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Two More Key Witnesses Will Testify In Impeachment Inquiry Hearings; President Trump Weighs In On The Impeachment Hearings And Witnesses In A Cabinet Meeting; Soon: Ex-Ambassador Volker & Ex-NSC Aide Tim Morrison To Testify; Republicans Defending Questions To Two Key Impeachment Inquiry Witnesses. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 19, 2019 - 14:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm Jake Tapper live in Washington for CNN's Special Coverage of the Impeachment Inquiry Hearings. The first session of today's hearing is over, but just a short time from now, two more key witnesses will testify: Kurt Volker, the former Special Envoy to Ukraine and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council adviser on Russia and Europe who was the immediate supervisor of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.

But before they get started, let's go back through some of the highlights so far such as this from Lieutenant Colonel Vindman when asked about his concerns over the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.


LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It was inappropriate. It was improper for the President to request and to demand an investigation into a political opponent, especially with a foreign power, where there's at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What is it about the relationship between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the President of the United States asked a favor like this, it's really a demand?

VINDMAN: In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders. My impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.


TAPPER: That call dominated a bunch of the Democrats' questioning during the first session while Republicans were more focused on the witnesses themselves, especially Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. And these two witnesses who were on that July phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky, they did not describe this call as perfect as the President has done time and time again.

In fact, they raised their own concerns about what they heard. Williams said that she was concerned that it was unusual and inappropriate that political investigations should now be raised.

Lieutenant Colonel Goodman made some -- raised some serious concerns that they would undercut National Security and raise those concerns to the highest levels of the National Security Council. And also Alexander Vindman made clear that what he had heard from a top official, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland in a private White House meeting that the administration was seeking these investigations into the President's political rivals before a key meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky could take place.


VINDMAN: To the best of my recollection, 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.


RAJU: Republicans during this hearing tried to undercut Vindman's credibility by suggesting he do not report his concerns, appropriately up the chain of command; also raising concerns about his recollection of some key events.

He pushed back. Republicans have their own witness in just a matter of minutes. They requested two of them. One of them Tim Morrison, who is coming also was on that call. He had his own concerns about what he heard on that call, Jake. And he also is going to testify later about what he heard from Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union, who did according to Morrison, who will testify about the ask for Ukraine to announce those investigations amid that nearly $400 million in military aid that have been withheld.

So Republicans are looking forward to that testimony, but even Morrison could provide some more information and evidence that could be damaging to the President's case -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju. Thanks so much. And let's talk more about this, and before the break, Jeffrey Toobin brought up the idea of how desperate Ukraine's need was for this aid, much of it lethal aid so that they could beat back pro-Russian separatists.

One of the points that Congressman John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas tried to make was that while Democrats are now using the word bribery to describe the actions of the President, we see Kurt Volker there walking into Congress. That's the former Special Envoy to Ukraine. He is going to testify in the next session.

But one of the points that Ratcliffe was trying to make is that in all the hundreds of pages of testimony, the word bribery only appeared once. And Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the Committee had a response to that. Let's play that sound.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, (R-TX): Miss Williams, you use the word unusual to describe the President's call last -- on July 25th. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman used the word inappropriate, improper.


RATCLIFFE: Now, I've word searched each of your transcripts and the word bribery or bribe doesn't appear anywhere in that. Miss Williams, you didn't -- you've never used the word bribery or bribe to explain President Trump's conduct correct?


RATCLIFFE: Colonel Vindman, you haven't either?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

RATCLIFFE: The problem is, in an Impeachment Inquiry that the Speaker of the House says is all about bribery, where bribery is the impeachable offense. No witness has used the word bribery to describe President Trump's conduct.

SCHIFF: Bribery does involve a quid pro quo. Bribery involves the conditioning of an official act or something of value.

An official act may be a White House meeting. An official act may be $400 million in military aid. And something of value to a President might include investigations of their political rival.

The reason we don't ask witnesses that are fact witnesses to make the judgment about whether a crime of bribery has been committed, or whether more significantly the -- what the founders had in mind when they itemized bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors is, your fact witnesses, it will be our job to decide whether the impeachable act of bribery has occurred.


