President Donald Trump refrained from levying his usual attacks on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and other witnesses in the House impeachment investigation on Tuesday.
Trump, who has baselessly accused Vindman of being a “Never Trumper,” had a more muted response to the lieutenant colonel’s public testimony that was underway.
“I watched him for a little while this morning and I think he…I’m going to let people make their own determination,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. “But I don’t know Vindman. I never heard of him.”
The comment strikes a noticeably softer chord from Trump, considering that he previously threatened to release information on Vindman “real soon” that supposedly proves the witness is biased against him.
On Tuesday, the President also toned down his fury toward diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent, two other major witnesses in the investigation into Trump’s Ukraine scheme.
“I don’t know who Kent is. I don’t know who Taylor is,” said Trump. “All these people are talking about…they heard a conversation of a conversation of another conversation that was had by the President.”
As with Vindman, Trump had claimed without evidence that Taylor and Kent were “Never Trumpers.”
The President frequently attacks impeachment witnesses, going as far as bashing former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her testimony last week on Twitter.
The infamous tweet, which even Trump’s own advisers reportedly saw as damaging, handed Democrats another potential impeachment charge: witness intimidation.
But even though Trump’s remarks on Tuesday were more neutral than usual, the White House went on the offensive during Vindman’s hearing.
The official White House Twitter account posted a quote from Tim Morrison, Vindman’s former superior at the National Security Council, who had testified he “had concerns” about Vindman’s judgement.
It was a shocking salvo, given that Vindman is still a member of the NSC.
Additionally, Trump retweeted a post suggesting Vindman has a dual loyalty to Ukraine a few hours after the Cabinet press conference.
Watch Trump below:
Trump on impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, whom Trump has previously accused of being a "Never Trump": “I don’t know Vindman. I never heard of him.” pic.twitter.com/sD7fZDZHQp
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) November 19, 2019