November 20, 2019
Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman—the principal White House adviser on Ukraine to the national security staff and the to the president—said in his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry on November 19 that he “was concerned” as he personally listened to President Donald Trump phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
As he sat in the Situation Room along with White House colleagues and heard firsthand the conversation between the two leaders, Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee, “…what I heard was improper.”
He clarified, “It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that, if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support; undermine U.S. national security; and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”
He said he never expected to testify about the president’s words and actions, but he did so out of a “sense of duty.”
Indeed, according to a report by NBC News—which obtained a copy of the opening statement and posted it—Vindman’s account is significant because Republicans have attempted to paint previous witnesses as unreliable given their second- or third-hand knowledge about the pressure campaign. Vindman said that he witnessed EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland ask Ukrainian officials to open the investigation in order to get the aid — a meeting then-national security adviser John Bolton cut short. He also said that the July 25 call was “inappropriate” and he reported his concerns immediately
What’s more, he noted, he continued to support the foreign policy objectives of the administration, even after he reported his concerns—both on July 10 about Ambassador Sondland’s message detailing what was expected from Ukraine in return for the nearly $400 million in military aid—and on July 25 about the president’s dialog with Zelensky.
“When I reported my concerns,” Lt. Colonel Vindman said, “my only thought was to act property and to carry out duty. Following each of my reports [to National Security Council attorney John Eisenberg, who placed the transcript of the phone call on a classified server]… I immediately returned to work to advance the President’s and our country’s foreign policy objectives. I focused on what I have done throughout my career, promoting America’s national security interests.”
NBC News reported that Vindman —whose loyalty to the United States has come under attack from some in conservative media—excoriated the “reprehensible” and “cowardly” attacks on career foreign service officers and others who have appeared or were expected to do so, saying they do this work out of patriotism and not partisanship.
In a powerful close, Vindman thanked his father for deciding to emigrate to America from Ukraine, saying his testimony was proof it was the right decision. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said looking into the camera directly at his dad.
Research contact: @NBCNews