Four key impeachment witnesses testify
A US Army spokesperson tells CNN that “a Soldier performing duties in an official capacity will normally be in uniform.”
“In cases where a Soldier is detailed to an agency outside of DoD, the individual would follow the policies of that agency," Col. Kathy Turner, Army spokesperson said.
It is not unusual for military officials detailed to the NSC to wear civilian attire while working in White House and wear their uniforms while appearing before congressional hearings.
For example, Oliver North appeared in uniform during the Iran-Contra hearings in the 1980s.
Several Republican members have sought to question Lt. Col. Vindman’s stature inside the White House, seeking to portray him as a disgruntled underling who inflated his own importance.
Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah even went as far to point out that Vindman was wearing a military uniform to his hearing, even though he normally wears a suit to his job at the White House. And he asked why Vindman clarified his rank during earlier questioning with Rep. Devin Nunes.
“I’m in uniform wearing my military rank. I thought it was appropriate to stick with that. The attacks that I’ve had in the press and Twitter have marginalized me as a military officer,” he said.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney opened his questioning of Lt. Col. Vindman by pointing out that this is one of Vindman's first congressional hearings at which he's testified.
Vindman shot back, "and hopefully the last," which got laughs from the chamber, including his fellow witness, Pence aide Jennifer Williams.
"I can't blame you for feeling that way," Maloney responded.
Watch the moment:
Democratic Rep. Denny Heck pointed out that, moments ago, the White House tweeted to discredit Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's judgement, citing testimony from Tim Morrison.
Here's the tweet:
"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 your judgment. I can only conclude sir that what we thought was just the President as the subject of our deliberations in this inquiry isn’t sufficient to capture what’s happening here," Heck said.
Remember: Despite Morrison’s concerns, he still said Vindman was a patriot who “literally bled for our country.”
His concerns seemed primarily that he wasn’t cut out for policymaking.
Here's the transcript:
Watch the moment:
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has reached out to the US Army about the security of his family as he comes under repeated attack by Trump and his allies.
The Army has had conversations with Vindman about the security of his family, a US defense official told CNN. These conversations were initiated at the request of the Vindmans, the source said. As of now, the Army does not believe there is an imminent security threat against the decorated veteran, the defense official said.
"The Army is providing supportive assistance to help Lt. Col. Vindman with the public attention. As a matter of practice, the Army would neither confirm nor deny any safety or security measures taken on behalf of an individual; however, as we would with any Soldier, the Army will work with civilian authorities to ensure that he and his family are properly protected," Army spokeswoman Col. Kathy Turner said.
Earlier today, Vindman told lawmakers that Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on a July call was "inappropriate," and he knew "without hesitation" that he had to report it. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine.
Trump claimed, without citing specific evidence, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was holding out on bringing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) up to a vote to “get impeachment.”
“The woman is grossly incompetent. All she wants to do is focus on impeachment which is just a little pipe dream she’s got,’ he said.
“I’ve been told, and who knows if this is so, but I think it’s so. I have pretty good authority on it, that she’s using USMCA because she doesn’t have the impeachment votes. So she’s using USMCA to get the impeachment vote,” Trump said.
Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe asked Pence aide Jennifer Williams if she believed that Trump made a demand for an investigation by Trump on his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"I don't believe I'm in a position to characterize it further than the President did in terms of asking for a favor," Williams said.
Ratcliffe followed up and asked if she heard a demand by Trump. She replied, "Again, I would just refer back to the transcript itself."
Rep. Joaquin Castro brought a lighter moment during the hearing when he cracked a joke about having identical twins.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide, has an identical twin, and so does Castro. (His brother, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, is a Democratic presidential candidate.)
"It's great to talk to a fellow identical twin," Castro joked. "I hope that your brother is nicer to you than mine is to me and doesn't make you grow a beard."
The room briefly erupted in laughter before returning to the line of questioning.
Watch the moment:
Rep. Joaquin Castro pointed out that the rumors Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election are "a debunked conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact."
He then asked Lt. Col. Vindman if he is aware of any evidence that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 election.
"I am not, and further, I would say this is a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted," Vindman said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell used a strategy that we've seen from Democrats this week to attempt to undercut the GOP argument that, even if Trump attempted to hold up aid to Ukraine until they committed to investigate the Bidens, he didn't succeed and the money ultimately flowed.
"Suppose you have a shooting victim and police respond after the victim is doing a little better, and they ask the victim, tell us what happened. The victim says, somebody came up to my car, shot me in the car, hit me in the shoulder, hit me in the back and neck. Miraculously I survived but I can identify who it is that pulled the trigger," Swalwell said.
He continued: "The police say, OK, you were shot, you know who it is. But, shucks, you didn't tell us that this was an attempted murder, so we're going to have to let the person go. Is that how it works in our justice system, that unless witnesses identify a legal part of the case, we just let them off the hook? Is that how it works?"
"I'm not an attorney but it doesn't seem so," Vindman responded.