Democrats release impeachment resolution, hear testimony from army officer
Lt.-Col. Alexander Vindman's statement could put scrutiny on Trump's ambassador Gordon Sondland
A military officer at the National Security Council (NSC) twice raised concerns over the Trump administration's push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden, according to testimony the official is to deliver Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry.
Alexander Vindman, an army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and, later, as a diplomat, is prepared 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 NSC's lead counsel.
"I was concerned by the call," Vindman was to say, according to prepared testimony obtained Monday night by The Associated Press. "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's arrival in military blue with medals created a striking image as he entered the Capitol and made his way to the secure briefing room.
The inquiry is looking into Trump's call, in which he asked Zelenskiy for a "favour" — to investigate Democrats — that Democrats say was a quid pro quo that could be an impeachable offence.
Vindman's appearance came as Democrats on Tuesday released text of a resolution that authorizes the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.
The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday as Democrats aim to nullify complaints from Trump and his Republican allies that the impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
Vindman was the first official who listened in on that call to testify as the impeachment inquiry reaches deeper into the Trump administration and Democrats prepare for the next public phase of the probe. He's also the first current White House official to appear before the impeachment panels.
Gave warning to U.S. ambassador to EU
Vindman, a 20-year military officer and decorated veteran, will testify that he first reported his concerns after an earlier meeting July 10 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 said 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 US to Trump's 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.
For the call between Trump and Zelensky, 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 three-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 attended Zelensky'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.
Vindman 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 the identity of the whistleblower.
"I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honour to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics," wrote Vindman, who was wounded in Iraq and awarded a Purple Heart.
"For over 2o years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations," he wrote.
Trump has questioned why people he's "never even heard of" are testifying. He has denied doing anything wrong and has repeatedly said the call with Ukraine's leader was "perfect."
Trump has dismissed the investigation and has ordered the White House not to comply with subpoenas.