Things got heated Tuesday at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council and the first current White House official to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Sources from both parties, five in all, tell CNN a shouting match erupted during the closed-door session surrounding what Democrats say was a Republican effort to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who first raised alarms about the call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Vindman testified he does not know the whistleblower's identity. Republicans say the Democrats' accusations are incorrect and that they were simply questioning Vindman about people he may have spoken with. Read on for more on that, plus what Democrats are saying about his "disturbing" testimony:
- Democrats' view: "What the Republicans are trying to do in there, very clearly in their questioning, is try to front-door or backdoor Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony, he said he didn't know," said Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "They are trying to, through the back door and through process of elimination by their questions, they are attempting to get him to reveal that, and they have been unsuccessful."
- Republicans' view: "How can we out someone when we don't know he is," said GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, who was reportedly directly involved in the shouting match. "I've not been on any fishing expedition," he told reporters. "I only ask questions we know the answer to."
- But: Though GOP lawmakers disagreed with the Democrats' assessment publicly, one anonymously acknowledged to CNN, "I think we would like to know—with whistleblower protections in mind—we would like to hear from the whistleblower and we would also like to know who the whistleblower talked to. We got one guy who is trying to bring down the President of the United States and we cannot even hear from that person."
- As for the rest of Vindman's testimony: The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee describes it as "extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing" to NBC News. Vindman is the first person who listened in on the Ukraine phone call to testify, the Washington Post reports.
- More: He testified that he was concerned the president's request that Ukraine investigate his political rivals could "undermine US national security" and reported it to the NSC's lead counsel. He said he twice raised concerns about it, per the AP. Wasserman Schultz said his testimony "corroborated the testimony of other witnesses" that "really drew a direct line to the President, and those around him and their interest in withholding foreign aid through Ukraine that was vital, as well as insisting on investigations into Biden."
- Discrepancies? The Post notes Vindman's testimony "directly challenged that of US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland," who said no one raised concerns about Trump's actions. There have been similar discrepancies between Sondland's testimony and that of others, and some lawmakers want Sondland to testify again regarding those discrepancies. Sondland was on Capitol Hill Monday reviewing the transcript of his previous testimony. Vindman testified that he raised concerns that both Trump and Sondland were inappropriately pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
- Republicans defend Vindman: Trump on Tuesday criticized Vindman, and on Fox News Monday night, a former Justice Department official talked with Laura Ingraham about whether Vindman, who sometimes spoke to Ukrainian officials in his and their native tongue, might be effectively engaging in espionage. Per the Hill, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney said it's "shameful" to be "questioning the patriotism, questioning the dedication to country of people like Mr. Vindman" and others who have testified. Politico notes other top Republicans echoed those thoughts.
(More on Vindman's backstory, which "has the makings of an only-in-America movie," here