TAPPER: Andrew McCabe, let me let me ask you just a bigger picture without getting into the semantic debate about quid pro quo versus bribery and there was a report in "The Washington Post," the Democrats actually used focus groups to figure out what they should call this, so as to get into voters' heads.


TAPPER: What the President is accused of doing. As somebody who has investigated crimes, President Trump does not use the word demand on the phone call. He does not say I demand you do this, if you want that. He does not use the term quid pro quo.

MCCABE: That's right.

TAPPER: He asks for a favor in the context of Russia -- Ukraine, rather, saying that they appreciate the military aid and the President saying you are not doing enough to reciprocate this friendship. Is that a demand in your view?

MCCABE: It's absolutely a demand. That's not even arguable. And I should say that, over the course of many years investigating organized crime and listening to many conversations in which organized crime figures would try to bend inferiors or victims to their will, no one ever says I'm going to offer you a quid pro quo, or here's how I'll walk through the terms of our bribery.

What you have is the person with the power, uses that power to coerce the subservient person to do or produce whatever it is they want.

The key to this phone call -- of course, everyone looks first to the paragraph in which the President says I would like you to do us a favor though. You have to go back before that -- to the President's prior paragraph, where he completely sets up the demand.

He says, " ... but the United States has been very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that this is reciprocal necessarily, because things are happening that are not good. But the United States has been very good to Ukraine."

So he is putting him in that position where he is saying, hey, we've been very good to you. We've given you all this support. We're on your side. You haven't done anything for us. And it's on the tail of that setup that he says. But first, I'd like you to do us a favor, though.

So it is absolutely clear that the President of Ukraine is not in a position to resist. He is, as Jeffrey mentioned, absolutely desperate for this security aid, and in another way desperate for the White House meeting and the recognition that comes along with that. He is not in a position to say no to the President's request. And that makes it a demand.

TAPPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he did say no, because they didn't open the investigation. So look, I think that at the end of the day, we're discussing all of these interpretations of this phone call. We have the transcript of the call. We're only going to hear from one person who knows the President's state of mind and that's Sondland. It is going to be the most important thing this week.

But even after all of that, Republicans are quite likely just going to end up landing on, you know what, I either don't care, it's not that bad, or this was really bad judgment. One of those three zones, and they're all going to land in, but it's not impeachable.

And so all this analysis of, you know, Vindman and what these different folks are going to say, especially the ones that didn't meet the President and didn't know the President. To me, it's not going to ultimately impact how the Republican senators view this when it finally gets over there.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But public opinion is everything here, right? Because, as we were talking about earlier, it is about -- first, well, I agree with you, that is probably not going to affect the Republican senators, for one main reason, which is they can say, look, who am I take the right of my constituents to vote yes or no against Donald Trump in November of 2020?

But this information is key information for those voters. Maybe at the end of the impeachment process, it won't matter to senators votes in a trial or even in the shorter term, House Members' votes -- Republicans.


BASH: But this getting across things like the word bribery, and that is -- that was a political shift. We all heard Nancy Pelosi do it in her press conference last week. It was blatantly obvious that she used the word bribery intentionally because it packs more of a punch. It is more understandable for people because her goal is to penetrate public opinion and has been -- she is very open about that, and quid pro quo, doesn't cut it.

And that is a political aim, and you know, it is what it is and that is their goal.

JENNINGS: And to your point about public opinion, so last week after the hearings, Morning Consult/POLITICO indicated public support did not increase, Independents went down negative 10 on impeachment. NPR/Marist, 70 percent of people in both parties say I can't imagine hearing anything in these hearings that would change me off of my current position.

Axios has focus groups today they're reporting on. Swing voters in Wisconsin, saying they are unmoved by what they've heard so far.

So it's obvious why they're having to change the political tactics because it has not yet penetrated, and I'm just wondering what could --

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: So where do we end up -- where do we end up 10 days from now, I think on this question is very critical. It does take a while.

We've seen in campaigns in other settings, any big change, it takes a while for things to sink in. If that holds, Republicans will stay. If those numbers move, the thing to watch, you have Will Hurd on this committee. There are 16 to 17 Republicans who are retiring in the House, do any of them break? That is challenge number one for Republicans.

Hold them, because if you hold all or most of them, then the Senate climate probably does not change. If more than two or three of those Republicans sort of break in the House, then we're in a different land.

