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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Listening to this man is practically hypoxic. It deprives the brain of oxygen. Entire lobes go dark as neurons sputter into silence.
Jennifer Williams - brought in by GWB; served in Homeland Security; served and continues to serve in foreign policy roles
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.
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.
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.
Williams leaves some room for Pence's denial but it is nonetheless not plausible.
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.
Ukraine would have been seen as a partisan actor working for Trump and Republicans - and that would have hurt their standing in the world.
While that diminishes the force of his opening remarks, it presents him as an accidental star witness very different than political actors.
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.
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
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...
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.
Williams and Vindman: Correct
Schiff: Yet, it wasn't in the record released to the public
1) it was his responsibility to see that the record was correct; and
2) his corrections were not allowed into the version eventually published
Implication: Trump is a dope. He doesn't know Burisma from a hole in the wall. Kinda a giveaway something was up.
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
...but were exactly what Putin has claimed.
Trump was vomiting up Putin's talking points on his call with Zelensky.
Further invalidates Trump's claim that Ukraine was unaware that they were being shaken down.
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...
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
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?
That bolsters his believability.
He cautiously hedges so as to not inflate or overstate.
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.
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 names NSC counsel John Eisenberg as the attorney to whom he reported his concerns.
Eisenberg is in the middle of all this.
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
Schiff kicks it over to Devin Nunes.
Nunes immediately starts asking questions about conspiracy theories. Burisma. Blah, blah, blah.
Every time Nunes randomly mentions "Andrea Chalupa, a DNC consultant" I wish I could do a shot of vodka.
I will absolutely need a beverage after today's hearings.
Especially after Nunes. Idiot.
The questions go absolutely nowhere.
Like everything Nunes does.
The man is fucking useless.
Devin Nunes: "Mr. Vindman, you testified--"
Vindman: "Ranking Member, it is 'Lieutenant Colonel, please.'"
Ouch. Sit the eff down, Devin.
Schiff shuts him down. Vindman shuts him down. Vindman's counsel shuts him down.
Nunes slinks off and passes the mic to Repub counsel.
Asking a dizzying array of irrelevant, small-ball questions likely designed to bore the TV audience into turning away.
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.
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.
I thought I was sufficiently caffeinated. I neglected to gross up my estimates to account for Nunes and Castor.
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.
Williams puts a fork in that one with, essentially, "Yeah, no. I was told Trump ordered Pence not to go weeks prior."
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...
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.
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."
They will use something positive - the high regard of diplomatic counterparties - as if it is somehow a salacious indication Vindman's loyalties are unclear.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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
What Schiff is doing here is clever... He is basically getting the same content of Bolton's testimony without requiring Bolton.
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...
Jordan just threw shit into a fan.
The back-splatter was delicious.
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.
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.
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.
Vindman: I am a Never Partisan.
Boom. Print it.
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.
I hate this asshole.
More of the same will merely wash right over viewers.
They're sunk here.
It was as close to a "Have you no sense of decency?" moment as we may come in these hearings.
This is the kind of hearing a smart opposition party would be wise to make brief.
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.
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
They are partially martyring him as someone under attack for his honest service by people with no such compulsions.
Tries to steamroll over Vindman's answers. Schiff stymies the attempt.
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.
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."
Thank god. The badgering of one amoral Republican after another has my blood pressure at approximately eleventy million over fivety million.
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.
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.
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.
Swalwell is going somewhere interesting now...
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?
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...
These hearings run longer than is digestible for most. That adds to the reliance on excerpts and soundbites.
Those won't favor R's.
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.
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.
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.
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..."
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.
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
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."
Vindman: "Because this is America."
Choked me right up. For real. Hand on heart, choked up.
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
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.