The second week of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump got underway Tuesday morning with testimony from two top national security aides who have firsthand knowledge and listened to the president's phone call with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Top Ukraine expert, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, were called to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee after they were subpoenaed as part of the inquiry into the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky. The impeachment inquiry came about after a complaint filed by a still-unnamed whistleblower, President Trump reportedly pressured Ukraine's leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son for his dealings with a gas company in Ukraine. Democrats are accusing Trump of using $400 million in military aide earmarked by Congress for Ukraine as leverage for President Zelensky to publicly announce he was launching an investigation into Biden's son, Hunter.
According to the rules and procedures outlined for the hearings by Democrats, the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee will be allowed to question witnesses for up to 90 minutes, with 45 minutes apiece allowed for Democrats and Republicans. Committee aides will also be allowed time to question witnesses. A summary of the resolution states that will allow staff counsels to "follow their lines of inquiry to their ends," instead of having lawmakers question witnesses for five minutes.
During her opening statement before the impeachment inquiry, Williams said she found the call between Trump and Zelensky, "unusual."
"I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter," she said.
Vindman, who worked as the White House's top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council, said he too, had been concerned about what he heard on the phone call between Trump and Zelensky and that he'd reported his concerns, during his opening statement on Tuesday.
"It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine US national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region," Vindman said.
Both witnesses have previously testified behind closed doors before appearing at today's public hearing.
Two other witnesses are scheduled to take the stand today, including former Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker, who is being summoned before the committee because he had multiple dealings with Rudy Giuliani,Trump's personal lawyer.
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