The House impeachment inquiry is scheduled to hear from two State Department Ukraine experts on Wednesday, a day after a U.S. Army officer on the White House national security staff said he was so concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump urged Ukraine to investigate political opponents that he alerted his superiors.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman told the House committees Tuesday that he was among those who listened in on Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
"I was concerned by the call. 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 said.
The Trump-Zelenskiy call is at the center of efforts by House Democrats to impeach Trump for asking Kyiv to investigate allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S presidential election on behalf of Democrats, and also look into alleged corruption by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
No evidence to support either charge has surfaced.
The Democrats want to know if Trump held up $400 million in badly needed military aid to Ukraine unless Zelenskiy publicly agreed to the investigations.
Reaching out to a foreign government to meddle in a U.S. election and a so-called quid pro quo are possible impeachable offenses.
“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma (the gas company) 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, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said in prepared testimony.
"I did convey certain concerns internally to national security officials in accordance with my decades of experience and training, sense of duty, and obligation to operate within the chain of command,” he said.
Vindman is a Ukrainian-American immigrant who was wounded by a roadside bomb while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Even before Vindman began testifying, Trump disparaged him in one of his trademark tweets.
"Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call? Just READ THE CALL TRANSCRIPT AND THE IMPEACHMENT HOAX IS OVER! Ukrain (sic) said NO PRESSURE."
He added, "How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call when all anyone has to do is READ THE TRANSCRIPT!... Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call 'concerned' today’s Never Trumper witness. Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!"
"Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call 'concerned' today’s Never Trumper witness," Trump said. "Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!"
Some of Trump's fellow Republicans resented his insulting remarks lobbed at a decorated U.S. soldier.
Republican Representative Liz Cheney called it "shameful" to criticize Vindman's patriotism while Senator Mitt Romney said Trump's words were "absurd, disgusting, and way off the mark."
Vindman also described a meeting two weeks before the July 25 Trump-Zelenskiy call in which he said U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland "started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations" in order for the Ukrainians to secure a meeting between Zelenskiy and Trump at the White House.
"I stated to Ambassador 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," Vindman says.
Trump has called the impeachment probe illegitimate because the entire House never voted to conduct one, even though no law requires a vote. The White House has complained that the proceedings are being held behind closed doors, which is a routine practice for any grand-jury style investigation.
In order to satisfy Republican concerns, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a vote on a resolution Thursday spelling out the rules for the inquiry.
It would clearly give the Republican minority equal opportunity to question witnesses, ask for written testimony, and subpoena witnesses and records.
Pelosi says she wants to "eliminate any doubt" about the process.
Despite her apparent effort to satisfy Republicans, the White House is still calling the impeachment inquiry an "illegal sham" and "one-sided," even though Republicans have had equal time to question witnesses.