Nov 22, 2019

Impeachment testimony highlights witnesses' immigrant pasts

Fiona Hill testifies yesterday in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Several witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry this week highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, sharing their families' stories in highly personal opening statements, the AP's Jill Colvin and Colleen Long write.

Why it matters: They drew a connection to how those experiences led them to public service and a strong desire to safeguard U.S. national security. Their stories offered a sharp counterpoint to President Trump, who has often derided immigrants as a threat to American national security.

Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official who testified yesterday, spoke in what she called a "very distinctive working-class" British accent that would have impeded her professional advancement at home:

  • "I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England."

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer who works with the NSC, testified Tuesday that his family fled to the U.S. from the Soviet Union when he was 3.

  • "Dad, I am sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected professionals. Talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago. ... Do not worry. I will be fine."

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, immigrated to the U.S. at age 3 from Canada. Her father fled the Soviets, and her mother had grown up in Nazi Germany.

  • "Their personal histories, my personal history gave me both deep gratitude towards the United States and great empathy for others like the Ukrainian people who want to be free," she told lawmakers last week.

Gordon Sondland, the president's ambassador to the European Union, described at one point how his parents had fled Europe during the Holocaust, first moving to Uruguay and then settling in Seattle:

  • "Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity."

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Vindman discusses his immigrant background in impeachment opening statement

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman discussed his family's decision to immigrate to the U.S. from Ukraine during his opening statement in Tuesday's impeachment hearing.

What he's saying: Vindman told his father that his testimony is "proof that [he] made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union ... in search of a better life for our family."

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Highlights from Alexander Vindman's and Jennifer Williams' impeachment testimonies

Photo: Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence, testified Tuesday morning as the House kicked off its second week of impeachment hearings.

Why it matters: The hearing was the first time the public heard directly from witnesses who listened to the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that lies at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 19, 2019

Read Adam Schiff's opening statement in the Vindman-Williams impeachment hearing

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) set the stage with his opening statement in the House impeachment inquiry's public hearing featuring Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence.

The big picture: Schiff focused on Vindman's and Williams' firsthand knowledge of many of the events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — specifically the fact that they both listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019