Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

How both sides are preparing for a packed week of impeachment hearings


AMNA NAWAZ: The stage is set on Capitol Hill
for the second week of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. And as White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor
reports, there’s word today he may testify on his own behalf. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: On CBS’ “Face the Nation”
Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Trump to appear. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): If he has information
that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward
to seeing it. The president could come right before the
committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants, if he wants to… MARGARET BRENNAN, Host, “Face the Nation”:
You don’t expect him to do that? REP. NANCY PELOSI: … if he wants to take the
oath of office. Or he could do it in writing. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, President Trump responded
on Twitter. He wrote: “I like the idea and will, in order
to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it.” President Trump is accused of withholding
almost $400 million in military aid from Ukraine in exchange for probes into his political
opponents. Over the weekend, Republicans continued to
defend the president. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who sits on the House
Intelligence Committee, said Democrats don’t have a case because Ukraine never followed
through with any of the investigations. He also appeared on “Face the Nation.” REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The Ukrainians did nothing
to, as — as far as investigations goes, to get the aid release. So there was never this quid pro quo that
the Democrats all promised existed before President Trump released the phone call. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In an interview today with
“NewsHour”‘s Judy Woodruff at a cancer fund-raiser in San Antonio, former Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson criticized the president’s actions. JUDY WOODRUFF: What is appropriate and what
is proper in the role of a diplomat? REX TILLERSON, Former U.S. Secretary of State:
Well… JUDY WOODRUFF: And in American foreign policy? REX TILLERSON: Yes,. I mean, clearly — clearly, asking for personal
favors and using United States assets as collateral is wrong. There’s just no two ways about it. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Meanwhile, House Democrats
on Saturday released two more transcripts from closed-door testimony. They came from Tim Morrison, a departing National
Security Council official, and Jennifer Williams, a career State Department official who is
an aide to Vice President Pence. Both were on the July 25 call between President
Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. On it, President Trump pressed Zelensky to
investigate Democrats. Morrison testified that he had — quote — “concerns
about a potential leak of the call for political reasons.” He also was concerned about how its release
might affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. But he said — quote — “I wasn’t concerned
that anything illegal was discussed.” Williams testified the call seemed — quote
— “unusual and inappropriate.” She said it shed some light on possible other
motivations behind a security assistance hold. In a tweet on Saturday, President Trump went
after Williams. He called her a never-Trumper and accused
her and other witnesses of attacking him. Williams and Morrison plan to testify publicly,
along with Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, National Security Council director
for European affairs, as well as Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine. They all will appear before the House Intelligence
Committee tomorrow. AMNA NAWAZ: Yamiche is here with me now to
break all of this down. Good too see you, Yamiche. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Great to be here. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Let’s start with the week. It’s a big one, right? We have three days of public hearings, a number
of officials coming before Congress to testify. Walk us through who we’re going to hear from
and why they matter. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, we have a full schedule
this week, a packed schedule, really. And Democrats want to do this to make sure
that they’re basically laying out their case. So, if you look at this calendar, there’s
just a number of officials, both current and former officials who are serving in the Trump
administration or who has served in the Trump administration. There are three key people that I’m going
to point to. The first is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander
Vindman. Now, he’s someone who is still working at
the National Security Council. He’s their Ukraine expert. And he’s someone that has a Purple Heart. He’s someone that Democrats point to and say,
this is someone with a very good character. He’s someone who’s patriotic, who served the
country. They’re going to be pointing out that he is
someone who had concerns in real time with the July 25 phone call between President Trump
and the president of Ukraine. Vindman listened into that call and then went
his superiors and said, I have concerns about the way that the president is asking for investigations
into Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Republicans, though, say that Vindman has
been inconsistent with his testimony. They also say that he’s someone who can’t
really speak to whether or not the president did something that’s impeachable, so he shouldn’t
essentially be coming before Congress in this way. So that’s one person that they’re going to
be pointing to and kind of — you’re going to hear the contrasting, contrasting messages
between both parties. Second person is Kurt Volker. He is a longtime Foreign Service officer. He is someone who is a special envoy to Ukraine
from the U.S. He’s no longer in that role. But he’s someone that Democrats are going
to point to and say, when that call came out, and everyone learned what happened on July
25, he says he was surprised and troubled. But Republicans, again, are going to be making
the case that Kurt Volker said he was never, himself, requested to do anything wrong. He’s also going to say, they think, that he
is someone who is going to say that Ukraine didn’t know in real time that this money was
being held up. Essentially, they couldn’t be bribed, because
they didn’t know that there was a bribe happening. And the third person is Gordon Sondland. He’s the person that’s going to be — everyone’s
going to be watching. AMNA NAWAZ: Yes. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: I’m going to be watching,
because he is someone who is — he’s the European Union ambassador. He is a close ally of President Trump. And he’s going to be making the case, essentially,
that he was in direct contact with President Trump. Democrats say that he knew that President
Trump wanted these investigations before and after the call, and that he was pressing — pressuring
for that. Republicans are going to be making the case,
essentially, that Sondland is someone who maybe had been — was acting on his own, but
that the president didn’t directly say, I need you to do this for me. So there’s going to be a lot to watch there. AMNA NAWAZ: A lot to watch, indeed. And some of those folks are going to raise
concerns about the president’s behavior and what they allegedly saw. President Trump’s already been tweeting about
some of them before we even hear from them publicly. What are you hearing from Republicans, from
his own party about the president’s actions. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The shock of Friday and
the president going after Ambassador Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, in real
time during the impeachment inquiry has not worn off. I have talked to a number of Republicans who
essentially are saying, are you talking to White House sources? Are they going to be able to control the president
this week? And the answer, of course, is no. No one at the White House can stop the President
Trump tweeting. So Republicans are hoping that the president
won’t undermine their messaging and won’t be attacking a lot of the witnesses’ characters. But the president’s already been doing that. He’s already been tweeting, saying, these
are never-Trumpers, these are people that were bad ambassadors. So we’re going to have to watch very closely
President Trump’s Twitter account, because it’s likely going to be very active in real
time. AMNA NAWAZ: And, meantime, related to his
Twitter account, you just reported there in your piece, Speaker Pelosi had said he’s welcome,
the president welcome to come before this hearing and testify and give us his account. He has tweeted he might be open to that. What do we know about that happening? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, the president says,
hey, you have questions for me, I want to give you some answers in writing. The issue is that the House is already looking
into whether or not the president lied to special counsel Robert Mueller during the
Russia investigation. Essentially, he provided written answers there. And special counsel Robert Miller said those
answers were inadequate, and that he really was not happy with the fact that he couldn’t
have follow-up questions to the president. The other thing to note is that Democrats
say, this is really the president playing games here. The president, if he really wanted to come
before Congress, could come and sit before the lawmakers and answer questions. They also say that he could provide people,
like acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has refused to come before Congress, to
come and actually speak to Congress. They also say he could tell his national — his
former National Security Adviser John Bolton to come before Congress. They could provide, they say, documents at
the White House to help this impeachment inquiry. They’re not really doing any of that. So Democrats are essentially saying, we understand
that the president wants to provide us written answers, but that’s just not quite good enough. AMNA NAWAZ: It’s a good reminder too a number
of White House officials there we haven’t yet heard from. A busy week ahead. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: You’re going to be following it
all. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Yes. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Our White House correspondent,
Yamiche Alcindor, thanks, Yamiche. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Thanks. AMNA NAWAZ: And you can join us for special
live coverage of the public impeachment hearings. We start tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

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