Weekend Reads: 7 takeaways from Tuesday’s impeachment hearings - - PressFrom - Canada
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Weekend Reads 7 takeaways from Tuesday’s impeachment hearings

02:05  20 november  2019
02:05  20 november  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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On Tuesday , the House' s ongoing impeachment investigation held its third day of public hearings -- featuring National Security Council Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a member of Vice President Mike Pence' s staff.

The third day of public impeachment hearings on Tuesday saw testimony from four new witnesses. Here are five key takeaways But testimony on Tuesday provided evidence of Trump’ s direct role in the plot. Volker and a fellow witness, the National Security Council official Tim Morrison, both testified

After three witnesses in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump painted a broad picture last week of a U.S. foreign policy hijacked by political interests, this week began with testimony Tuesday from four people who serve inside the White House and on the front lines of U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine.

Tuesday’s hearings featured:

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the lead Ukraine expert on the National Security Council
  • Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee who was detailed to Vice President Pence on Eurasia matters
  • Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine
  • Tim Morrison a former National Security Council aide

All four previously testified in closed-door depositions. Here’s what we learned from their latest testimony.

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Here are some takeaways from the hearing so far The White House reacted to the substance of the impeachment inquiry in real time Tuesday , stepping up its engagement after facing persistent complaints from Republican allies that it wasn’t doing enough to counter the allegations against the

1. A big correction from Volker

Volker, like European Union Gordon Sondland before him, was forced to correct his testimony after other witnesses called it into question.

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The most important clarification came with regard to a July 10 meeting in which Sondland has now admitted he brought up investigations with Ukrainian leaders — after previously not disclosing that. Volker had previously testified that there was no mention of the investigations President Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani were seeking during that meeting. But other witnesses indicated then-National Security Adviser John Bolton shut down the meeting because of what Sondland said.

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Tuesday morning' s witnesses were Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the director of European affairs at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, who is 7 key moments from Vindman and Williams' public impeachment hearing . Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams testified in the

So on Tuesday, Volker confirmed it, saying Sondland made “a generic comment about investigations” toward the end of the meeting.

He added: “I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.”

2. Volker says anti-Biden campaign was problematic

Another key shift in his testimony came with respect to whether this push was a political one. Volker has testified that he didn’t push for an investigation of the former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter; he now says that he should have connected the dots between the Bidens and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian company that employed Hunter Biden.

He also said such a push for an investigation was wrong.

“In retrospect, I should have seen that connection [between Burisma and Biden] differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections,” he said.

Volker also added that there was no basis for Trump’s and Giuliani’s idea that Joe Biden’s actions in Ukraine — they allege he was trying to shut down an investigation of Burisma to benefit his son, despite plenty of contrary evidence — were improper.

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Here are several key takeaways from Tuesday ' s hearing , the third day of open hearings on the impeachment inquiry. After Williams testified she was on the call and took notes, Schiff asked her if there was anything she heard on the call "that you think may be relevant to our investigation."

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“The accusation that Vice President Biden was acting inappropriately didn’t seem at all credible to me,” he said.

“The allegations against Biden are self-serving and not credible,” Volker added at another point.

Volker, it bears mentioning, is one of three witnesses that Republicans asked for — along with Morrison.

3. An unknown Vindman contact in the intel community

In one of the tensest exchanges in the first hearing session, Vindman disclosed that he spoke with an intelligence community official about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but he declined to identify the official, saying his attorney had advised him not to do so.

When Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, began asking for more details about the person, Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) interjected and warned about any attempts to out the anonymous whistleblower who first filed a complaint involving the Trump call.

Nunes had made clear in his opening statement how important he felt it was to hear directly from the whistleblower, who has declined to give up their anonymity and is legally entitled to it.

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Nunes sought to argue that if Vindman didn’t know who the whistleblower was, he wouldn’t actually be outing anyone. But Vindman stood his ground.

“Per the advice of my counsel, I’ve — I’ve been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community,” he said.

Nunes soon suggested that Vindman might want to instead plead the Fifth Amendment — the one protecting witnesses against self-incrimination — to which Vindman’s lawyer objected.

“This does not call for an answer that is invoking the Fifth or any theoretical issue like that,” he said. “We’re following the ruling of the chair.”

Whoever the whistleblower is, the vast majority of that person’s claims were secondhand and have been confirmed by other witnesses, rendering the whistleblower’s unique insights into the impeachment inquiry somewhat limited.

4. Trump’s lack of interest in ‘corruption’

Vindman confirmed reporting that he had drafted talking points for Trump ahead of Trump’s April phone call with Zelensky and that those talking points included Ukrainian corruption.

“Those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the NSC staff for the president,” Vindman said.

That’s significant because Trump didn’t bring up corruption on the call, according to a transcript of it that the White House released last week — even as the White House’s readout of the call incorrectly stated that it had been discussed.

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The Washington Post previously reported that the readout was drafted before the call took place and wasn’t corrected afterward. But that makes two indications that corruption was supposed to be brought up on the call, and Trump didn’t do it.

That undermines the White House defense that Trump was truly concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that’s why he was pressing for specific investigations. That argument is already undermined by multiple pieces of evidence — including Giuliani’s public comments and that Trump has shown interest in only two investigations, both of which carry obvious personal benefits for him. Vindman’s testimony indicates that Ukrainian corruption wasn’t much of a priority for Trump, at least as of April.

David Holmes, a U.S. official who was in Ukraine, also testified last week that Sondland told him that Trump didn’t “give a s---" about Ukraine and just wanted his specific investigations.

5. Vindman: Nothing ‘nefarious’ in rough transcript omitting Burisma

Both Schiff and his counsel, Daniel Goldman, pressed Vindman on reports that he had recommended that the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky be corrected to include the word “Burisma.”

The idea appeared to be that something may have been omitted from the official transcript, which included a number of curious ellipses, that reflected poorly on Trump.

Vindman and Williams, both of whom were on the call, testified that Burisma was, in fact, mentioned. But Vindman suggested that its omission from the rough transcript wasn’t a big deal. He indicated that the drafting of the rough transcript followed a normal process and that he didn’t see anything wrong in his two suggestions not being included.

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“When I first saw the transcript without the two substantive items I attempted to include, I didn’t see that as nefarious,” he said.

6. GOP’s thinly veiled attacks on Vindman, and two striking rebuttals

Vindman, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States as a young child, has been attacked in conservative media arguably more than any other witness — including by suggestions that his loyalty may not be to the United States. Schiff even took time at the beginning of the hearing to warn Republicans against impugning Vindman’s character, invoking Fox News.

Against that backdrop, Vindman closed his opening statement with this note to his Soviet-born father, who brought his family to the United States.

“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 of America in search of a better life for our family,” he said. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Later in the hearing, Vindman also took exception to Nunes calling him “Mr. Vindman.”

“Ranking member, it’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman,” he said.

But those early events didn’t sway Republicans from a clearly strategic effort to raise questions about Vindman’s alleged self-importance, exploitation of his military service and — arguably — even his loyalty to the United States.

GOP counsel Stephen Castor asked Vindman about Oleksandr Danylyuk, a top Ukrainian official, having suggested that Vindman could be Ukraine’s defense minister — a very high-ranking position in the country’s government. (Danylyuk told The Post, “Clearly this was just a joke,” and added: “We had much more serious issues to discuss with different people.”)

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Vindman testified that he wasn’t sure whether the offer was a real one, given that he’s not a high-ranking official in the U.S. military, and that he reported it to his superiors.

“I’m an American,” he said. “I came here when I was a toddler. I immediately dismissed these offers, did not entertain them. … The whole notion is rather comical.”

Castor never raised the issue of Vindman’s loyalties, but he did suggest that the offer might present a conflict of interest. Vindman countered that his superiors never made such a determination.

Later, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) noted that Vindman was wearing his uniform despite usually wearing a suit to work. Stewart actually praised him for it, but it seemed a convenient way to inject a popular attack against Vindman. And just moments later, Stewart made clear he wasn’t being terribly friendly to Vindman. “Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?” he asked.

7. Questions about a Pence-Zelensky call

At the very start of Williams’s testimony, Schiff asked her about another Zelensky call — this one featuring Pence, on Sept. 18. Williams’s counsel interjected and stated that Pence’s office has determined that the call includes classified information and thus couldn’t be discussed in an open setting.

That’s interesting, because a Washington Post report in October about Pence’s role in all of this stated that U.S. officials determined that the Sept. 18 call was “somewhat perfunctory.”

As that report detailed, Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Zelensky to open specific investigations, including by withdrawing him from a planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration. That withdrawal was a core claim by the whistleblower, and Williams confirmed it Tuesday.

Williams and Schiff agreed that she would testify in writing about the call.

Paul Sonne contributed to this report.

Fox News interview gets awkward when guest asks why Tucker Carlson is still allowed on the air .
“The reality is this is someone who said white supremacy is a hoax, and why does Fox allow him to still be here in the first place?” asked Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Michael Blake. But Blake seized the moment to talk about something else — why the network host still has a job after airing the false claim that white supremacy is a “hoax.

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