Sunday, 8 Dec 2019

'Do not worry. I will be fine telling the truth': Quotes from Trump impeachment hearing

(Reuters) – The following are quotations from the third day of U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee public hearings on Tuesday in an impeachment inquiry examining President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine:

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF

Schiff, a Democrat, opened the hearing by addressing the allegations against Republican Trump, which include that he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call for Ukraine carry investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

“If the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”

Schiff also addressed attacks by the president and his supporters on two witnesses – Jennifer Williams, an aide to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council:

“You are here today, and the American people are grateful. Colonel Vindman, we have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character and watched as certain personalities on Fox (News) have questioned your loyalty. I note that you have shed blood for America and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude.”

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE SENIOR REPUBLICAN DEVIN NUNES

Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, spent much of his opening statement denouncing the U.S. news media as “puppets of the Democratic Party” who are in “a fevered rush to tarnish and remove a president.”

“The media, of course, are free to act as Democrat puppets, and they’re free to lurch from the Russia hoax to the Ukraine hoax at the direction of their puppet masters.”

“You can plead the Fifth. But you’re here to answer questions and you’re here under subpoena,” Nunes told Vindman when he declined to identify an intelligence officer with whom he spoke about Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukraine president.

The call, now the focus of the impeachment inquiry, was first reported by an anonymous whistleblower whom Republicans want to identify. Schiff stopped the exchange, saying the hearing would not be used to “out” the whistleblower.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL ALEXANDER VINDMAN:

“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent … It would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermining U.S. national security and advancing Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

“Without hesitation, I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel,” Vindman said when asked about his reaction to Trump’s call with Zelenskiy.

Vindman, who was born in the former Soviet Union, addressed his father: “Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision forty 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.”

JENNIFER WILLIAMS:

“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.”

REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN, ON THE DEMOCRATIC-LED IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:

“This is scary what these guys are putting our country through. It is sad, it is scary, it is wrong.”

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