Dean, tell us what you think was effective. What wasn't effective, what point were made?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: If I could just footnote what Andrew said about having been attacked. He knows, I know, you know the basic truth of what happened and efforts to stir up, confuse it. You get a certain comfort in knowing you've told the truth, and attacks just don't affect that.
I happened to have been in the Witness Protection Program, so I had extra help in protecting myself. But what's happened this morning, to me, was not surprising. There was a lot of speechifying. Republicans found they really had no questions very quickly and posturing, and started posturing, attacking the process. And it shows the weakness of their position overall. The Democrats obviously refuted some of that.
Big picture, nothing has changed. We're getting more confirmation, the public is getting educated, putting faces on these people and learning what, indeed -- how unprecedented that a president would use his office in this manner to get political advantage over his potential opponent.
TAPPER: Scott Jennings, I want to ask about one point that I thought was not ineffective by Republican Congressman Chris Stewart, of Utah, taking issue with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's use of the word "demand" for that part of the call with President Trump, suggesting he'd like a favor and wants President Zelensky to do something for him.
We heard Jennifer Williams and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman say they thought it was inappropriate and a demand.
But here's Chris Stewart taking issue with that. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Much has been talked about as we discussed between President Trump and President Zelensky and the word "favor" and it being interpreted as a basis for impeachment.
And your interpretation of the word "favor" -- and I'll paraphrase you and feel free to correct me. You said, In the military culture, which you and I are both familiar with, when a superior officer asks for a favor of a subordinate, they will interpret that as a demand.
Is that a fair synopsis of what you previously stated?
VINDMAN: Representative, when a superior makes a request, that's an order.
STEWART: OK. In short then you think your interpretation of a favor is a demand based upon your military experience in the military culture?
VINDMAN: I think that is correct.
STEWART: I think that is correct. Is President Trump a member of the military?
VINDMAN: He is not.
STEWART: Has he ever served in the military?
VINDMAN: Not that I'm aware of.
STEWART: Is President Zelensky a member of the military? VINDMAN: I don't believe so.
STEWART: The answer is, he's not.
Would it be fair then to take a person, who has never served in the military, and to take your re-evaluation of their words based on your military experience and your military culture, and to attach that culture and that meaning of those words to someone who's never served?
VINDMAN: Representative, I made that judgment, and I stick by that judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He calls in nonsense. I think that's nonsense, is what Stewart says right after I made that judgment. What do you think?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I thought it was an interesting line of questioning. But it went to the overall assertion by Republicans today that Vindman isn't in a position to know exactly what the president's state of mind was.
On other occasions, he says he never met or advised the president directly. He said, quote, "I don't know what the president was thinking." He said, quote, "I was making a judgment call as a layman."
What Stewart was doing was effective. To say you heard this but, because you don't know the president, you didn't speak to the president, and have a different frame of reference, you're giving your opinion instead of what may be the most important fact, which is what is the president's state of mind.
It's fine for Republicans to argue that today and I thought it was effective. That's all going to change tomorrow when Gordon Sondland shows up, because he actually has been talking to the president.
I view today, Jake, as bit of a bridge day to get to the main event, which is Sondland.
KING: It is a smart strategy. The Republicans are trying to get that one or two moments that are played on FOX News, that are played on social media, Trump-friendly social media. Where you say, aha, you think it's a demand, because you're a colonel, but the president wouldn't.
Republicans want you to focus on that one moment. The other day, it was, well, Ambassador Yovanovitch, if they wanted to remove you so they could be corrupt in Ukraine, why replace you with Bill Taylor, a man of great integrity? They want you to look at the one moment as opposed to the weeks before, the weeks after, which is Sondland, and more on what Rudy Giuliani were up to.
TOOBIN: Far be it for me to predict what viewers of FOX News will think. But can we talk about what a crazy position Stewart was taking there? This president of Ukraine has people dying from lack of military equipment. He has people dying every day because they don't have military equipment.
Donald Trump holds in his hand the potential to save the lives of Ukrainians. Do you think maybe he's going to agree to what Donald Trump says about anything to get that money?
I mean, the idea that this is -- well, it would be nice if you investigated Joe Biden. It's not a request. It's a demand with Ukrainians lives on the line.
TAPPER: Hold that thought. We'll talk about that.
We'll take a quick break.
Up next, the impeachment testimony resumes with two additional witnesses.
Plus, the president just responded to today's hearing.
Stay with us.