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Tuesday's Hearings Called a 'Very Bad Day' for Trump

GOP's witnesses weren't much help, analysts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2019 4:40 AM CST
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Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, return from a break as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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(Newser) – Tuesday's impeachment hearings were a "great day for Republicans," President Trump tweeted—but many analysts disagree. After Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a Mike Pence aide, testified in the morning, the House Intelligence Committee heard from Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, a senior director on the National Security Council. Both witnesses were requested by Republicans, who saw them as favorable, but their testimony was not seen as seriously damaging to the case for impeachment. More:

  • Testimony "didn't help Trump." Volker—who defended Joe Biden in his opening statement—and Morrison did little to help Trump's case, though both men said nobody at the White House asked them to bribe anybody, writes Russell Berman at the Atlantic. "What the two witnesses presented to lawmakers, however, was consistent with the testimony that’s been delivered in the House for the past week—that Trump’s demand for an investigation of Biden was at best unusual and inappropriate, and perhaps much worse," he writes.

  • Volker surprise. NBC, which calls Tuesday a "very bad day" for Trump, notes that Volker revised statements made in closed-door testimony and "portrayed himself as having been duped by his colleagues." In hindsight, he said, "I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, 'Burisma,' as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden. In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections."
  • A "disaster for Republicans." Zack Beauchamp at Vox calls Tuesday's hearing a "disaster for Republicans," in which all "four of the witnesses confirmed key parts of the overall case against the president." Republicans on the committee ended up attacking the witnesses instead of challenging the testimony, and there was "a notably ugly example when Steve Castor, the Republican attorney in charge of questioning, scrutinized Vindman’s patriotism," he writes.
  • A lack of interest in corruption? The Washington Post notes Vindman testified that corruption was among the talking points he drafted for Trump's April phone call with Ukraine's president, but Trump failed to bring it up. This could undermine the president's defense that he only called for investigations because he was concerned about corruption, the Post notes, though Volker testified that during a briefing in May, Trump "had just a string of comments that 'Ukraine is a terrible place, they're all corrupt, they’re terrible people, they tried to take me down.'"
  • Trump's "unusual actions." The testimony from Volker and Morrison wasn't as "damning" as the morning testimony, but they "both highlighted how unusual the president’s actions were," according to the New York Times. Volker said he didn't consider Joe Biden, the 2016 election, "or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories that have been circulated by the Ukrainians" were "things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine." Morrison, asked whether he thought asking a foreign government to investigate a political rival was inappropriate, said: "It is not what we recommend the president discuss."
(Trump weighed in on proceedings, against the advice of Fox hosts.)

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