As the second week of public impeachment hearings got underway, Americans heard from witnesses who could provide firsthand accounts of conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Calling what he heard on the July 25 phone call “inappropriate”, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, testified that it was “improper for the President to request… to demand an investigation into a political opponent”.
Foreign Service professional and an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, who was on the call and testified alongside Lt. Col. Vindman on Tuesday, called the call “unusual”. “… I found the July 25th call unusual because in contrast to other Presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.
Lt. Col. Vindman also testified that he spoke to State Department official George Kent and an unnamed intelligence official about the call.
A decorated Army officer, who has served in South Korea and Iraq, Lt. Col. Vindman was brought to the U.S. as a child by his family, which left the Soviet Union forty years ago. On Tuesday, he called attacks on the character of testifying public servants “reprehensible” and “vile”.
Addressing his father during his opening remarks, he said his decision to leave the Soviet Union forty years ago was the right one. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said.
Mr. Trump has publicly criticised those testifying, including on Twitter while their hearings were in progress, as in the case of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s last week.
The U.S. Army is considering moving Lt. Col. Vindman and his family to a military base for their physical safety, if required, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Both provided firsthand testimonies of the call. This is significant given that one of the core Republican strategies has been to discount the testimonies, saying they are based on second- or thirdhand accounts.
In his opening remarks, ranking Intelligence Committee member, Devin Nunes, focused his criticism on “media”, referring to some of them as “puppets of the Democratic Party”.
The actual contents of the impeachment hearing are not expected to alter where most Americans stand on impeachment, as per a new poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist. While half of Americans approve of the inquiry, 43% disapprove. And while they are split between approval (47%) and disapproval (46%) for impeaching Mr. Trump, 65% of Americans say they cannot imagine information or circumstances arising from the impeachment inquiry that would change their position on impeachment.
Former special envoy to Ukraine , Kurt Volker and National Security Official Tim Morrison testified before the House panel on Tuesday afternoon.