House Democrats kicked off week two of their open impeachment hearings on Tuesday with witnesses who listened firsthand when President Trump spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25 — a key moment in the Ukraine affair.
And members of Congress also said they’ve added a new witness to those slated to appear this week: David Holmes, the diplomatic aide posted to Ukraine who appeared for a closed-door deposition last week, now is scheduled to appear in an open hearing on Thursday morning.
The hearing on Tuesday opened with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army foreign area officer who serves on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign service officer detailed to the staff of Vice President Mike Pence.
Vindman and Williams were among the White House staffers who listened in on the phone call.
Vindman told House investigators in his earlier deposition that he immediately was concerned about Trump’s request for a “favor” from his Ukrainian counterpart. Vindman enlisted his twin brother, who also works for the White House, to report the matter to the National Security Council’s lawyer.
Vindman also said that the NSC attorney with whom he met, John Eisenberg, moved the official record of the call onto a highly classified system that few could access — a decision that Vindman called a departure from normal protocol.
Williams, for her part, told House investigators she thought Trump’s requests were “unusual and inappropriate.” She also described Trump’s decision to keep Pence from attending Zelenskiy’s inauguration even after the White House had resolved that the vice president would go.
Trump faults, critics see ‘intimidation’
Trump didn’t care for Williams’ deposition and said so in a post on Twitter over the weekend.
The president’s response was the second time he has posted about a witness in the ongoing hearings, following a tweet last week about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Trump’s ongoing responses to the impeachment inquiry have raised questions about whether they could become the subject of eventual articles of impeachment.
Democrats say the president is trying to dissuade people from talking publicly.
“I absolutely believe this is witness intimidation,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told CNN on Monday.
The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to convene a second panel on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET with two more important witnesses:
Kurt Volker, the former State Department envoy to Ukraine for its peace negotiations and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide.
Volker was at the center of the alternate policy channel for Ukraine run by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Volker helped broker an important meeting between Giuliani and an aide to Zelenskiy this summer.
Morrison was among those who heard the Trump-Zelenskiy call firsthand when it happened and although he testified that he was concerned about what might have happened if it became public, he saw nothing illegal.
Morrison holds an expansive view about the president’s powers and he told House investigators that, in the way he views the Constitution, Trump has the final say on nearly every aspect of foreign policy.
Republicans likely want to draw him out about that because it speaks to one of the main defenses that supporters have articulated throughout the Ukraine affair.
Supporters argue that Trump’s desire for Zelenskiy to launch investigations he thought might help him in the 2020 election were within his power and, although some members of Congress disagree about whether or not that was appropriate, most Republicans have remained unified that the request was not impeachable.
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