Trump's July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is at the root of the Democratic impeachment investigation, and on Tuesday they demanded public testimony from a trio of first-hand witnesses who were assigned to listen.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Windman, Director of the National Security Council for European Affairs, said he considered the request of the Ukrainian leader's president "inappropriate" because it could have "significant national security implications" for the United States.
Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence's Special Advisor on Europe, said he thought the call was "unusual" because it "involves a discussion of what appears to be an internal political issue."
And Tim Morrison, a former NSC lead advisor on Russia and Europe, said he was worried about what might happen if the conversation was made public ̵
1; as it was after the intelligence community complained about it and helped launch the Democratic impeachment investigation.
"I was scared during the July 25 call that disclosure would play out in Washington's political climate," Morrison said. "My fears are met."
The three witnesses were joined Tuesday by Kurt Volker, a former envoy to the Trump administration in Ukraine. Their daily testimony kicked off what is probably the most intense week so far in the impeachment investigation.
Lawmakers must hear nine witnesses before Friday, as they seek to set up a case not only for Trump to ask his Ukrainian counterpart for political service, but for him to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance and a White House meeting to ensures that he gets what he wants.
The House Intelligence Committee will hear on Wednesday the most critical witness: Gordon Sundland, an ambassador to the European Union who regularly spoke with Trump and seemed to play a hand in transmitting the President's requests to Ukrainians.
As they were behind closed doors, witnesses testifying on Tuesday, some in the face of public attacks by the president and his allies, offered a clear window on how Trump used his cabinet's power to gain political advantage from a foreign leader.
Repub Meanwhile, the laymen have stepped up their attacks against the investigation – questioning the motives of the Democrats, examining witnesses and suggesting that Trump is simply concerned about Ukrainian corruption.
"Democrats are no closer to impeachment than they were three years ago," House Republican Intelligence Committee High Representative Depun Nunes (California) said during a hearing Tuesday.
Trump said in on Tuesday that impeachment was a "small dream" of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and that
Windman and Williams testified together at a House Sessions Committee morning, followed by the Morrison and Walker requests in the afternoon. and Morrison as witnesses and rel
Volker testified that while he was aware that the administration was withholding assistance from Ukrainians while Trump was seeking investigations, he was not aware of the quid pro quo He said he believed the president simply maintained the common view that corruption is fierce in Ukraine – a view that is not necessarily unfair given the country's past leadership.
"The issue of security assistance was one where, in my opinion, it was
Volker also said that while he was involved in the administration's pressure on Ukrainians to announce investigations of interest to the president, he did not associate these studies with Biden, Trump's political rival. He said he initially believed the administration was conducting investigations into potential Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election and a Ukrainian energy company, Burma.
Biden's Hunter was aboard in Burma. Volker testifies that he is trying to "pin the needle" on the couple's divorce, and believes that conducting an investigation into the former vice president will mean looking at "conspiracy theories spread by Ukrainians."
"The allegation that Vice President Biden is behaving inappropriately does not seem to me to be true," he said.
Volker was not on the July 25 call, in which Trump specifically mentioned Biden and said he would "resist" pursuing an investigation.
All four witnesses had already provided private deposits to the deputies, and some had been attacked by Trump and his allies. Their public appearances suggest that although they have noted the criticisms, they will not be deterred.
Williams – whom Trump tweeted over the weekend – said he was "surprised" by the president's tweet that suggested
"I didn't expect to be called by name," Williams says, denying. that she was trying to launch an attack
Windman, in his army dress in uniform, initially spoke quickly and nervously, with sheets of paper containing his opening statement shaking in his hand as he read aloud. He called the attacks against those who appeared before the deputies "reprimanding" and – referring to his father, who brought the Windman family to the Soviet Union decades ago – said: "Don't worry, I'll be fine to tell of Truth. ”
Later, however, at the hearing, Windman seemed more confident. At one point he corrected Nunes after the Republican called him "Mr.
