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Okay, I'm well caffeinated and at my station for the first in a marathon day of impeachment hearings.

We're underway with Lt. Col. Vindman's testimony.

Here we go.

(note: mute this if you'd rather not have your timeline cluttered with this)

Adam Schiff gavels in the session and opens with prepared remarks.

Early among them: reading back a quote by tomorrow's witness, Gordon Sondland, saying "Trump doesn't give a (expletive) about Ukraine."

Schiff already weaving in details from recent reporting.

As Schiff walks through the synopsis of the whole sordid Ukraine shakedown, let me just set the table here.

Lt. Col. Vindman, a decorated veteran, was posted to the White House as a Nat. Security expert on Ukraine.

He was on the infamous 7/25 call and raised alarms.
Vindman is joined at the witness table by Jennifer Williams.

Williams serves in the State Department as an aide to Mike Pence.

Her testimony will likely pull the oily Pence closer to the fire.

(Note: I am not numbering or proofreading these. I offer no apologies for that.)
Schiff has now turned the hearing over to Devin Nunes for his opening remarks.

In keeping with tradition, Nunes begins blathering about irrelevant horseshit persuasive to only people with shallow brain pans and an affinity for the prattle of inscrutable gasbags.
Nunes main points:

1) The media is mean to Trump

2) The whistleblower is really important despite their assertions having been affirmed by all testimony to date

Nunes is what is known inside sophisticated political circles as a "fucking dumbass". That's the industry jargon.
Nunes has now moved on to talking about...

Hunter Biden

Listening to this man is practically hypoxic. It deprives the brain of oxygen. Entire lobes go dark as neurons sputter into silence.
Thankfully, Nunes wrapped up his inspid opening word-vomit and we've moved on to Schiff introducing the witnesses and their bios.

Jennifer Williams - brought in by GWB; served in Homeland Security; served and continues to serve in foreign policy roles
Jennifer Williams reading prepared opening remarks.

Testifying under Subpoena. Been at the State Department since 2006. Calls Condi Rice a hero. Served under Bush/Cheney.

Boy, that doesn't sound very "Democratic deep state".

Repeats she is testifying pursuant to a subpoena.
Williams' testimony:

Expected Mike Pence to attend Zelensky's inauguration.

She was then informed that Trump had decided Pence would not attend.

Did I hear that right? If so, that's... interesting.

Says she was not given a reason for that reversal.
Williams opening remarks continued:

She received a written read-out of the 7/25 call with Zelensky and personally put it in a briefing book for Pence.

Does not know if he read it. Did not discuss it with him.
Odds that Pence failed to read a memo on the most important communication between the leaders of the two countries?


Williams leaves some room for Pence's denial but it is nonetheless not plausible.
Vindman now reading his opening remarks.

Dressed in full military uniform, Vindman cuts an impressive figure.

His tone and manner make him seem like a quiet, career staffer thrust into a spotlight by circumstance and duty rather than choice or interest.

The anti-Sondland.
Vindman crisply lays out that what Trump attempted to do in the Ukraine would have deeply damaged their interests even if they had agreed.

Ukraine would have been seen as a partisan actor working for Trump and Republicans - and that would have hurt their standing in the world.
Vindman, understandably, seems somewhat nervous. His reading is hasty and a bit hard to follow and deeply process.

While that diminishes the force of his opening remarks, it presents him as an accidental star witness very different than political actors.
Vindman concludes powerfully.

Stares into the camera and says "Dad, I am sitting here in the US Capitol." Praises his family's decision to leave the Soviet Union and says to his father:

"Do not worry. I will be okay for telling the truth."

You'll be seeing that one in clips.
Schiff now opening the questioning.

Quickly drills down on the point above. I did hear it correctly.

Trump personally blocked Pence from attending the Zelensky inauguration in May.

Translation: The conspiracy and pressure campaign were afoot from Day 1 of Zelensky's term
Schiff probing on the WH meeting where Bolton and Sondland were in attendance.

Per Vindman, Sondland made clear Ukraine had to agree to investigations before aid would be released.

Despite having more items on the agenda, Bolton abruptly shut the entire meeting down...
Minor correction, in the prior tweet, Sondland said Ukraine had to agree to investigations before even getting a meeting with the Trump White House... aid was a whole 'nother matter.
Schiff: What makes you think [what Trump asked for] was a demand not a request?