TAPPER: And one other -- and I'll come to you first, we have to take a quick break. Just one other polling data point that Scott, I think you've seen, but you did not cite, which is that in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 51 percent of the American people polled said they supported President Trump being impeached and removed from office.

And it was something like 60 percent thought that what President Trump is accused of having done is not acceptable.

JENNINGS: I think -- I think that's absolutely going to be --


JENNINGS: I mean, a lot of Republicans are going to end up giving speeches to say, I don't approve of this.

TAPPER: Right.

JENNINGS: And it will be varying levels of anger

TAPPER: Well, just Joe Lieberman, but yes.

JENNINGS: But they won't -- they won't get all the way. They won't get all the way.

TAPPER: A little shorthanded.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You're dating yourself.

TAPPER: Not as much as Joe.

JENNINGS: I've read about it. I've read about it.

TAPPER: Stick around. We've got more to talk about.

Coming up next. Testimony resumes with two more witnesses. Plus we're seeing more character attacks on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman including from the White House and from the President's oldest son. Stay with us.



TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper. Continuing our coverage of the impeachment hearings. We just heard from two key witnesses; and just a short time from now, Kurt Volker, the former Special Envoy to Ukraine and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council adviser in Russia and Europe will testify in round two of today's hearing.

And in a Cabinet meeting, President Trump weighed in on the impeachment hearings and witnesses. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.

Kaitlan, what did Mr. Trump have to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the President said he had in fact been watching the testimonies today, though he said he didn't know a lot of the witnesses who are testifying including Colonel Alex Vindman. Listen to more he said as he was speaking with reporters in the first time we've seen him since Saturday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know, as he says, the 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. No, I don't know Vindman at all.

What I do know is that even he said that the transcript was correct. There was no anything. They don't -- they probably think -- they can't -- they probably can't even understand what's going on with this country.

Vindman -- I watched him for a little while this morning, and I think he -- I'm going to let people make their own determination, but I don't know Vindman, but these are names that are like Taylor, like Kent with the nice bow tie, wonderful bowtie. Maybe I'll get one for myself someday.

I don't know who Kent is. I don't know who Taylor is. All of these people are talking about, they heard a conversation of a conversation of another conversation that was had by the President.

What's going on is a disgrace and it's an embarrassment to our nation. And in the meantime, we can't get USMCA approved because Nancy Pelosi is grossly incompetent.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, the President is arguing he has never had direct contact with Vindman. That's an argument that may work with people like him, but it will not work with people like the Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland who is set to testify tomorrow and is one of the witnesses who's had direct contact and phone calls with the President.

Now, the President might have been more restrained in his criticism today than he has been in the past when he referred to Colonel Vindman as a never Trumper, something that Vindman denied during that testimony today.

But the White House Twitter account, not so much. You see there. They are quoting Tim Morrison who used to work at the National Security Council but recently left his post. They're quoting from his closed-doors testimony where he said, quote, "I had concerns about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's judgment."

Now that was in reference to more of policymaking from that testimony, if you read it in context that quote is in because Morrison did also note that Vindman is a patriot.

But, Jake, it's notable because that is an official White House Twitter account funded by taxpayers. That is attacking an official who still works in this White House while he is testifying.


COLLINS: We should note that Vindman who was there along with his identical brother who also works at the National Security Council and Jennifer Williams all still work in the administration in the building just right next door, not that far from the Oval Office.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Coming up next, hear how the two witnesses responded when asked if they were quote, "never Trumpers." Stay with us.



REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Miss Williams, are you engaged in a presidential attack?

WILLIAMS: No, sir.

HIMES: Williams are you a never Trumper?

WILLIAMS: I'm not sure I know an official definition of a never Trumper, but --

HIMES: Would you describe yourself that way?

WILLIAMS: I would not know.

HIMES: The day after you appeared for your deposition, Lieutenant Colonel, President Trump called you a never Trumper. Colonel Vindman, would you call yourself a never Trumper?

VINDMAN: Representative, I'd call myself never partisan.

HIMES: Thank you. Colonel Vindman, in your military career, you've served under four Presidents, two Democrats and two Republicans, have you ever wavered from the oath you took to support and defend the Constitution?


