Transcript for Vindman and Williams grilled over Ukraine call
And we begin with the televised hearings for the first time today, millions of Americans heard from witnesses who listened in on that call between president trump and the president of Ukraine. The witnesses who were alarmed by what they heard taking the oath, ready to talk about the call that the president has said was perfect. Lieutenant colonel Alexander vindman, who works in the white house, testifying the president's call asking for investigations into 2016 and into the Bidens was improper, saying it amounted to a demand. The combat veteran who earned a purple heart testifying in uniform. The president criticizing him for doing so. Then, an adviser to the vice president, Jennifer Williams, testifying she found the call unusual and inappropriate. And late today, Kurt Volker, which theed before he saw nothing that indicated a quid pro quo, today, he added, hate he known what this was all about, investigating the 2016 election and burisma, what he called conspiracy theories, he would have objected. ABC's Mary Bruce leads us off tonight from the hill. Reporter: For the first time today, the American people hearing from first-hand witnesses who were listening to that infamous call at the center of this impeachment inquiry. Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? Reporter: Lieutenant colonel Alexander vindman, a decorated war veteran and top Ukraine expert on the national security council. He came to the U.S. When he was just 3 years old. His family fleeing from the soviet union. He began his testimony with a message to his father. Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, as 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. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth. Reporter: Vindman was listening in on the July phone call where president trump asked Ukrainian president zelensky to "Do us a favor" and asked him to investigate the Bidens. Vindman called that request "Improper" and a "Partisan play." Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was probably an element of shock that maybe in certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out. How this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. National security. And you went immediately and you reported it, didn't you? I did. Why? Because that was my duty. Reporter: Jennifer Williams, the Ukraine adviser to vice president pence, was on that call, too. She described what she heard as "Unusual and inappropriate." The references to specific individuals and investigations such as former vice president Biden and his son, struck me as political in nature. Reporter: But Republicans pushed back on that assessment. But raing an issue, even one that you thought was unusual, is different than making a demand. Would you agree? It didn't sound like, from your testimony, that you heard what took place on that call as a the demand for investigations. Is that fair? I don't believe I'm in a position to characterize it further than the president did in terms of asking for a favor. Reporter: Vindman described a July meeting where Gordon sondland, trump's megadonor turned U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., gave Ukrainian officials an ultimatum. Ambassador sondland said that in order to get a white house meeting, the Ukrainians would have to provide a deliverable, which is investigations, specific investigations. Reporter: Vindman says he confronted sondland. I stated that it was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security policy. Reporter: Throughout the testimony, Republicans challenged vindman's loyalty, accusing him of trying to protect the whistle-blower. Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistle-blower. Ranking member, it's lieutenant colonel vindman, please. Lieutenant colonel vindman, you testified in the deposition, that you did not know who the whistle-blower was or is. I do not know who the whistle-blower is. Reporter: At the white house, the president attacked vindman in real-time, seeming to undermine his military service. I don't know him, as he says lieutenant colonel, I understand somebody had the misfortune of calling him mister and he corrected them. I never saw the man, I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in. I don't know vindman at all. Reporter: Republicans joining in, questioning why the active duty soldier was wearing his uniform. Lieutenant colonel vindman, I see you are wearing your dress uniform, knowing that's not the uniform of the day, you normally wear a suit to the white house. Reporter: Republicans also seized on a new storyline, noting that on three occasions, Ukrainian officials asked vindman to be their defense minister. Vindman says he laughed it off. I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them. Reporter: And Democrats returned to vindman's opening statement, when he told his father not to worry about his testimony against the president. And why do you have confidence that you can do that? And tell your dad not to worry? Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I've served and defended, that all of my brothers have served and here, right matters. Thank you, sir. Yield back. Reporter: Later, two more witnesses that Republicans had requested, including former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who worked with sondland to get Ukraine to investigate burisma, the emergency company where hunter Hyden sat on the board. Volker said at the time, he didn't see the Biden connection. In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company burisma as E givement to investigating former vice president Biden. I saw them as very different. Reporter: Volker testified bottom line, "The investigations president trump wanted were not in the national interest of the United States." I don't think that raising 2016 elections or vice president Biden or these -- these things I consider to be conspiracy theories that had been circulated by the Ukrainians, particularly the former prosecutor general, are -- they're not things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine. Mary Bruce with us live on capitol hill. A very long day, Mary. You were on the air with us all day. And of course, another big day tomorrow. Ambassador Gordon sondland set touch the, perhaps one of the most important witnesses in this impeachment inquiry. And he's the one that told Ukraine they would not receive the $400 million in U.S. Military aid unless they launched those investigations that the president wanted. Reporter: David, there is no question, Gordon sondland is the most anticipated witness of this inquiry. When it comes to Ukraine, he's had the most direct conversations with the president. And like Kurt Volker today, sondland has claimed that he didn't know that these investigations that the president was pushing for were we lated to the Bidens. Now, he has revised his testimony once before and tonight, there is some concern from Republicans that he could change it again. David? All right, we'll see you tomorrow. Mary Bruce, thank you. I want to bring in ABC's Jonathan Karl, because Jon, president trump said he was watching from the white house. And that he's happy with what he's seeing. Take a look. And yet, I just got to watch and the Republicans are absolutely killing it. They are doing so well, because it's a scam. It's a big scam. Jon, you were on the air with us today when the official white house account actually tweeted out criticism of lieutenant colonel vindman, testifying in uniform there. The white house account actually used to take aim at one of the Reporter: Ah, that is for sure, David. They went after vindman in two ways. First, quoting Tim Morrison, they questioned his judgment, and then, on Twitter, they questioned vindman's loyalty to the United States, raising the fact that he had been offered the job of defense minister for Ukraine. It was an offer that he rejected and immediately reported it to his supervisors. These were extraordinary attacks for several reasons, especially because, for more than a year, Vind Mand has come to work every day here at the white house, working in the national security council, presumably will be back here on the job again tomorrow. David, vindman said that he did not expect any repercussions for telling the truth, but he did say if he had criticized the president in this way or questioned the president in this way in Russia, quote, it would surely have cost me my life. All right, Jon Karl, our thanks to you and to Mary and the entire team today. And we hope you'll stay with ABC news. We'll be back on the air tomorrow morning and Thursday beginning at 9:00 A.M. Eastern to continue our coverage. In the meantime, we move
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