Four key impeachment witnesses testify

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 8:44 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019
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11:56 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman: It's "preposterous" to think I'd leak information

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said it's "preposterous" to think he'd leak information.

"Colonel, you never leaked information?" Rep. Jim Jordan asked Vindman, who is under oath.

"I never did — never would. That is preposterous that I would do that," he said.

Just before this, Jordan asked Vindman about testimony from Tim Morrison, in which he said Vindman may have leaked information.

"Mr. Jordan, I would say that I can't say what Mr. Morrison — why Mr. Morrison questioned my judgment," Vindman said. "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."


11:55 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Williams: Vice President Pence has "never brought up" the investigations

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

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, said he has never brought up investigations into the Bidens and Burisma.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff mentioned the investigations while describing a meeting Pence had with the Ukrainian president in September. He said two to three dozen people were in the meeting.

Schiff asked if Pence mentioned the investigation during the meeting.

"No, he did not bring up those investigations. He's never brought up those investigations," Williams responded.

Watch more:

11:47 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman ignores question about his loyalty to the United States

From CNN's Michael Warren

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

During the short break, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman did not answer a question from CNN about whether he felt his loyalty to America was being questioned in the ongoing hearing.

Vindman appeared to ignore the question, which we asked outside the Capitol Hill hearing room.

Vindman's twin brother Yevgeny Vindman, who has accompanied his brother to Tuesday's hearing, also appeared to ignore a similar question.

Republican counsel Steve Castor asked Vindman several questions about an offer from Ukrainian officials to serve as Ukraine's defense minister. 

Vindman testified that while the offer had been made three times, he refused each time. He also appeared to treat the offer as amusing rather than serious. He said to lawmakers he did tell his chain of command about the offers.

Vindman was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated as a toddler to the United States. He is an American citizen and an Army officer.

The hearing has now resumed.

11:43 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman says there was no ambiguity when Trump asked for Biden investigation

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said there was no ambiguity when President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 call to investigate the Bidens.

Vindman was answering questions from House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff.

Here's their exchange:

Schiff: "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."
11:35 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

The hearing has resumed

We just returned from a short break. Members of the committee now get five minutes each to ask questions.

1:56 p.m. ET, November 19, 2019

6 key takeaways from the hearing so far

From CNN's Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb, Phil Mattingly and Adam Levine

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

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide, are testifying today before the House Intelligence Committee.

Here are some of the key takeaways so far:

  • About the call: The July 25 call was not “perfect” based on what Vindman and Williams told lawmakers about the improper politics of the asks by President Trump. The President was acting on his own in the July call in asking for the investigations and was provided with no talking points to back that up.
  • Vindman describes July 10 meeting: This is the first public description by an eyewitness of a demand in the White House of a direct quid pro quo by Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
  • The witnesses have been careful: Witnesses are being very careful and are working to make sure their bona fides are stated publicly. They are clearly conscious of revealing information improperly and inviting retribution.
  • On the transcript edits: Vindman makes clear in his mind the edits of the call transcript were “no big deal." He also said he understood the reason for putting the transcript in the server to prevent leaking. 
  • The vice president's role is not clear: Williams provides some backing to Vic President Mike Pence, describing what occurred in a meeting between him and the Ukrainian president in Warsaw. But Pence's role is still not totally clear, and Williams didn’t know contents about a Trump-Pence call after Warsaw meeting.
  • There was a flare-up about the whistleblower: Republican Rep. Devin Nunes is working hard to make it appear like Chairman Adam Schiff is "hiding something." Nunes was clearly trying to make Vindman look like a leaker. Vindman does acknowledge talking to two people outside the White House, someone at the State Department and someone in intelligence.  
11:32 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

GOP saved information about Vindman's job offer from Ukraine for this hearing

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Shawn Thew/Pool
Shawn Thew/Pool

Republican attorney Steve Castor revealed a surprising fact during his line of questioning to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: The witness was offered a job as the Ukrainian defense minister.

It’s a new piece of information, previously unknown, that did not arise during Vindman’s closed door testimony.

Vindman made light of the offer, which he said arose three separate times from the Ukrainian national security adviser. He said it was laughable someone of his rank would be offered such a senior position. And he said he was an American and never considered it.

So what was the Republican strategy in raising the offer? In theory, it could raise questions about Vindman’s loyalty — a risible notion, given Vindman’s heroic service in the US military, including in Iraq, where he was wounded (Vindman still has shrapnel in his body).

It could also set up soundbites for conservative media looking to undermine Vindman.

Castor also seemed to question how the offer was presented, asking Vindman whether the national security adviser asked in English or Ukrainian.

Vindman said the adviser is a flawless English speaker who asked in English, and said there were other US officials who heard the offer.

11:30 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

Vindman said he received "rather comical" offer to be Ukraine's defense minister, which he "dismissed"

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that, at one point, former head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Danylyuk offered him the position of Ukraine's defense minister, which he said he "dismissed."

Vindman testified that after receiving the offer he told his superiors and the "appropriate counterintelligence folks" about it and then "forgot about it."

"I'm an American... I immediately dismissed these offers," Vindman said.

Vindman said "the whole notion was rather comical."

Vindman said his bosses never raised the issue of a conflict of interest with him continuing his work with the National Security Council after this offer.

He added: "Frankly, if they were concerned about me being able to continue my duties, they would have brought that to my attention."

Watch more:

11:19 a.m. ET, November 19, 2019

The hearing is now on a short break

The Republicans' 45-minute round of question just wrapped up. The hearing is taking a quick break now.

When they come back, each member of the committee will get 5 minutes to ask questions.