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The House Intelligence Committee divided its third day of public impeachment hearings into two parts Tuesday, each with witnesses who have firsthand knowledge of the Trump administration’s actions in Ukraine. Here are 8 moments you don’t want to miss:
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is the director of European affairs at the National Security Council. He described his family’s journey as refugees from Ukraine 40 years ago. “When my father was 47 years old, he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States,” Vindman said in his opening statement. “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 my and my family’s safety.” Vindman noted that the act of publicly testifying against a president could cost him his life in many countries, including Russia. Watch here.
Ranking Member Devin Nunes asked Vindman for more detail about individuals he spoke to about the Trump-Zelensky call. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff quickly interrupted saying, “we need to protect the whistleblower. … I want to make sure that there is no effort to out the whistleblower through these proceedings. If the witness has a good faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, that is not the purpose that we are here for.”
When pushed again by Nunes about the people he spoke with, Vindman opted to not name members of the intelligence community. Watch here.
At several points in the hearing, Vindman had to defend his record in the military and allegiance to the United States. Republican counsel Stephen Castor asked Vindman about an offer he received to become Ukraine’s defense minister. Vindman confirmed he was offered the role three times, but said he never seriously considered it.
“Every single time I dismissed [the offer]. Upon returning, I notified my chain of command,” Vindman said. “I’m an American. I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers. I did not entertain them.”
Castor continued to press the issue, asking whether Vindman left “the door open” for Ukraine to repeatedly offer the position. Watch here.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., outlined the most inflammatory allegations about Trump and his call with Zelensky. She asked if either Volker or Morrison had heard talk of withholding aid, or bribery, or extortion or quid quo pro or “any evidence of treason” and both men said no. Watch here.
Democrats pressed Morrison on previous testimony he gave stating his concern that the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky would be disclosed. Morrison said he worried about the potential political fallout if the call record became public.
“You would agree, right, that asking a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival is inappropriate. Would you not?” asked Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman.
“It’s not what we recommend that the president discuss,” Morrison replied. Watch here.
Republicans have continued to defend the Trump administration’s actions in Ukraine with allegations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in corruption. When questioned by Schiff about the criticism against Biden, Volker defended the former vice president.
“I’ve known former Vice President Biden for a long time. I know how he respects his duties of higher office and it’s just not credible to me that the vice president of the United States is going to do anything other than act as how he sees best for the national interest.” Watch here.
In a significant move for the impeachment inquiry, Volker changed his statements Tuesday from testimony he previously gave to lawmakers during his closed-door hearing. Volker stated earlier that he saw no indication that military aid and a White House meeting was being used to push Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals. On Tuesday, he shifted that perspective.
“Since I gave my testimony on Oct. 3, a great deal of additional information and perspectives have come to light,” Volker said. “I’ve learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question. He later continued , “I did not know that President Trump or others had raised Vice President Biden with Ukrainians or had conflated the investigation of possible Ukrainian corruption with investigation of the former vice president. In retrospect, for Ukrainians, it would clearly have been confusing.” Watch here.
In his final statement on Tuesday, Schiff offered a searing assessment of Republicans’ response to the allegations against Trump.
“All they seem to be upset about with this is not that the president sought an investigation of his political rival. Not that he withheld a White House meeting and $400 million in aid we all passed on a bipartisan basis,” Schiff said. “Their objection is that someone blew the whistle, and they would like this whistleblower identified. And the president wants this whistleblower punished.” Watch here.
Candice Norwood is a former digital politics reporter for the PBS NewsHour.
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