October 28, 2019

Army Officer Says He Raised Flags About Trump’s Ukraine Call
(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. Army officer who works for the White House National Security Council said he listened in on the telephone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president and was so disturbed by the content that he reported his concerns to the NSC’s legal counsel.Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in a statement prepared for the House impeachment inquiry that the July call was just one of the instances he witnessed in which Trump administration officials conditioned aid to Ukraine on that country agreeing to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. In one of the prior instances he also contacted the NSC lawyer.Vindman’s statement corroborates the complaint made by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community, who Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit and dismiss. Vindman’s testimony is scheduled to be delivered Tuesday to the three House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of Trump and provides a key piece of evidence from someone with first-hand knowledge of the events being investigated.“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 in the statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”That, he added, “would all undermine U.S. national security.”Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of Burisma Group, one of the country’s biggest private gas companies. As vice president, Biden pursued an anti-corruption policy in Ukraine in 2016 that included a call for the resignation of the country’s top prosecutor who had previously investigated Burisma.Vindman said the first time he contacted an NSC lawyer was after Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told Ukrainian officials at a meeting that their country had to pledge “specific investigations” in order to secure a meeting between Zelenskiy and Trump.Vindman said he told Sondland that “his statements were inappropriate.”He said he was in the White House Situation Room when the Trump-Zelenskiy call took place.He said he never had direct contact or communication with the president. When Vindman joined the National Security Council in 2018, he says, he reported to Fiona Hill, another NSC official who in turn reported to John Bolton, the national security adviser.Hill has already testified to the three impeachment committees and its investigators have indicated they want to request Bolton, who departed the White House in September, to testify at some point.Whistle-BlowerIn his statement, Vindman says he is not the whistle-blower who brought this issue to the intelligence community’s inspector general, trigger the current focus on Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.“I do not know who the whistle-blower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistle-blower,” he states in his prepared remarks.Vindman’s been in the Army for more than 20 years and is an Iraq combat veteran. Since 2008, he’s been specializing in Eurasia, with tours at U.S. embassies in Kyiv and Moscow.“I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America,” he said in his statement. “I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics.”Vindman’s testimony is set for Tuesday, on the heels of a former deputy White House national security adviser defying a congressional subpoena on Monday. Charles Kupperman failed to show up for a scheduled deposition Monday after the White House instructed him not to do so. He has filed legal action in federal court in Washington for guidance on whether he was legally required to do so. A preliminary hearing has been set for Friday.Yet as the Vindman statement underscores, even as the administration attempts to prevent officials and former officials from taking part in the impeachment inquiry, other witnesses continue to testify.Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff of California said Monday the three committees would “move forward” in the investigation and would not let the administration’s blocking of witnesses impede progress.To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net;John Harney in Washington at jharney2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net, Joe SobczykFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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