Vindman: 'My Impression Is' That Trump Demanded a Favor of Zelensky

By Susan Jones | November 19, 2019 | 10:49am EST
National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified before the House intelligence committee on November 19, 2019. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified before the House intelligence committee on November 19, 2019. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a member of the National Security Council who testified against President Trump at Tuesday's impeachment inquiry, said Trump didn't "request" an investigation into a political opponent -- he demanded it.

"[M]y impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations," Vindman said.

In his opening statement, Vindman said he listened to the now-famous July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky.

I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate. And I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg (a Security Council lawyer). It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.

Questioned about that by House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Vindman repeated:


Chairman, as I said in my statement, it was inappropriate -- it was improper for the president to request -- to demand -- an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation and that this would have significant implications if it became public knowledge and it would be perceived as a partisan play. It would undermine our Ukraine policy and it would undermine our national security."

Schiff noted that Vindman had described it as a "demand" from the president: "What is it about the relationship between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the president of the United States asks a favor like this, it's really a demand?"

Vindman responded:

Chairman, the culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it's polite and pleasant, it is not to be taken as a request, it's to be taken as an order.  In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.

The summary of Trump's phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky can be read here in its entirety.

In the July 25 phone call, Zelensky told Trump, "We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes."

Trump chimed in:

I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.  I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike... I guess you have one of your wealthy people...  The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible.

A short time later, Zelensky brought up “investigations.” “I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you,”  he told Trump.

Trump then said:

"The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me."

(Biden bragged that he used a billion-dollar loan guarantee as leverage to get a Ukraine prosecutor fired. Biden denies the firing had anything to do with his son Hunter's position on the board of a Ukraine gas company.)



 

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