Vindman: (paraphrased) In the military, whether you ask nicely or ask forcefully, you aren't asking. You're telling. It isn't a request. It's a demand.
Schiff: Both of you recall Trump specifically mentioning Burisma on the 7/25 call, correct?

Williams and Vindman: Correct

Schiff: Yet, it wasn't in the record released to the public
Vindman clears the stenographers by suggesting it is reasonable they may have missed it... but then goes on to say:

1) it was his responsibility to see that the record was correct; and
2) his corrections were not allowed into the version eventually published
Vindman adds that he found it odd that Trump would mention - or even have a specific knowledge about or issue with - a specific Ukrainian company.

Implication: Trump is a dope. He doesn't know Burisma from a hole in the wall. Kinda a giveaway something was up.
Schiff yields to Dem counsel, Dan Goldman, for his 45-minute block of questioning.

Opens by displaying parts of the 7/25 call and asks if the things Trump said on the call were part of his briefings. Vindman says no.

Translation: Trump was parroting things spoonfed by outsiders
Goldman crisply makes the point that the DNC hacking talking points Trump parroted on the call were not only NOT the official position of the State Department; they were entirely in opposition to the State Dept view...

...but were exactly what Putin has claimed.
That last one was wordy.


Trump was vomiting up Putin's talking points on his call with Zelensky.
Per Vindman, diplomats from the Ukrainian embassy in DC began inquiring about the withholding of aid by August.

Further invalidates Trump's claim that Ukraine was unaware that they were being shaken down.
Goldman: What languages do you speak, Mr. Vindman?

Vindman: Russian and Ukrainian... and a little bit of English.

(Audience laughs. Vindman allows himself a disarming smile.)

Vindman reads like a committed civil servant invested with care for country and duty. Trustworthy...
Goldman asks why Vindman immediately alerted the attorneys to the 7/25 call.

Vindman explains that he had been already aware of the "alternative false narrative" before the call

Goldman: Were those alternative false narratives the two investigations mentioned on the call

Goldman probes on the call transcript and its handling.

Vindman's testimony:
1) Not given an understandable reason for the call record being segregated onto a separate server
2) Points out an ellipsis in the transcript referred to mention of "video recordings". Wut?
Anyone know?
Vindman, like prior witnesses, thoughtfully and carefully answers questions with great caution to be fair and accurate.

That bolsters his believability.

He cautiously hedges so as to not inflate or overstate.
For example, Goldman asks if the transcript was "false".

Vindman pauses and then explains that he might not use that language since transcripts often serve a foreign policy purpose in their own right. So, even in ordinary circumstances, the messaging isn't pure stenography.
That is a seemingly minor point but I suspect it will come back around...

Basically, Vindman, just as an aside, explained that call read-outs are purposeful communications. They aren't court transcripts.

That directly contradicts Trump's characterization.
Vindman testifies that he and Fiona Hill (testifying on Thurs) each agreed that the internal WH meeting on 7/10 required reporting to attorneys.

Vindman names NSC counsel John Eisenberg as the attorney to whom he reported his concerns.

Eisenberg is in the middle of all this.
Goldman now asking Jennifer Williams about a meeting between Mike Pence and Zelensky.

Williams testifies:

1) Pence did not touch on the reasons for the withholding of aid in the mtg
2) Pence then spoke with Trump about the mtg that night
3) Williams not briefed on their call
Attorney Goldman wraps up his questioning.

Schiff kicks it over to Devin Nunes.

Nunes immediately starts asking questions about conspiracy theories. Burisma. Blah, blah, blah.
All Devin Nunes is doing is asking the two witnesses if they were aware of public allegations and empty horseshit peddled by the nutbag right.

Every time Nunes randomly mentions "Andrea Chalupa, a DNC consultant" I wish I could do a shot of vodka.
Having now mentioned the topic of vodka, if any of you kindhearted people of good spirit wish to fill my virtual shot glass, I'll be in your debt. Links are in my bio.

I will absolutely need a beverage after today's hearings.

Especially after Nunes. Idiot.
Nunes now running each of the two witnesses through a series of idiotic questions about whether they talked to the press.

The questions go absolutely nowhere.

Like everything Nunes does.

The man is fucking useless.
Okay, this made me laugh...

Devin Nunes: "Mr. Vindman, you testified--"

Vindman: "Ranking Member, it is 'Lieutenant Colonel, please.'"

Ouch. Sit the eff down, Devin.
Nunes trying very hard to force Vindman to answer questions which might jeopardize the anonymity of the whistleblower.

Schiff shuts him down. Vindman shuts him down. Vindman's counsel shuts him down.