"Lieutenant Colonel Windman, please," said Windman. He later declared himself "never involved" in response to allegations that he was "never Trump" and when asked about Trump's attacks, he confirmed his testimony: "I knew I was taking a big risk."  On Tuesday, Trump said of Windman: "I've never seen him. I understand he now wears his uniform when he enters. "
Donald Trump, Jr., President's son, tweets :" What a joke … Can anyone watch this and believe that Windman has some good
Military personnel monitor Windman's personal security and are ready to move him and his family to an army base if necessary to protect them from threats, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Rev. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) read a negative assessment of Vindman by Morrison, a former Vindman chief, questioned his judgment and suggested he may leak information. Later, the White House tweeted some of Morrison's petitions which Windman disputes.
During his testimony, Morrison later confirmed that he had heard concerns from other officials about Windman's decision and said that he wanted Windman to complain. first about Trump-Zelensky's talk before addressing his concerns to the NSS lawyer.
Officials do not seem to unanimously view the conversation as problematic. Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser, said in a statement Tuesday that he had been on the call and had heard "nothing wrong or wrong".
Morrison said he was disappointed with the call because "it is not what we recommended the president to discuss," although he said he did not believe in real time that Trump was making the wrong request and was avoiding democratic efforts. Morrison reports a call to a senior NSC lawyer so that access to him can be restricted.
"I was hoping for a fuller request for support from the President on the President's reform agenda Green, "said Morrison.
Windman showed that he was soon vno reports the matter to National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg "beyond a sense of duty." He then seems to have been excluded from some meetings he thinks should have been invited.  Windman said that he also told two other staff members about the call: State Department official George Kent and one of the intelligence community. to express concern that pos Islam of the Vindman the official can publicly identify those complaining about the call.  Republicans objected, noting that Windman said he did not know the identity of the offender. In the end, Windman did not reveal the name of the intelligence officer he trusted.
"It is incorrect for the President of the United States to require a foreign government to investigate a US citizen and a political opponent."  Asked about the strength of the President's request, he replied: "The culture I come from is a military culture when one a senior official has asked you to do something, even if it is polite and enjoyable, it should not be taken as a request. "He said a rough transcript of Trump's conversation with Zelenxi has been moved to a safe place where fewer people will be able to they did get access to it, but he noted, "I didn't accept it ATO anything wrong. "
While the phone call in July was the main point of much of the testimony on Tuesday, four officials also described unusual actions that the United States take against Ukraine, which even now said they did not fully understand.
Williams, for example, described how Trump, after speaking with Zelensky in April, wanted Pence to attend the inauguration of the new Ukrainian leader. But in May, before the date she took office, she was informed by the White House cabinet chief that Pence would not leave, at a new request from Trump, Williams testified.
She said she did not know the reason. about change. Instead, a lower-level delegation headed by Energy Minister Rick Perry went.
Williams, Windman and Volker testify that around this time they were aware of the efforts of the president's allies, in particular his personal lawyer Rudolf W. Giuliani, to press Ukraine for a number of investigations. Unlike the others, however, Volker describes how he got involved directly in the matter – essentially trying to put Juliani to sleep in order to help Zelensky meet in the White House.
"If you put the needle between what is reasonable for Ukraine to do. , and if that restores the negative perceptions held by Mr Giuliani and the then President, then why not? ", he said.
Windman testifies that at a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials, Sondland declares that if his foreign counterparts want In order to get a White House meeting, Ukrainians will have to provide the "result": the investigations the president wants.
Windman showed that remark was so troubling that it prompted then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to abruptly shorten the meeting, He said it was "not completely clear" that Sundland was talking about the president, but his request seemed to have been developed after talking with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvey.
After the meeting, Windman said, Sundland told others that he was referring to the investigations of Bidens and Burisma. Windman said he responded that such probes were "inappropriate – and have nothing to do with national security."
Morrison tells MPs that his NSC predecessor had warned him about the "Gordon problem" concerning Sondland, and that he responded by following Sondland's efforts in the context of Ukraine.
The testimony of Tuesday may raise questions about Sondland, who previously claimed he did not fully understand that the president was seeking an investigation into Biden.
In a video posted by CNN on Tuesday, Zelensky refused to confirm or deny. whether he is ready to publish a public inquiry into Burma after his July call with Trump.
Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris, Rosalind S. Helderman, John Hudson, Colby Itkovitz, Greg Jaffe, Michael Cranish, Carol D. Leonig, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, Felicia Sonmez, Eliza Vibeck and John Wagner contributed this report.