HIMES: Do you have any political motivations for your appearance here today.



TAPPER: That's Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut asking questions of Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide who is assigned to Vice President Pence and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. They're refuting the idea that President Trump has made that they are never Trumpers.

Scott Jennings, let me ask you, what exactly is a never Trumper? In 2016, it was a Republican who would never support Donald Trump to be President. But it seems to have taken on a whole new meaning to be even people who possibly voted for Trump and directly work for him to just disagree with him about some items.

JENNINGS: Yes, in common Republican parlance, I think it's come to mean people who are assumed because of the positions that they hold, that they would never want to see a President like Donald Trump take office.

So, you know, the President in a macro way has run against this, you know, the unelected bureaucracy and so I think that the common parlance of never Trumper now encompasses all of those folks who flow out of that, like the witnesses today.

Now, I don't know if these people are never Trumpers or not, you know, a few years ago, we would have called you know -- they might have been called RINOs or you know, Republicans in name only, but it's kind of morphed into never Trumper now. But it is a term that gets used a lot in Republican circles.

TAPPER: Jennifer Williams work for George W. Bush.


TAPPER: Worked for Michael Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security. It's hard to argue that she is not a Republican.

JENNINGS: Oh, sure. I mean, look, I don't -- I don't know what the political preferences of these people are. They seemed to me they came off today as professional, love their country, didn't particularly want to be there, sort of mortified that they're sitting there.

You know, Vindman obviously loves his dad, loves his country. He is proud of his service. So I don't know that attacking them on the substance of what their assumed political views are is effective.

What I think's more effective is that they don't know the President. And so the way to get past a witness like that, in my opinion, is just sort of minimize their ability to know exactly what the President wanted or didn't want and that's what I would focus on today.

BASH: Which is why it is so stunning. You mentioned this shortly after the end of the hearing, but it bears repeating that a Republican White House -- any White House, okay, let's just say that -- but especially a Republican White House uses a taxpayer payer funded Twitter account to attack a man in uniform who has shrapnel in his body after getting injured by a roadside bomb while serving this country in a war zone is just mind blowing.

I mean, again, this is one of those things where it's like, okay, this is what the Trump White House does. This is what the President sanctions. It's unbelievable. As a Republican --

TOOBIN: Really? How about --

BASH: It is. No, it is. It is.

TOOBIN: Donald Trump attacked a Gold Star family. Why does this surprise you at all?

BASH: I'm not saying it surprises me. I'm saying it's something that bears noting as something that is remarkable that the entire Republican Party except for those never Trumpers to go back to that conversation has moved towards saying this is okay.

I mean --

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is only not okay, it's that it's actually not persuasive at all. We're talking about them being fact witnesses. I mean that's what they are -- fact witnesses. So they're not actually people who are testifying about facts in the ballot box or something related to an election.

If they were, perhaps they can make a stretch and say, well, I wonder why you were there in the first place? Was there a primary? No. They're listening to a phone call.

Remember what the role they both played where they were. They were listening to that now infamous July 25th telephone call. They weren't talking about issues related to even their personal views. They were giving observational skills and information. And it's no more relevant their party than it would be if somebody were to witness a car accident and say whether the light was green or red, whether they themselves were blue or red.

And so I look at this issue. I know they're trying to taint it and saying that you can surmise facts so they can change objective facts depending upon the person's interpretation. But that's not truly the core of this issue. It is whether or not they heard the President of the United States say words that he himself in a rough transcript provided to the American people already. So the corroboration is already there.


TAPPER: Yes, I think you're looking at Tim Morrison going through security there at the House of Representatives to testify. I think that's him with the glasses that he just put on. There he is in the center of the camera.

John King, another thing going on in addition to the White House Twitter feed officially attacking one of their own employees, head of the Ukraine desk and head of the National Security Council, a decorated war veteran who has shrapnel in his body, as Dana Bash pointed out, who has, as Tim Morrison said in his deposition, literally bled for this country, even though he had issues for him in other ways While they're doing that, the president's son, who is something of -- just in case you didn't think President Trump was id enough, Donald Trump Jr is the id of the id in just saying whatever he thinks and tweeting whatever he wants. Calling the hearings a joke, saying Lieutenant Colonel Vindman has no credibility, and attacking him over and over.