Nunes slinks off and passes the mic to Repub counsel.
Republican committee counsel, Steve Castor, is now underway doing exactly what he did at last week's hearings with Kent, Yovanovitch, et al.

Asking a dizzying array of irrelevant, small-ball questions likely designed to bore the TV audience into turning away.
It is tedious to even document his questions but in for a dime, in for a dollar, so here are a couple:

To Vindman: Did you have access to the transcript even though it was on a diff server? Yes.
To Williams: Why didn't people make a bigger deal of their concerns? We were busy.
Steve Castor has done the same thing in each hearing and it is horribly ineffective as cross-examination:

Asks a random, scattershot array of questions without any clear narrative thread or point. His questions build to nothing and are just so much damn whalesong.
As a programming note, when this block of questioning recesses, I am going to make like Christopher Cross and "Ride Like the Wind" for a cup of coffee.

I thought I was sufficiently caffeinated. I neglected to gross up my estimates to account for Nunes and Castor.
Castor asking Williams about what specific steps were taken to plan for Pence's trip to Zelensky's inauguration.

Castor was trying to establish that Pence's trip being cancelled wasn't so much a cancellation as a vague plan that was never concrete.

Williams shuts that down.
Castor tries to establish that Ukraine's inauguration was cemented at the last minute and it would have been too difficult to pull off.

Williams puts a fork in that one with, essentially, "Yeah, no. I was told Trump ordered Pence not to go weeks prior."
To give you just a visceral sense of Castor's questioning, it's kinda like watching a murder trial with witnesses on the stand.

Castor: You didn't check the victim's pulse, did you? How do you know they were ACTUALLY dead?

Witness: Their head was missing.

Castor: Next topic...
I'm having a hard time parsing enough from any of these questions to even be worth putting down in a tweet.

It's just so much small-ball.

You aren't missing anything significant as a result of the lack of close transcription on my part here.
Castor now running through a line of questions with the apparent goal of suggesting Vindman might have been disgruntled or less than scrupulous about the chain of command.

Goes nowhere.
Castor mentions that a Ukrainian offered Vindman a role as Ukrainian Defense Minister.

Vindman laughs about the very idea that he would be appropriate for the role or would take it.

Goes on to say "I am an American. I came here as a toddler."
Unfortunately, this is now going to be the shitbag smear du jour by the assholes at Fox News.

They will use something positive - the high regard of diplomatic counterparties - as if it is somehow a salacious indication Vindman's loyalties are unclear.

Eff that.
That line of inquiry and the clear innuendo it was meant to seed makes me want to break a window.

If I weren't the pacific soul that I am, I might be having visions of hitting Castor with a pie.

And by "pie" I mean "large piece of lumber".
Castor wraps it up.

Before moving to the five-minute rounds, we're going to adjourn for a recess.

Wish me well in my hasty journey for nature's perfect morning beverage.

Back shortly.
Annnnnnnd we're back.

Walked in just as Schiff fired it back up after securing coffee - which, unfortunately, I already drank half of on the way home.

My provisioning for these things remains terrible.
I'm going to do two things in parallel:

Cover the live questioning and recap the most pivotal takeaways from the morning session.

Schiff, as he always does, opens with an incisive 5-min block to clearly get sharp statements of fact on record.
So far:

1) Any claim Pence skipped the inauguration for a reason other than Trump's order is bullshit

2) Rudy was meddling and it was known to all that his goals and interests were not the United States' goals and interests

3) Bolton knew the conspiracy was afoot
4) Bolton knew it was so problematic as to require elevating to attorneys

What Schiff is doing here is clever... He is basically getting the same content of Bolton's testimony without requiring Bolton.
Schiff wraps up. Nunes takes over and says he is going to turn it over to Jim Jordan.

Jordan takes the mic and immediately smears Vindman with the suggestion he was a problem employee untrusted by his colleagues...

Vindman replies by... and you're gonna like this one...
...pulls out a copy of his last evaluation by Fiona Hill where she calls him a "Top 1% military officer" who she praised as the best expert of his kind she had worked with in her 15 year career.

Jordan just threw shit into a fan.

The back-splatter was delicious.
Jordan now moving on to trying to back Vindman into inadvertently outing the whistleblower.

Just like Nunes before him, Jordan gets smacked down like a volleyball set high and soft for legendary volleyballer, Mr. Karch Kiraly.

Schiff spiked the effort with prejudice.
Side note: I am watching this morning's hearings with my mother.

