October 30, 2019
A senior White House official who currently oversees Ukraine policy—and who previously served 20 years as an active-duty U.S. military officer and a diplomat—told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he believes President Donald Trump undermined U.S. national security when he appealed to Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by Politico.
“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,” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, told investigators, referring to Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce probes into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Vindman, who became the first White House official to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, also said he reported Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky to the NSC’s top lawyer after listening in on the conversation from the White House situation room alongside other U.S. national security officials.
Politico revealed, this was the second time Vindman had raised concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel about a campaign by Trump, his associates, and some U.S. officials to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations intended to benefit Trump politically.
“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and [Ukrainian gas company] 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,” Vindman said.
“This would all undermine U.S. national security,” Vindman added. “Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel.”
In his appearance before House investigators on October 29, Vindman became the first official who listened in directly on Trump’s phone call with Zelensky to speak with investigators, providing a firsthand account of what House Democrats have said is a blatant abuse of power by the president. His opening statement leans heavily on his military service and a “sense of duty” to his country.
“I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics,” Vindman wrote in his opening statement.
“As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me,” Vindman said, defending his decisions to express his concerns about Trump to his higher-ups. “On many occasions I have been told I should express my views and share my concerns with my chain of command and proper authorities.”
The Trump-Zelensky phone call is at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Politico noted. Investigators have gathered evidence that Trump sought to withhold nearly $400 million of critical military aid to Ukraine and refuse a White House meeting with Zelensky until the Ukrainian leader publicly stated his intention to launch Trump’s desired investigations.
Research contact: @politico