Depositions of executive agency personnel involved in the Trump Ukraine scandal continue this week, and up today is National Security Council Ukraine expert, Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, who will offer the first testimony of someone actually on the now fateful July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.
He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“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,” Colonel Vindman said in his 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.”
Burisma Holdings is an energy company on whose board Mr. Biden’s son served while his father was vice president.
“This would all undermine U.S. national security,” Colonel Vindman added, referring to Mr. Trump’s comments in the call.
The colonel, a Ukrainian-American immigrant who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb and whose statement is full of references to duty and patriotism, could be a more difficult witness to dismiss than his civilian counterparts.
“I am a patriot,” Colonel Vindman plans to tell the investigators, “and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics.”
He was to be interviewed privately on Tuesday by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees, in defiance of a White House edict not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
The colonel, who is represented by Michael Volkov, a former federal prosecutor, declined to comment for this article.
In his testimony, Colonel Vindman plans to say that he is not the whistle-blower who initially reported Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. But he will provide an account that corroborates and fleshes out crucial elements in that complaint, which prompted Democrats to open their impeachment investigation.
Vindman essentially turning states' evidence here on Trump means two things: one, White House employees are now openly defying Trump, and two, as I said yesterday John Bolton's mustache's eventual testimony can't be far behind. If one of his former NSC experts is talking to House Democrats, and Bolton remains in talks for his own deposition, I suspect the White House is sweating bullets right now.
Still, today's testimony could be the most damaging yet. Vindman was on the call directly. His prepared statement says he reported the concerns about the call to his superiors twice. It's going to be bad.