Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence, pushed back during Tuesday’s impeachment inquiry hearing against being called “never Trumpers.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) on Tuesday asked the two witnesses at the third open hearing to respond to attacks by President Trump over the weekend that they were “never Trumpers,” while also pushing back against questioning tactics by Republicans.
Williams told Himes that she did not know the “official definition” of a “Never Trumper,” but said that she would not describe herself in that way and that she “was not expecting to be called out by that name.”
Trump tweeted on Sunday that Williams should “read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released st[a]tement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”
Himes on Tuesday described the tweet as “witness intimidation,” echoing an incident last week in which Trump criticized former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch over Twitter while she was testifying. Yovanovitch said under oath that the effect of the tweet was to “intimidate” her.
Himes also asked Vindman, a Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council (NSC), about whether he was a “Never Trumper.” Vindman said he was not, noting he was instead “never partisan.”
Himes also pushed back against an exchange, earlier in the hearing, during which GOP Counsel Steve Castor questioned Vindman, who was born in Ukraine but immigrated with his family to the United States as a child, as to whether he had “left the door open” to accepting repeated offers from the Ukrainian government to become the country’s minister of defense.
Vindman pushed back against this, saying he “immediately dismissed the offers, did not entertain them,” and had reported them to his chain of command.
Himes highlighted this exchange during his questioning, telling Vindman that the GOP line of questioning “may have been cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit and parliamentary language, but that was designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties. I want people to understand what that was all about.”
Himes tied the questioning of Vindman to the opening statement given by House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in which he attacked the media for their coverage of the impeachment inquiry. Himes said questioning Vindman’s loyalty to the United States was “the kind of thing you say when you are defending the indefensible.”
“It’s what you say when it’s not enough to attack the media, the way the ranking member gave over his opening statement to attack the Democrats, but it’s what you stoop to when you attack a man who is wearing a Springfield rifle on a field of blue above a purple heart,” Himes said. “I, sir, thank you for your service.”
Follow the rest of the public impeachment inquiry hearing here.