Updated 6:37 p.m.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a 20-year military officer who was among the officials who listened in to the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, testified Tuesday that the president’s call with Ukraine was “improper.”
Vindman said that it was his “duty” to report his concerns about the phone call, but deflected repeated Republican efforts to divulge everyone he told about it — an attempt by GOP lawmakers to identify the anonymous whistleblower who spurred the impeachment probe.
“Without hesitation, I knew I had to report this,” he told the House Intelligence Committee. “It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent.”
Jennifer Williams, Vindman’s counterpart at Vice President Mike Pence’s office also testified in the morning session. Both said they had concerns as Trump spoke with the newly elected Ukrainian president about political investigations into Biden.
Impeachment Inquiry FAQ: A Guide To Key People, Facts And Documents
Williams testified the Trump phone call was unlike about a dozen others she had heard from presidents over her career. When the White House produced a rough transcript later that day, she put it in Vice President Pence’s briefing materials. “I just don’t know if he read it,” Williams testified earlier in her closed-door House interview.
Vindman and Williams opened a high-stakes week of public testimony on Capitol Hill.
The committee and the public also heard from Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide and longtime Republican defense hawk, and Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.
Both have already testified behind closed doors in the House Democrats’ impeachment investigation.
Volker told House impeachment investigators that it was Giuliani who raised the idea that Vice President Joe Biden was compromised because his son was on the board of a Ukraine gas company.
Volker said he considered that idea a conspiracy theory and rejected it. He says he’s known Biden for more than two decades and believes him to be an honorable man.
The former special envoy also said he was not aware of and never participated in an effort to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He did not listen to the July 25 call.
Volker testified that he did not realize at the time that Trump was holding up military aid to Ukraine as a way to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals. He said he understands now, thanks to hindsight and the testimony of other witnesses, that Trump was using the aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Volker also said that during a September dinner with Andriy Yermak, he’d discouraged Ukraine from trying to prosecute the country’s previous president. He said he warned it would sow deep societal divisions.
Volker said Yermak quipped in response, “You mean like asking us to investigate Clinton and Biden?”
Volker claims he didn’t “quite understand” the remark and was “kind of puzzled” by it.
Morrison has told Congress that while he is taking no position on whether Trump should be impeached, his fears that the phone call would become politicized "have been realized."
Morrison said his recent resignation from the Trump administration was voluntary, adding that he felt no pressure to resign and did not receive any retaliation for his closed-door testimony to Congress last month.
He also said Fiona Hill, a former top NSC staffer for Europe and Russia, warned him about Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, and even coined a name for her concerns: “the Gordon problem.”
Other witnesses have testified that Sondland talked directly to Trump as the president pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Sondland also clashed with some in the White House as he took a leading role in Ukraine policy, including Hill.
On Wednesday the committee will hear from Sondland, in addition to Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense and David Hale, a State Department official. And on Thursday, Hill will also appear.
Read More: Gordon Sondland Returns To Impeachment Inquiry As A Key Witness With An Updated Story (via NPR.org)
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