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It was a long day on Capitol Hill, as four witnesses testified before House impeachment investigators over a span of more than 11 hours. Here’s a recap of the biggest moments, and some analysis about what it all meant.
Who testified today?
In the morning, impeachment investigators held a joint hearing with Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence. Both listened to the July 25 phone call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which is at the center of the inquiry.
In the afternoon, they heard testimony from Kurt D. Volker, Mr. Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, a former top National Security Council official. Both were on the witness list that Republicans submitted.
What were the highlights?
Colonel Vindman said he believed that Mr. Trump’s request for Ukraine to open investigations into his political rivals should be viewed as demands, and that they were “inappropriate” and “likely to have significant implications” for national security. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said of the July 25 call. “My worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out.”
Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both testified that the hold on nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine was damaging to Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian aggression. “Any signal or sign that U.S. support was wavering would be construed by Russia as potentially an opportunity for them to strengthen their own hand in Ukraine,” Ms. Williams said, relaying what the president of Ukraine told Mr. Pence during a meeting on Sept. 1.
Dressed in his deep-blue Army dress uniform, Colonel Vindman, an Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, addressed his father, who fled Ukraine with his family when Colonel Vindman was a toddler. “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.” He added: “Here, right matters.”
Mr. Volker portrayed himself as out of touch with Mr. Trump’s Ukraine dealings, saying that he didn’t know of “any linkage between the hold on security assistance and Ukraine pursuing investigations.” He later said that he considered concerns around the 2016 election and Mr. Biden to be “conspiracy theories,” and “not things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy.”
Mr. Morrison explained how the normal National Security Council leadership structure was subverted by Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, saying it was referred to internally as “the Gordon problem.” He said he “decided to keep track of what Ambassador Sondland was doing. I didn’t necessarily always act on things Gordon suggested he believed were important.”
Here’s a quick video recap of some of the biggest moments. And if you want to go deeper, here’s our full story on the day’s events, and the opening statements by Colonel Vindman, Ms. Williams, Mr. Volker and Mr. Morrison.
How Republicans attacked Colonel Vindman
Mr. Trump’s allies spent several hours suggesting that Colonel Vindman was operating as a rogue agent without real access in the White House, disliked by his superiors and undercutting the staff hierarchy. Here’s a glimpse of their efforts to attack him.
In the hearing room, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee used their allotted question time to undermine Colonel Vindman’s credibility. Representative Jim Jordan, one of the president’s most aggressive defenders, suggested that Colonel Vindman leaked information to the press, a charge Colonel Vindman strongly denied.
On social media, the White House’s official Twitter account continually tweeted and retweeted criticism of Colonel Vindman, including a graphic featuring a line from Mr. Morrison’s closed-door testimony about “concerns” he had with Colonel Vindman.
And in the White House, Mr. Trump got in on the action after an early-afternoon Cabinet meeting, appearing to mock Colonel Vindman for wearing his uniform to testify and for correcting a congressman who forgot his military rank. “I don’t know Vindman,” he said. “I never heard of him.”
The whistle-blower returns
During Colonel Vindman’s testimony, Representative Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, cut off a few lines of questioning by Republicans that he said were aimed at revealing the identity of the anonymous whistle-blower. I asked my colleague Julian Barnes, who covers the C.I.A., about the repeated references to the whistle-blower today.
Julian, why did Republicans make the whistle-blower part of their approach to questioning Colonel Vindman?
JULIAN: Republicans have made central to their narrative of criticizing this impeachment inquiry the idea that these accusations against Mr. Trump originated with an unknown and far-removed person from the C.I.A. They didn’t use that term “deep state” today, but by highlighting the whistle-blower and highlighting the Democrats’ reluctance to call forward the whistle-blower to testify, they’re trying to impugn the entire proceeding.
What comes from trying to lead others into identifying the whistle-blower?
JULIAN: Republicans are clearly not going to go so far as to identify the whistle-blower themselves in these public hearings. But they certainly would like someone else to identify the whistle-blower, whether a mainstream media outlet or a government official in testimony. And they also want to highlight that this is an area of testimony that the Democrats don’t want to go to. They appear to be making the case that Democrats are trying to hide something.
We saw overlapping Republican arguments about Colonel Vindman and the whistle-blower, which is that they don’t know enough to know that Mr. Trump may have done something impeachable.
JULIAN: The whistle-blower, in their view, is at the furthest remove: He doesn’t work in the White House. He doesn’t make policy. The problem with what the Republicans are doing by attacking whistle-blower is that it’s so much harder to make that argument with the witnesses today, three of whom were on the July 25 call. The central event in the whistle-blower complaint was that call. It was built around that call.
What else we’re reading tonight
Two Intelligence Committee lawyers are asking many of the questions in the public impeachment hearings. Read more about them.
Some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders in the Senate have twisted themselves into contortions to avoid becoming enmeshed in the impeachment inquiry. Then there’s Ron Johnson.
Who’s on deck?
Tomorrow’s first witness is Mr. Sondland, who made significant revisions to his original closed-door testimony, admitting that he negotiated a potential quid pro quo. My colleague Maggie Haberman says the White House is on edge: