Donald Trump’s personal physician, Navy commander Sean Conley, has written a letter insisting the president’s unannounced Saturday visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, was “a routine, planned interim checkup”.
“Despite some of the speculation, the president has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues,” Commander Conley wrote in his statement, issued by the White House in a bid to dispel rumours that a more serious health complaint was being covered up.
Four key witnesses are due to appear before the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday to testify on the Ukraine scandal – Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison – after the US Supreme Court blocked the release of Mr Trump’s tax returns to Congress.
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Republican Devin Nunes has left the hearing room, along with two other committee staffers.
The House Democratic Counsel Daniel Goldman is now questioning the two impeachment witnesses. Here’s my interview with him from last year just before he was hired by House investigators:
Lt Col Alexander Vindman says Volodymyr Zelensky essentially had no choice but to launch investigations that were demanded by Donald Trump:
“The culture I come from… when a senior asks you to do something even when its polite or pleasant it’s not to be taken as a request.”
Lt Col Vindman notes the “power disparity” between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, adding that in order to receive a White House meeting he believed the Ukrainian president would have to deliver investigations into Mr Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.
“Without hesitation, I knew I had to report this to the White House counsel,” he said. “It was my duty to report my concerns … It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent.”
Insight from The Biorports’s Andrew Feinberg as he watches the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill:
Some context for the Williams lawyer stopping [Jennifer Williams] from answering those q’s — Williams already testified at her deposition about the matters Schiff was asking about. By keeping her from answering his questions in public, the White House is preventing her testimony from having the impact it might have.
Lt Col Alexander Vindman is asked about the April phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky. Lt Col Vindman says he prepared talking points about corruption for Mr Trump to discuss with his Ukrainian counterpart, though the two did not discuss the issue at the time.
“Those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the NSC staff for the president”, Lt Col Vindman says.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has begun by asking Jennifer Williams about an 18 September phone call and whether it is relevant to their investigation. An attorney for Ms Williams said he advised her not to discuss the matter in a public setting since the vice president’s office has considered the call classified.
Ms Williams says she would be “happy to” testify about the call in closed-door testimony or provide written testimony.
Some analysis from The Biorports’s Andrew Feinberg as he watches the hearings in the room:
[Lt col Alexander] Vindman says that in Russia, offering public testimony against the president “would surely cost me my life,” but says that here “he will be fine for telling the truth.”
Lt Col Alexander Vindman notes the attacks key impeachment witnesses have faced while delivering evidence in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, saying:
“I want to take a moment to recognize the courage of my colleagues who have appeared and are scheduled to appear before this Committee. I want to state that the vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible. It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks.”
Lt Col Alexander Vindman continues in his opening statement:
“On July 25, 2019, the call occurred … I was concerned by the call, what I heard was improper, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg. It is improper for the President of the U.s. to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.”
Lt Col Vindman says: “I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America.”
It will be interesting to see how Republicans treat Lt Col Vindman, a decorated military veteran who says he reported his concerns through proper channels due to a “sense of duty”.
“I never thought that I would be testifying before the American public”, he said.
As Lt Col Alexander Vindman delivers his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, new reporting reveals the US military is prepared to protect him following his testimony to House investigators spearheading an investigation into the president:
Lt Col Alexander Vindman is now delivering his opening statement before House Investigators, laying out his career in the military and experience serving in multiple US offices throughout the world.
Jennifer Williams concludes in her opening statement:
“At the September 1st meeting, which I attended, President Zelensky asked the Vice President about news articles reporting a hold on U.S. security assistance for Ukraine. The Vice President responded that Ukraine had the United States’ unwavering support and promised to relay their conversation to President Trump that night. During the September 1st meeting, neither the Vice President nor President Zelensky mentioned the specific investigations discussed during the July 25th call.”
Jennifer Williams discusses her recollection of the 25 July phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky:
“On July 25th, along with several of my colleagues, I listened to a call between President Trump and President Zelensky—the content of which has since been publicly reported. Prior to July 25th, I had participated in roughly a dozen other presidential phone calls. During my closed-door deposition, Members of the Committee asked about my personal views and whether I had any concerns about the July 25th call. As I testified then, 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.”
Jennifer Williams is now beginning with her opening statement.
“I am here today pursuant to a subpoena,” the foreign servicer begins, before outlining her experience working in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Meanwhile, Fox News is calling on Donald Trump to avoid tweeting throughout today’s public impeachment hearing. The president’s attacks on Marie Yovanovitch were widely seen by the president’s critics as attempts to intimidate witnesses in real-time:
Here’s video of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff reaffirming the Democrats’ commitment to hearing from and supporting the key impeachment witnesses as they deliver evidence in an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump:
Devin Nunes is attacking national media outlets that reported on Russian election interference, despite the former special counsel’s office confirming much of the journalism done about the issue throughout the years:
Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, began his opening statement by saying without evidence that last week’s impeachment hearings featured key witnesses who “disliked President Trump”.
The witnesses were asked whether they were “Never Trumpers” last week, and each responded that they were not. There is no evidence to support Mr Nunes’ incendiary claims.
Here’s more from The Biorports’s Andrew Feinberg as he watches the hearings from inside the room:
Schiff just pointed out what might be the most important aspect of Vindman’s and Williams’ testimony — both of them were on the call between US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Republicans have complained that none of the previous witnesses had any “firsthand knowledge” of Trump’s conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart. Today’s hearing makes that process argument moot.