Wednesday morning news: November 20, 2019

Vindman, Volker testify on Day 3 of public impeachment hearings » Several more witnesses testified Tuesday on day three of public impeachment hearings. 

Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker distanced himself from the White House. He said while others saw a push to have Ukraine investigate a company with ties to the Bidens as a political play, he did not see it that way at the time. 

VOLKER: In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently. And had I done so, I would have raised my own objections. 

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman also appeared. He’s the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Vindman said he was on the line during President Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine. He described his reaction when he heard Trump ask his Ukrainian counterpart to launch a corruption probe. 

VINDMAN: Frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was probably an element of shock that maybe in certain regards my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out.

National security official Tim Morrison also testified, at the request of Republican members. He previously told lawmakers he did not believe the president did anything illegal.

MORRISON: I feared at the time of the call on July 25th how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate. My fears have been realized. 

Several more witnesses are slated to testify today—including U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. 

House passes short-term funding bill » Meantime on the House floor, with a Thursday deadline looming, lawmakers passed a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

The continuing resolution keeps prior spending levels in place and funds the government through December 20th. 

It passed on a vote of 231 to 192. Most Republicans opposed it, including Arkansas Congressman Steve Womack. He said the short-term bill again does nothing to address a trillion-dollar deficit and a $23 trillion debt. 

WOMACK: And yet the question today is will we just kick the can down the road to right before Christmas.

Most Democratic members said effectively the same thing: I don’t like it—but I’m voting for it.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the bill “an admission of failure.” 

HOYER: We lack the will to compromise. We lack the will to work together. We lack the will to do the American people’s business on time. 

But he said the alternative of shutting down the government is worse. 

The Senate is expected to move quickly on the legislation. An administration official has reportedly signaled that the president will sign the bill if the Senate sends it to his desk. 

White House hopefuls set to face off in Atlanta » Democratic candidates will face off in Atlanta this evening—in the fifth major presidential debate of the year. 

A total of 10 contenders have participated in every debate so far. Eight of them will be on stage tonight. But two of them will not. Former HUD secretary Julian Castro did not have the poll numbers needed to qualify this time and former congressman Beto O’Rourke has dropped out of the race. 

But Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer both made the cut.

The Washington Post and MSNBC are co-hosting the debate. It begins at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Taliban frees American, Australian in prisoner swap » The Taliban freed two hostages on Tuesday—one of them an American citizen.  WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: After three long years in captivity, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks are heading home. 

That after U.S. and Afghan officials negotiated their release in exchange for three top Taliban figures. 

King and Weeks were abducted in 2016 outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, where both worked as teachers.

In a statement Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes the prisoner exchange is a signal that cooperation is possible and the Afghan war may soon be over.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(Shawn Thew/Pool Photo via AP) Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, top center, questions Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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