She is quietly knitting scarves which she donates to the homeless.

Throughout the morning session, she said nary a word.

Her only comment

Jim Jordan: I yield back

My mom: Good, you stupid ass.

I love my mom.
As a side note about this morning and what to expect this afternoon.

Republicans tried to smear Vindman's loyalties.

Dems will now shove that down their throats by providing a forum for Vindman to detail his partiotic military service.
And right on cue, first Dem questioner asks Vindman to explain the devices, insignia and commendations on his dress uniform.

Vindman explains the marks earned through service as an infantryman and details how he was awarded a purple heart for injuries suffered in an IED attack.
Questioner: Are you a Never Trumper, Lt. Colonel Vindman?

Vindman: I am a Never Partisan.

Boom. Print it.
Mic passes to Republican Rep. Ratcliffe.

For those unfamiliar with Rep. John Lee Ratcliffe of Texas' 4th district, allow me to catch you up by sharing that he is an insufferable prick with the integrity of a thief and wit of a dead possum.
So as to prove me right, Ratcliffe fails to ask a single question and instead uses his five minutes to filibuster like an asshatted jackanapes about why witnesses haven't used the term "bribery".

I hate this asshole.
Pivoting back to recapping the morning and road ahead, Republicans have found virtually no window to impeach the witnesses other than by smearing Vindman and nibbling away at Williams' details.

More of the same will merely wash right over viewers.

They're sunk here.
Further, they have now dug themselves into a hole with the attempts to smear Vindman's loyalties. The rebuttal of Vindman recounting his service record was devastating.

It was as close to a "Have you no sense of decency?" moment as we may come in these hearings.
Looking ahead, I expect at least a couple of R's to tread lightly... Spend their time doing little more than praising Vindman's service without probing with any seriously challenging questions.

This is the kind of hearing a smart opposition party would be wise to make brief.
Now at the mic, Rep. Mike Turner.

Like Ratcliffe, he is tedious to the point of insufferable.

His questioning is sarcastic and abrasive. It is sharply contrasted by Vindman's matter-of-fact, intensely fact-focused replies.

These rounds are making asses of the R's badgering.
It is hard to imagine that any open-minded viewers of today's testimony would be struck by anything other than three impressions re: Vindman:

1) He is an honest broker acting out of moral duty
2) He acts with integrity
3) He speaks with a reverence for the truth
The only things Republicans have accomplished through their badgering and browbeating is making Vindman an even more sympathetic figure.

They are partially martyring him as someone under attack for his honest service by people with no such compulsions.
Not sure who the Repub Rep speaking now is but like many of his colleagues whose smoldering navy suits lay at the feet of Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, his attempts to badger Vindman are not going well.

Tries to steamroll over Vindman's answers. Schiff stymies the attempt.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup.

That's who that was.

This jerkoff served combat duty in Iraq - like Vindman - yet, his sense of honor and integrity are so fungible, he happily used his five minutes to attack and smear a fellow officer who earned something he never did: a purple heart.
The Republican Party on display in this hearing is an affront not only to our politics but to our nation.

Their conduct is a vulgarity. It is garish and unpatriotic. It is moral treason. It is a complete abrogation of honor and loyalty to country and even basic decency.

I would like to believe that somewhere in America there are people... however few they may be... who are ordinarily inclined to lean right but who are watching these proceedings and regretfully stomaching that the character on display is at the witness table today.
Currently browbeating Lt. Col. Vindman:

Rep. Chris Lee of Utah.

From Wikipedia: Stewart's "time in Congress has been marked by his efforts to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act, his denial of climate change, and his vigorous defense of President Trump."

Enough said.
Up now, Rep. Mike Quigley, Dem from Illinois.

Thank god. The badgering of one amoral Republican after another has my blood pressure at approximately eleventy million over fivety million.
Here comes the bag of trash from New York's North Country.

Elise Stefanik

Now would be a great time to donate to @TedraCobb

@TedraCobb Stefanik is holding up prepared questions and rapid-fire peppering the witnesses with questions.

My sweet lordie, she is impossible to not loathe with the fire of a red dwarf star... or is it a white dwarf star... I don't know.

Whichever one is hotter.
@TedraCobb She makes the bile rise in my throat so profoundly that allow me to reiterate how much I am going to need a beverage after this.

Today's hearing has been far more angering to me than even last week's hearing with Maria Yovanovitch.

My core temp has reached 2,700 degrees Kelvin.
@TedraCobb Now Rep. Swalwell is at the mic.