KING: To have Donald Trump Jr attack the judgement of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is kind of right in that this was the guy that invited the Russians into Trump Tower during a presidential campaign. This is what


KING: So does he have the audacity, you know, does he have credibility of a witness himself, shall we say? Let's leave it there.

It goes back to the strategy. They are not challenging the facts. They're trying to keep the Republican Party and the president's base in line. Donald Trump Jr, whatever anybody thinks of him, no matter what anyone watching may think of him, is popular with the president's base.

He's traveling the country doing fundraisers, just released a new book, and he's done pretty selling his book. He has a voice with the president's base. He is someone who is followed.

We might say it has nothing to do with the facts or it's a character fact on a decorated military veteran. But their strategy is, hold the line. If they hold the line, they believe they succeed.


BASH: Don't you think attacking somebody in uniform risks that?

KING: A giant risk on the other side. With their own --


BASH: With their own base.

KING: With their own base, it's an interesting question. That will be fascinating to watch as we go forward.

But I will say, there Republicans are hoping some conservative Democrats, who are vulnerable Democrats, say no to the question of impeachment when it gets to the Senate. Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, who is a very conservative Democrat, says nothing right about this, there's nothing right. You just know it's just dead wrong.

Bottom line, people have to make a decision about impeachment. Bottom line, for anyone to condone this and say this is normal behavior and how we should act as a country, superpower world, is wrong.

As the Republicans start attacking the witnesses and question and patriotism and character of these people, you see some of the Democrats, who you might expect to be quiet and safe, be more outspoken. The elastic works both ways.

TAPPER: I thought he was just re-elected so he's counting on nobody remembering or talking about this in six years.

Stick around. We have lots to talk about.

Moments from now, we have two more key witnesses will testifying in the impeachment inquiry hearings.

Plus, and how Lieutenant Colonel Vindman responded when asked if he's getting blowback at work.



TAPPER: Welcome to CNN special coverage of today's public impeachment inquiry hearings. I'm Jake Tapper, live in Washington.

The first half of today's testimony concluded and in moments we'll hear from two additional witnesses, Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and former National Security Council official, Tim Morrison.

Morrison was listening in to the now-infamous call at the center of the impeachment inquiry July 25th between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.

Volker was also one of the so-called three amigos, along with secretary of energy, Rick Perry, and U.N. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. All three in charge, appointed by President Trump, in charge of guiding relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

Let's look ahead to what we're going to hear.

Scott Jennings, Volker called the president's July 25th call with Zelensky, quote, "quite a surprise," and "extremely unfortunate and explosive," in his prior testimony.

But he was actually not on it -- he was talking about what he saw after he read the rough transcript. Democrats are, I am guessing, going to focus on why he felt that way.

JENNINGS: Absolutely. I guess Republicans will turn around and focus on Morrison, who I believe has said he didn't find anything particularly wrong with the call. So you're going to have competing narratives than call this afternoon.

I assume also there's going to be some focus what Morrison on what he said about Vindman, which the White House is tweeting out.

Again, I wonder what we'll get out of this today. What I'm particularly listening for is Gordon Sondland's name. I want to know who talked to him and are they going to try set anything up pre- Sondland coming in tomorrow.

TAPPER: And Morrison did not criticize the president's call, per se, but he did say, John Dean, in his testimony, this is Tim Morrison, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's former boss, head of the Russia and Europe desk and the National Security Council, that after the call, he was concerned about what President Trump had said about the investigations to the degree that he talked to his boss, then national security adviser, John Bolton.

And then also went to the National Security Council lawyers because he was concerned.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Exactly. I find it very interesting that both of these witnesses are on the Republican list of who they wanted to testify. And they, in some regards, do much more damage, because of that credential than they would otherwise if they just appeared.

But you're right. They are corroborating witnesses, and they didn't really take particularly dramatic action after either.


TAPPER: One other thing that's interesting is that Morrison traveled with the vice president, or was present, at least, in Warsaw when Vice President Pence met with the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, September 1st, I believe.

And then we have Gordon Sondland, kind of the point man in all this, speaking to President Trump directly, according to him. Go up to a Zelensky aide, Andre Yermak, and come back and tell Morrison, he told him, if you want the aid released, announce the investigations.

