The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up day three of the public portion of its partisan impeachment proceedings Tuesday with far from expected results for House Democrats desperately hoping to land a knock-out blow to the president. Four witnesses testified before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and each failed to provide incriminating evidence of a “high crime and misdemeanor” by the president.
The day began with Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a vice presidential advisor on Europe and Russia. Both morning witnesses had listened to the now infamous July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president.
Williams characterized the call as “unusual and inappropriate,” and Vindman testified that the phone call was itself clear evidence of wrongdoing worthy of presidential removal. Neither witness, however, offered new substantial facts in the case against the president proving any kind of a quid pro quo. They merely offered their feelings of concern over what they heard on the July phone call, an unredacted transcript of which has now been declassified and released to the public.
Vindman in particular, whose testimony Democrats and many in the media have honed in on as the most damaging to the president despite contributing little of substance to the proceedings, undercut his own credibility multiple times throughout his testimony.
For one, Vindman exaggerated his resume in his opening statement, claiming to have been the “principal advisor to the National Security Advisor and the president on Ukraine and the other countries in my portfolio.” When pressed on the assertion later in his testimony, Vindman was forced to admit that he had never met, spoken with, or advised the president on anything.
“You’ve never spoken to the president and told him advice on Ukraine,” Ohio Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio inquired.
“That is correct,” Vindman said.
Vindman also essentially admitted to leaking information to the anonymous whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment probe, providing further evidence of Vindman as a deep-state operative seeking to undermine the president’s policy agenda.
When California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes asked Vindman who he spoke with about the July phone call between Trump and the Ukraine president, Vindman mentioned Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and another unnamed individual within the intelligence community that Vindman was cut off from naming by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California.
“We need to protect the whistleblower. Please stop. I want to make sure that there is no effort to out the whistleblower through these proceedings,” Schiff interjected.
In the afternoon, members of the House Intelligence Committee heard from former State Department Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council Staffer Tim Morrison, both of whom resigned their government posts prior to their private depositions in front of the committee.
Both witnesses offered testimony Tuesday that cut right through the crux upon which the entire Democratic case of impeachment is built, which alleges Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation on the Biden family.
Volker and Morrison were each asked point-blank by Nunes whether either had been involved in any kind of bribery or extortion, both of whom answered with an authoritative “no,” and repeated their assertions that they had not seen anything resembling a quid pro quo multiple times throughout their testimony fielding the same question from several lawmakers.
“I was never involved in anything that I would consider to be bribery at all…or extortion,” Volker declared.
“Kind of hard to prove a corrupt quid pro quo theory when the key U.S. policy people, plus the Ukrainians, were never aware of such an arrangement,” tweeted Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, noting that even the Ukrainian president reported feeling no pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens. “Can we go back to governing now, that’d be great thanks.”
Kind of hard to prove a corrupt quid pro quo theory when the key U.S. policy people, plus the Ukrainians, were never aware of such an arrangement.
Can we go back to governing now, that’d be great thanks. https://t.co/HESOurfgzz
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 20, 2019
To make matters worse for Democrats, Morrison’s appearance before the committee further undermined Vindman’s earlier testimony, highlighting Vindman’s poor judgement and insubordination on the NSC by circumventing Morrison on key policy matters. Morrison’s testimony on Vindman corroborates Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s characterization of Vindman earlier this week as a Never-Trump bureaucrat who never accepted the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Johnson, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has made six trips to Ukraine since 2011, submitted a letter to the House Intelligence Committee Monday detailing his knowledge of the events surrounding the White House dealings with Ukraine and called out Vindman by name.
“A significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style,” Johnson wrote to the committee. “It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile.”
A new Politico/Morning consult poll released Tuesday morning spells more trouble for Democrats proceeding with their latest efforts to undo the 2016 election. According to the survey, 47 percent of independents now oppose the impeachment inquiry, a ten-point increase from the 37 percent of independents who opposed the investigation last week prior to the public hearings.
“Voter opposition to the impeachment inquiry is at its highest point since Morning Consult and POLITICO began tracking the issue,” said Morning Consult’s Vice President Tyler Sinclair.