Trump calls impeachment inquiry a kangaroo court

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President Donald Trump slammed the ongoing impeachment hearings as a “disgrace” and “kangaroo court,” while acknowledging Tuesday that he watched part of the third day of public hearings.

Trump made the comments at the start of a Cabinet meeting and as the House impeachment panel listened to testimony from National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump said he caught some of Tuesday’s testimony from Vindman, a Ukraine specialist, who says Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine’s president to open an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine.

The president dismissed Vindman’s testimony, and praised Republican lawmakers for “killing it.”

“I don’t know Vindman,” Trump said. “I never heard of him.”

A Republican at the House impeachment hearing Tuesday used a foot-tall stack of transcripts to push back against Democrats saying President Donald Trump tried bribing Ukrainian officials.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has said it was “bribery” when Trump withheld U.S. military aid in hopes Ukraine would agree to investigate his Democratic opponents.

At Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe displayed what he said was 3,500 pages of transcripts from impeachment inquiry interviews with federal officials.

He said the word “bribery” only appeared once. It was in a question one attorney asked about unfounded bribery allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Tuesday’s two witnesses — White House national security advisers Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams — both told Ratcliffe they’ve not used “bribery” to describe Trump’s actions.

The Constitution cites “bribery” as an impeachable offense.

Vindman on Tuesday rejected attacks on his judgment and credibility during the impeachment by reading from a glowing performance review he received.

The review came from Fiona Hill, who was his boss on the National Security Council until this summer. She described Vindman as “brilliant” and “unflappable” and a stellar military officer with excellent judgment.

Vindman pulled out a copy of the review and read from it during questioning Tuesday from Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who asked the Army officer why some colleagues have raised questions about his judgment.

Earlier, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence responded to the president’s tweet going after her before her public testimony Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry.

Jennifer Williams, a career State Department official detailed to Pence’s office, says Trump’s tweet accusing her of being a “Never Trumper” caught her by surprise.

She’s told the committee she “was not expecting to be called out by name.”

Trump had tweeted Williams should meet with “the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Williams said she was confused by the attack and “would not” consider herself a “Never Trumper.”

Vindman was asked the same question Tuesday. He responded: “I’d call myself never partisan.”

Vindman testified there is no ambiguity that Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to commit to investigate Biden on a July phone call.

Vindman testified there was no ambiguity about Trump’s use of the name “Biden” in the phone call, which is at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment probe. Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, who was linked to a gas company in Ukraine.

In contrast, Williams said Pence did not request the investigations in his own conversations with Zelenskiy.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister says his country doesn’t want to be involved in the U.S. political drama.

Commenting on the ongoing impeachment hearings, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Tuesday that Ukraine wants to retain the support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, which it “had always been proud of.”

Prystaiko said the last thing the country needs, while dealing with the war with Russia-backed separatists in the east, is to be involved in “problems at the other end of the world.”

Vindman earlier told lawmakers that he was offered the post of Ukraine’s defense minister three times but rejected the suggestion.

Vindman said he was made the offer while attending the inauguration of Zelenskiy as part of the official U.S. delegation. “I immediately dismissed these offers,” Vindman said. He said two American officials witnessed the exchange with a top adviser to Zelenskiy, and that he notified his chain of command and counterintelligence officials about the offer upon returning to the U.S.

Vindman also declined to tell lawmakers who in the intelligence community he may have spoken to after he listened in to the July call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

In response to questions from California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Vindman testified he would not answer on the advice of his lawyer and the recommendation by the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.

Schiff said Nunes’ questioning was an attempt to out a whistleblower who first revealed the essence of the call and whose formal complaint triggered the impeachment probe. The whistleblower based the complaint on conversations with people who were familiar with the call.

Schiff said “these proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower.”

Vindman testified he heard envoy Gordon Sondland describe “specific investigations” as a requirement for Ukraine’s president to get a coveted White House visit.

Sondland referred to “specific investigations that Ukrainians would have to deliver in order to get these meetings.” Those desired investigations were into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and also into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Vindman said.

Vindman said he told Sondland that the request for investigations was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security policy.

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