Army Colonel Alexander Vindman testifies in Trump impeachment probe
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman looked every part the American hero as he strode into the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill Tuesday poised to deliver a new hammer blow to President Trump.
Wearing his full-dress Army uniform, the Purple Heart winner arrived to tell congressional investigators why he’s spilling the beans about Trump’s effort to bully Ukraine into launching investigations into Democrats.
“I am a patriot,” Vindman, who grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, said in his prepared opening statement.
Vindman, who was wounded in Iraq, plans to tell House investigators that he listened to President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and reported his concerns to the National Security Council’s lead counsel.
“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman’s prepared testimony reads. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.”
Vindman is the first official who listened in on that call to testify as the impeachment inquiry delivers new blows to the embattled president. He’s also the first current White House official to appear before the impeachment panels, defying Trump’s efforts to stonewall the probe.
Trump quickly sought to discredit Vindman, even though there is no evidence he is anything other than a paragon of duty.
“Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call ‘concerned’ today’s Never Trumper witness,” Trump wrote on Twitter in an apparent reference to Vindman. “Was he on the same call that I was?”
The inquiry is looking into Trump’s call, in which he asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” by investigating Democrats.
Critics say that was part of Trump’s improper quid pro quo that has put him on the brink of impeachment. Trump suspended desperately needed defense aid and sought to use it as leverage to get Ukraine to launch bogus probes, they say.
In his testimony, Vindman, a 20-year military officer and decorated veteran, says he first reported his concerns after a July 10 meeting in which U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stressed the importance of having Ukraine investigate the 2016 election as well as Burisma, a company linked to the family of Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Vindman says he told Sondland that “his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.”
That account differs from Sondland’s, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration and testified before the impeachment investigators that no one from the NSC “ever expressed any concerns.” He also testified that he did not realize any connection between Biden and Burisma.
As for the call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Vindman said he listened in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and Vice President Mike Pence’s office and was concerned. He said he again reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.
He wrote, “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”
Vindman, who arrived in the United States as a 3-year-old from the former Soviet Union, served in various military and diplomatic posts before joining the NSC. He was the director for European affairs and a Ukraine expert under Fiona Hill, a former official who testified earlier in the impeachment probe. Hill worked for former national security adviser John Bolton.
Vindman will be a key witness. He attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration with a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and he and Hill were both part of a Ukraine briefing with Sondland that others have testified irritated Bolton at the White House.
He will testify that he is not the whistleblower, the still unnamed government official who filed the initial complaint over Trump’s conversation with the Ukraine president that sparked the House impeachment inquiry. He will say he does not know who the whistleblower is.
“It is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics,” wrote Vindman.
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