COATES: You have somebody who can give you the direct information. Not just the innuendo about it but what did you actually say. And that sets up Gordon Sondland for an important position. He'll have an opportunity to compare his testimony to somebody else's.

We already know Gordon Sondland had to correct, shall we say, his statement from the different epiphanies he's had over time about things like quid pro quo.

So if he's in another position, as you talked about, Scott, that bridge to the testimony tomorrow, it's another point for him to say whether or not that did, indeed, happen. Was it puffering? Was it bravado? Was it actual accuracy there?

And your idea, John, about who the witnesses are, if you're Morrison's attorney, every single time this morning you heard Morrison's named or Vindman asked questions about him, you popped a Tums, hoping your client is be able to address the point he's been called here today to speak about, or do so in a comprehensive and honest way.

Because we now we have people directly relying on him to undermine a previous person who has been criticized while in uniform, been questioned about the audacity to appear even under subpoena. It's building up to this moment.

TAPPER: John King, one of the things I expect to hear from Republicans is an attempt to use Tim Morrison, on the record, saying he had questions about Colonel Vindman's judgment. If you read the transcript of that deposition he basically says that he talked out of school sometimes. And he just didn't see him in the policymaking arena as being up to the job.

I think you're going to see Republicans go after him and say, why do you think Vindman went around you, if he was so alarmed by the call, and to the National Security Council attorneys.

And what Republicans, who are Trump supporters, are saying online and elsewhere is this is part of the Deep State conspiracy. That Vindman and the whistleblower were all there to work around the good people and go to others in an attempt to set President Trump up.

KING: I think how both Republicans and Democrats handled that is critical to this idea of who was Vindman and, to the degree, who is Morrison? To Dana's point, these are two very important witnesses called by Republicans.

Can they bend the story or crack the other way? The previous witnesses to this point painted a damning picture of this policy and linked it back to the president. Can these two witnesses the Republicans say are our guys, bend it back some? Or does it continue to advance in the other direction?

To the question, is this just two guys on a senior White House staff in sensitive positions? Morrison comes in, replaces a boss, Fiona Hill. Vindman very much liked. Is it just tension? He decides, I don't know this guy, I'll go to the lawyer, or is it summoned around. Let's see where the testimony goes.

That's why Chairman Schiff, before the last session concluded, made a point to note Morrison also had worries and went to the lawyers as were well. There may be a chain of command issue.

But the idea being everyone thought there was something wrong with it, to some different, maybe to different degrees, but to some degree, and went to the lawyers.

Where Morris is critical to the Republicans is he says he was concerned by the call, worried it would leak and blow up the bipartisan support. That the Democrats in Congress would see the president said "Biden" on the call, pushed the Ukrainians on Biden would blow up the support. He said he did not find that to be illegal.

Important for Republicans to get that on the record. Someone who works in the West Wing.

The issue, even he said, who is this Sondland guy? Why does this Sondland guy keep popping up? Kurt Volker, same thing. I thought I was doing the president's bidding. I was working with Secretary Pompeo and I was working through the normal channels of government as a special envoy. And this Sondland guy keeps popping up.

What's critical is Morrison replaced Fiona Hill. In her testimony, she said, she confronted Sondland and said who told you, you were in charge of Ukraine.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: He said, the president.

TAPPER: The president.

KING: She said, that shut her up.

The interesting part will be, did Fiona Hill tell Tim Morrison? Any testimony about that? When you are handed off from your last boss, the person who had your job, when you took her place, was there a conversation? Watch out for Sondland.

TAPPER: And these are a lot of names and a lot for viewers to digest, especially if living their lives and doing their jobs and taking care of their families? Right?


TAPPER: We are actually paid to keep track of all of these people.

But one of the points, Dana Bash, I want to get across, it's not all just about the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky.

Kurt Volker, for example, was present at this July 10th meeting between a bunch of White House officials, including then national security adviser, John Bolton, and a bunch of Ukrainian officials. That's where Sondland and talks about investigations and Bolton shuts down the meeting. Volker will be asked about this.


BASH: That's right. This is an impeachment inquiry. The focus is understandably on what the president's actions were and weren't. But that's such a critical point, because it's also what people did at the behest of the president and that meeting is really that. What investigation? How did they express the need for that investigation in that meeting to the Ukrainians?

