Vindman: Trump request for Biden probe 'improper'

Video Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on November 19, 2019 - Duration: 03:59s

Vindman: Trump request for Biden probe 'improper'

A White House official testified in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump that a phone call the president made to ask Ukraine to investigate his political rivals was improper.

Jonah Green reports.

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Vindman: Trump request for Biden probe 'improper'

The first witnesses who were on the July 25th phone call that’s at the center of the impeachment inquiry to publicly testify are Lt.

Col.

Alexander Vindman, an Army officer and national security council staffer, and Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer stationed in the Vice President’s office.

Appearing in uniform, Vindman expressed to lawmakers his alarm at what he described as a concerted effort by Trump’s allies to bend U.S. policy in Ukraine to personally benefit Trump.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: "I was concerned by the call, what I heard was improper, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg.

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." Williams, a State Department official assigned to Mike Pence's team, testified that she found the call unusual.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE, JENNIFER WILLIAMS, SAYING: "I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter." Vindman also described a meeting between Ukrainian officials and US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland and national security advisor John Bolton.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: "We fully anticipated the Ukrainians would raise the issue of a meeting between the two presidents.

Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short when Ambassador Sondland started to speak about the requirement that Ukraine deliver specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with President Trump.

Following this meeting, there was a short debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine delivering the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma.

I stated to Ambassador Sondland that this was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security." Vindman, a Ukrainian-born American citizen and decorated Iraq war veteran, has been the subject of attacks by Trump’s allies, and called a Never Trumper by the president.

On Tuesday, Vindman added a personal note at the end of his opening statement.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT.

COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: "Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United State of America in search of a better life for our family.

Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth." When questions shifted to the Republicans, ranking Republican Devin Nunes used his time to find out the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry than defending the president's alleged misdeeds.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.

DEVIN NUNES, SAYING: "Lt.

Col.

Vindman did you discuss the July 25th phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25th or the 26th, and if so, with whom?" (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: "Yes, I did….an individual in the intelligence community." (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.

DEVIN NUNES, SAYING: "As you know…the intelligence community has 17 different agencies.

What agency was this individual from?" (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.

ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING:: “If I could interject here.

We don’t want to use these proceedings…We need to protect the whistleblower.

I want to make sure there is no effort to out the whistleblower throughout these proceedings.” Nunes also pushed an unfounded theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.

DEVIN NUNES, SAYING: “In these depositions and hearings Republicans have cited numerous instances of Ukraine meddling in the 2016 elections to oppose the Trump campaign." Under questioning from the Democrats’ side, Vindman shot that down.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL DANIEL GOLDMAN, SAYING: “Are you also aware that Vladimir Putin had promoted this theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election?” (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT.

COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: “I am well aware of that fact.” (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL DANIEL GOLDMAN, SAYING: “And ultimately which country did the U.S. intelligence services determine to have interfered in the 2016?” (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) LT.

COL.

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: “It’s the consensus of the entire intelligence community that the Russians interfered in U.S. elections in 2016.” More witnesses are expected to testify throughout the week.

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