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Impeachment Hearings: Live Updates as Vindman and Williams Begin Testimony

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, used his opening statement before impeachment investigators to denounce the attacks leveled by President Trump and his allies against those who have appeared, or are scheduled to testify, in the impeachment inquiry.

“The vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible,” Colonel Vindman said, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

His remarks came after Mr. Trump has lashed out repeatedly against witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, disparaging their records and calling them “Never Trumpers” who are trying to take him down. Amid the threats, the Army has been assessing potential security threats to Colonel Vindman and his brother Yevgeny, who also works at the National Security Council. There have also been discussions about moving the Vindmans and their families on to a military base for their protection, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The colonel, who came to the United States as a refugee at the age of 3, referred to his family’s history in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, noting that in Russia, “offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life.”

“Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” Colonel Vindman said. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.

Colonel Vindman was one of the officials who listened in to Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and privately expressed concerns about it. On Tuesday, he was to testify that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was among the “disruptive actors” who were “promoting false information that undermined the United States’ Ukraine policy.”

According to his statement, he planned to say that the National Security Council and other agencies, including the State Department, “grew increasingly concerned about the impact that such information was having on our country’s ability to achieve our national security objectives.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Tuesday’s impeachment witnesses that Americans are grateful they have been willing to endure personal attacks by President Trump and others as they testified in the inquiry.

Mr. Schiff’s remarks came as some Republicans have assailed the motivations of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran and the top Ukraine official at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a national security aide for Vice President Mike Pence.

“Ms. Williams, we all saw the president’s tweet about you on Sunday afternoon and the insults he hurled at Ambassador Yovanovitch last Friday. You are here today, and the American people are grateful,” Mr. Schiff said as he opened the hearing, referring to Friday’s testimony by Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump lashed out at Ms. Williams — “whoever that is,” he tweeted — saying that she should read the transcripts of the July 25 call between him and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!” Mr. Trump wrote.

“Colonel Vindman, we have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character, and watched as certain personalities on Fox have questioned your loyalty,” Mr. Schiff said. “I note that you have shed blood for America, and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude.”

Two senior national security officials at the White House are challenging Mr. Trump’s description of his call with the Ukraine president as “perfect,” during Tuesday’s impeachment hearing by recalling their growing sense of alarm as they listened in real time to Mr. Trump appeal for investigations into a political rival.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran and the top Ukraine official at the National Security Council, is testifying that he was so disturbed by the call that he reported it to the council’s top lawyer. Jennifer Williams, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, said she found the president’s call unusual because it included discussion of a “domestic political matter.”

The pair is kicking off three days of testimony from nine diplomats and national security officials as Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee continue to build their case that Mr. Trump tried to extort Ukraine by withholding security aid until the government agreed to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden.

Colonel Vindman arrived at the hearing room in his dark blue Army dress uniform with military ribbons on his chest. Democrats are betting that Mr. Trump’s defenders will have a difficult time dismissing the testimony of a Ukrainian-American immigrant who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb.

Colonel Vindman’s previous testimony was filled with declarations of duty and patriotism as he described his concern at learning that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was leading a pressure campaign on Ukraine to announce the investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. Colonel Vindman is expected to say that at the direction of John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser at the time, he wrote a memorandum urging that security aid for Ukraine be restarted, but Mr. Trump refused to sign it.

Republicans are hoping to portray Colonel Vindman’s strong opinions about the president’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as just that — his own opinions about a telephone call for which a reconstructed transcript has already been released. They intend to point out that the president makes no mention of security aid during the call.

Colonel Vindman has been the subject of character attacks by Mr. Trump’s allies since he testified privately in the impeachment inquiry. The campaign against him has become so intense that the Army has been assessing potential security threats to Colonel Vindman and his brother Yevgeny, who also works at the National Security Council. There have also been discussions about moving the Vindmans and their families on to a military base for their protection, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

Kurt D. Volker, President Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, will testify Tuesday afternoon that he was out of the loop as Mr. Giuliani effectively sought to pressure Ukraine for investigations of the Bidens. Other witnesses, however, have challenged Mr. Volker’s testimony, describing him as a member of a trio known inside the Trump administration as the “three amigos,” who were running a shadow foreign policy on Ukraine with Rick Perry, the energy secretary, and Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump megadonor and the United States ambassador to the European Union.

Mr. Volker will be joined on the afternoon panel by Timothy Morrison, a longtime Republican congressional aide who has previously testified about a conversation between the president and Mr. Sondland in which Mr. Trump insisted that Ukraine must publicly announce investigations.

But Republicans plan to focus on Mr. Morrison’s assessment of the president’s July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky. Mr. Morrison told lawmakers that he heard nothing illegal as he listened to the call, though he was concerned that it could leak and cause political problems.

  • Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured Mr. Zelensky to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including the former vice president. Here’s a timeline of events since January.

  • A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.




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