Four key impeachment witnesses testify

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12:40 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman explains why he insisted on being called by his military rank

Earlier today, when GOP Rep. Devin Nunes called Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman "Mr. Vindman" the military officer quickly corrected him.

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart just asked him about it.

"I'm in uniform, wearing my military rank. I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that," Vindman said.

He continued, "The attacks that I've had in the press and Twitter have kind of eliminated the fact — that either marginalizing me as a military officer — or," before Stewart cut him off.

"I'm just telling you that the ranking member meant no disrespect to you," Stewart said.

"I believe that," Vindman said.

Vindman served multiple overseas tours, including in South Korea and Germany. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after being wounded in an IED attack and still carries shrapnel from the attack in his body, according to a source close to him.

Watch more:

12:37 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Why Schiff mentioned bribery at today's hearing

 Win McNamee/Getty Images
 Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff explained why lawmakers aren't asking witnesses to make a judgment on whether a crime was committed.

Speaking directly to people watching the hearing today, he went on to describe acts that could be considered bribery.

"Bribery does involve a quid pro quo, bribery involves the conditioning of an official act or something of value. An official act may be a White House meeting. An official act may be $400 million in military aid, and something of value to a president might include investigations of their political rival," Schiff said.

He then said it is the job of lawmakers to decided whether impeachable acts occurred

"The reason we don't ask witnesses that are fact witnesses to make a judgment about whether a crime or bribery has been committed, or whether, more significantly, what the founders had in mind when they itemized bribery or high-crimes or misdemeanors, is you're fact witnesses. It will be our job to decide whether the impeachable act of bribery has occurred," Schiff said.

Why Schiff brought this up: His remarks came after Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe brought out a stack of transcripts during his line of questioning to make the point that no witness has described Trump's actions as "bribery."

"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 zero," Ratcliffe said.

Watch the moment:

12:32 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Both of these witnesses have firsthand information about Trump's July 25 call

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

During her questioning of the witnesses, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier asked Vice President Pence's aide Jennifer Williams and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman if they possess "firsthand information" because they were both on Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Both witnesses responded that's correct.

Why this mattters: This rebuts a major GOP talking point about the witnesses who are testifying publicly in the impeachment inquiry. Republicans have repeatedly claimed that only individuals with second-hand and third-hand information about what Trump said were being called as witnesses.

In his opening statement before the first public hearing last week, Rep. Devin Nunes suggested that officials who were alarmed by President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine were typically basing their concerns off “second-hand, third-hand, and even fourth-hand rumors and innuendo.”

The fact is that various witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry have had firsthand knowledge of various components of the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine.

Watch the moment:

12:14 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman says Giuliani's foreign involvement "wasn't helpful"

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said Rudy Giuliani's involvement in foreign affairs "wasn't helpful" and didn't "advance US national security interests."

Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, asked Vindman: "Is it normal for a private citizen, a non-US government official, to get involved in foreign policy and foreign affairs like Mr. Giuliani?"

"I don't know if I have the experience to say that, but it certainly wasn't helpful, and it didn't help advance US national security interests," he said.

Remember: After pushing claims against Joe Biden for months, Giuliani ultimately met with a top aide to Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, in Madrid. That happened just days after the July 25 phone call where Trump asked Zelensky to hear Giuliani out.


12:09 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Fact check: Are Vindman and Williams "Never Trumpers"?

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Oliver Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Oliver Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Jim Himes asked Jennifer Williams and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman about the President's tweets claiming that they are "Never Trumpers."

Facts First: Both Williams and Vindman denied the accusation.

Williams said, "I'm not sure I know an official definition of a Never Trumper," adding she wouldn’t describe herself as such. Vindman said “I would call myself a never partisan."

Williams and Vindman are not the only witnesses in the impeachment hearings who have received this label. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Ambassador Bill Taylor, who testified last week, were also attacked by the President as “Never Trumpers.”

There is no evidence for any of these claims. (You can read a more in-depth fact-check here.)

12:10 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Why a GOP congressman just brought out stacks of transcripts


Rep. John Ratcliffe just brought out a stack of transcripts to make the point that no witness has described Trump's actions as "bribery."

Ratcliffe displayed transcripts from 10 closed-door depositions.

"These aren't all of the deposition transcripts. These are just 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," he said.

He continued:

"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 zero."

Watch the moment:

12:02 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman on the President's "Never Trumper" tweet: "I'd call myself a never partisan"

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide, was just asked if he was "Never Trumper."

Here's what he said:

"Representative, I'd call myself a never partisan."

Some background: President Trump called Vindman, an Army officer who is currently detailed to the National Security Council as its top Ukraine expert, a "Never Trumper" after he appeared in a closed-door deposition to testify in the impeachment inquiry.


12:02 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

This is how Vindman got his Purple Heart

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was asked by Democratic Rep. Jim Himes about the Purple Heart that he's wearing on his Army uniform today.

Vindman said that in 2004 he was involved in "probably the largest urban operation in decades" outside of Fallujah, Iraq, while he was serving in the Iraq war.

The vehicle he was traveling in hit an IED and the "device that penetrated armor" and he was injured.

Watch him explain:

12:08 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Williams: Trump's tweet "surprised" me

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Jennifer Williams said she was "surprised" by Trump's tweet this weekend claiming she was a "never Trumper."

First, some background: Trump resurfaced an unfounded accusation he has raised against other officials who have testified in the probe, characterizing Williams as a Never Trumper and associating her with other "Never Trumpers."

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes just asked her about it:

Himes: Ms. Williams, are you a never Trumper? 
Williams: I'm not sure I know an official definition of a never Trumper. 
Himes: Would you describe yourself that way? 
Williams: I wouldn't, no. 
Himes: Did that tweet make an impression on you when you read it? 
Williams: It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name.

Watch the moment: