The big moments from Tuesday's public impeachment hearings

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff that while listening in on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Vindman thought it was improper for Trump to "demand an investigation."

Posted: Nov 19, 2019 11:40 AM
Updated: Nov 19, 2019 11:40 AM

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.

I am watching the hearing and taking notes -- so you don't have to! Below, the biggest moments from the hearing.

Adam Schiff tries to prebut attacks on Vindman/Williams

Even before Vindman or Williams had said a word, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (California) sought to warn his Republican colleagues against attacking either of the witnesses.

Of Vindman, who received a Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED in Iraq, Schiff said: "We have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character, and watched as certain personalities on Fox have questioned your loyalty. I note that you have shed blood for America, and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude."

Noting that Trump had attacked both Williams and Vindman, Schiff later added, "I hope no one on this committee will become part of those vicious attacks."

Will Schiff's warning change how Republicans will handle Vindman and Williams? Probably not. But it makes clear that Democrats will not let any attacks on either witness simply pass.

Devin Nunes really doesn't like the media

Listening to the opening statement of Rep. Devin Nunes (California), you'd be forgiven if you thought that Tuesday's hearing was an examination of the national media and its role in politics and policy.

Nunes claimed that the media was responsible for, among other things, pushing the idea that Trump's 2016 presidential campaign colluded with the Russians (the Department of Justice decided to open the investigation, not the media) and working with Democrats to drum up controversy surrounding Ukraine (the witnesses called so far in the impeachment investigation have been members of the Trump administration.)

Nunes also used his opening statement to defend a series of columns written by John Solomon, a former columnist for The Hill newspaper, raising questions about the conduct of Joe and Hunter Biden's activities in Ukraine. "Now that Solomon's reporting is a problem for the Democrats, it's a problem for the media as well," said Nunes. (The Hill is in the midst of an investigation into Solomon's columns.)

How much did Nunes actually talk about the facts of the Ukraine investigation or the witness testimony we were going to hear? Uh, not much.

Vindman's powerful opening statement

Vindman's personal story -- brought with his twin brother to the United States from Russia at age 3, decorated military service, years of work as a Ukraine expert -- is compelling to read on a piece of paper. It was that much more compelling to hear him relate his life journey in his opening statement while wearing the uniform of the US Army.

Vindman's closing lines were particularly powerful:

"I am grateful for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family's safety.

"Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty 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. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."

You will be seeing and hearing that last line -- "I will be fine for telling the truth" -- a whole lot today and in the days to come.

Vindman calls out "false narrative" in Ukraine

Vindman didn't mince words when asked why he immediately reported to his superiors his discomfort with Trump's actions on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

He said he was previously aware of an "alternative false narrative" prior to the call. Pushed on whether those "false narratives" were the ideas that a) Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election to aid Hillary Clinton and b) the Ukrainians had not adequately looked into allegations that Joe and Hunter Biden had committed some wrongdoing regarding Ukraine, Vindman confirmed that they were.

Neither of those claims, which Trump relayed in his July 25 call with Zelensky, have any basis in known facts.

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