Leads Vindman through a hypothetical of someone being shot but not using the right legal term in describing it to police.

Swalwell: Do you imagine police would just say "Aw, shucks." and let it go?

Vind: I don't believe so.
@TedraCobb Swalwell was beating down the earlier stupidity of suggesting Trump could not have bribed someone if the witnesses didn't use the term "bribery" when describing... his acts of bribery.

Swalwell is going somewhere interesting now...
@TedraCobb Asks Williams about Pence failing to bring up the ask for investigations in his meeting with Ukraine President Zelensky.

Swalwell: Is one explanation that Pence is willing to do a lot for Trump... but not necessarily that?

Ooooh, good one. Did Pence balk at being a triggerman?
@TedraCobb The question called for speculation and thus Williams demurred.

The point was well-raised though.

The fact that Pence didn't overtly and publicly further the conspiracy doesn't mean he wasn't privy to it - and wasn't, in other ways, a party to it...
@TedraCobb We've reached the point in the hearings where I begin silently counting in my head just how many additional questioners there might be.

These hearings run longer than is digestible for most. That adds to the reliance on excerpts and soundbites.

Those won't favor R's.
@TedraCobb Up now, Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Opens with a joke about how nice it is to meet a fellow identical twin... especially one whose brother doesn't make him grow a beard.

Audience laughs. Some welcome levity in a day of vile party over country.
@TedraCobb Castro walks back through the root of the conspiracy theory Trump was parroting on his call with Zelensky.

For the 2nd time today, a member of our national security apparatus testified an American president was promoting Russian talking points OVER American intelligence opinion.
@TedraCobb Skipped a couple rounds here.

Picking it up as Dem. Rep. Denny Heck drew a powerful contrast between the Lt. Colonel Vindman who sacrificed his body for his country and the President Trump who just pardoned convicted military criminals.
@TedraCobb Jim Jordan now rant-screeching again.

Folks, listening to this vapid fuckstick on your behalf is a bridge almost too far for even, me, your faithful documentarian.

I am quietly repeating my calming mantra in my head:

"There will be beer soon... Ohm..."
@TedraCobb Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont up now.

Cuts to the heart of the matter:

For all the attacking by Committee Republicans, not one has said or suggested that what Trump did was actually appropriate.
@TedraCobb Up now Rep. Sean Maloney, Dem from New York.

Maloney goes right at Republicans for the day's vulgar spectacle.

Hammers the key facts:
1) Williams heard inappropriate remarks from Trump on 7/25 call
2) So did Vindman
3) Both reported them
4) Repubs haven't rebutted any of that
@TedraCobb Maloney's segment here has been crisp and clear...

Asks to Vindman to repeat his opening;

"Dad, my sitting here in the United States Capitol is proof you made the right decision. [...] Don't worry. I will be fine for telling the truth."
@TedraCobb Maloney asks Vindman how can he have no worries for telling the truth despite all of the things being directed at him....

Vindman: "Because this is America."

Choked me right up. For real. Hand on heart, choked up.
@TedraCobb Up now, Rep. Val Demings, Dem from Florida

She's a firebrand. I'm a big Demings fan.

Homes in on the political ramifications of even delaying aid. Points out how it signals weakness in our alliance with Ukraine.

Vindman describes Ukraine as a frontline state. A buffer w Russia
@TedraCobb We're up to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Dem, Illinois.

He was the last questioner last week. Might be today.

"Your father attained the American dream and so did you and your family. As one immigrant to another..."

Hammers the anti-immigrant bigotry of "dual loyalty" smears.
@TedraCobb We are on to closing remarks.

Devin Nunes is speaking. If you truly need to experience what listening to that feels like, take a stapler to your face for 5-minutes while listening to the caterwauling of a screeching, rabid hyena.
@TedraCobb Schiff now wrapping it up.

"This is what the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about you..."

Reads off highly laudatory endorsement of Lt. Col. Vindman's character and service.

Joint Chiefs of Staff are kinda high up there.
@TedraCobb Schiff recaps the salient broad strokes of the overall testimony both today and to-date.

We are about done here.

Will be interesting to see how the media processes, describes and presents today's hearing.

Expect the condemnations of the un-patriotic attacks to be brutal.
@TedraCobb This brings this thread to a close.

Thanks for following along - and thank you to the folks who generously fed my Beer n' Billpayin' fund...

I am gonna make a run for food before we hit the next one of these...

...and then we start all over again.
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