And also, of course, debunks the notion the Ukrainians didn't know anything about it.

The other thing about Volker, and you mentioned, the word "Biden" we should be watching for, is throughout all the hearings, Republicans are still trying to do the political dance of returning this all to what Rudy Giuliani's goal was from the jump, which is Joe Biden, he's corrupt, he did something wrong.

What Volker said in his closed-door deposition is, that's not true.

TAPPER: Yes. BASH: Joe Biden didn't do anything wrong. There was nothing untoward about the vice president's actions. Separate from Hunter Biden taking the job. That's a judgment call that we could question.

But when it comes to the former vice president of the United States, Volker was crystal clear that he didn't do anything improper. And that's going to be kind of a cloud over the Republican argument.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break and come to you first, Jeff, when we get back.

TOOBIN: That's OK.



TAPPER: I feel -- as a dad, it's important to get to everybody.

TOOBIN: Because the viewers will stay tuned.


TAPPER: People want to hear what you have to say.

TOOBIN: Yes, yes.


TAPPER: We're minutes away from the second round of hearings with testimony from two new witnesses, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison.

First, Republicans are defending their questions from this morning's testimony, and that's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage. I'm Jake Tapper, in Washington.

Any moment, the two more witnesses publicly testify on Capitol Hill as part of the impeachment investigation. Earlier today, we heard from witnesses called by Democrats on the committee, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council at the White House, and Jennifer Williams, a State Department official and aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Right now, Republicans are defending questions to those two witnesses.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, what are you hearing from Republicans? What are people taking issue with in terms of the questions they asked?

RAJU: Democrats raised concerns that Republicans appear to be raising dual-liability allegations through the line of questioning.

Alexander Vindman immigrated to this country at a young age from the Soviet Union. And questions from top Republican counsel asking Vindman about a job offer apparently given by a top Ukrainian official for a top position to Vindman. Vindman dismissed that job offer, saying it was comical, didn't take it seriously. But Democrats believe it was all part of an effort to undermine his credibility and raise questions about his loyalty to this country.

I just talked to a number of Republicans about those allegations and they're defending the line of questioning.

Jim Jordan, Republican, who's the boss, sits on the House Oversight Committee and Intelligence Committee, said to me, he said, "The question you guys are asking about doesn't seem to bother Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. Seemed fine answering it."

Other Republicans making a similar case, saying there's no issue by raising questions and that he had no problems in responding to the questions.

And also, Jake, Republicans are raising questions about Vindman's credibility, even though Vindman made clear he's not partisan. He serves on the National Security Council, is a decorated war hero, has a Purple Heart. Some question whether he's partisan or not.

Including Mark Meadows who just told me moments ago that all of these questions and answers seem to go against the president.

You're hearing Republican pushback against this witness who Democrats believe provided damning testimony against the president -- Jake?

TAPPER: Manu Raju, thank you. Appreciate it.

Jeffrey Toobin, you're reaction?

TOOBIN: Draw a distinction here. I think it's perfectly fair for Republicans to challenge his credibility. An important witness, an incriminating witness. If you're trying to defend the president you want to try to challenge his story. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

The idea that one way of doing that is persuading the public that he's somehow not a patriotic American, that his great ambition in life is to be the defense minister of Ukraine, which is this perhaps real, perhaps joking job offer he received, is pretty absurd.

But Republicans have every right to challenge a witness who gave a very incriminating story.

Now, as I listen to the testimony, I didn't think they succeeded very well, but the effort seems like a perfectly legitimate thing to me.

TAPPER: We have so much to talk about.

And we're moments away from two more witnesses testifying publicly in the impeachment inquiry. These two called by the Republicans on the committee.


Our coverage of the hearings rolls on. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome to CNN's special coverage of the public impeachment hearings. I'm Jake Tapper, live in the Washington.

In a moment, we'll hear from two more witnesses on Capitol Hill. They are Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, and former National Security Council official, Tim Morrison.


Moments ago, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, spoke about the impeachment inquiry hearing, saying he hopes the Senate can work through a, quote, "not too lengthy of a process" when it comes to the impeachment trial should the House vote to convict.