Current WH Staffer, A Lieutenant Colonel, To Testify About Trump Phone Call Today

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Let’s see Trump and his supporters try to smear U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. He’s a serving military officer whose concerns are directly connected to national security, and he’s a direct witness to both the phone call and the way Ukrainian officials were treated in the White House. He is the first current member of the White House staff to defy Trump’s order to refuse cooperation with the inquiry. The Harvard-educated Ukraine expert for the Trump Administration completed “multiple overseas tours.” A 2003 deployment to Iraq left him wounded by a roadside bomb. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

And this is his opening statement. Read it – it is damning:

Vindman was immediately concerned by the language that Trump used in his call to Zelensky, and that he spoke to other White House officials to express those concerns.

Not mentioned in the opening statement: Vindman drafted a congratulatory letter for Zelensky’s inauguration and a mid-August memorandum to restart Ukraine aid that the president refused to sign. Some Ukrainian officials were also unsure of how to respond to the political efforts of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and sought guidance from Lt. Col. Vindman. And Vindman brought his identical twin brother, Yevgeny, to one of the meetings where he raised concerns about what he had witnessed. Yevgeny also works at the N.S.C., as a lawyer.

Vindman also spoke directly to Ambassador Gordon Sondland to complain about Sondland’s efforts to force a visiting Ukrainian official into providing political dirt in exchange for U.S. assistance. The incident with Sondland, which took place two weeks before Trump’s phone call, included the ambassador emphasizing “the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma.” Vindman will testify that he spoke to Sondland following that meeting to tell him that the “statements were inappropriate” and that “the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security.” Vindman took these complains both to White House adviser Fiona Hill and to the lead counsel for the National Security Council.

By this point, the testimony delivered to the inquiry brings up the question: Did Gordon Sondland realize the House impeachment inquiry was going to actually talk to other people? Because his testimony seems not just in doubt, but absolutely riddled with issues that absolutely reach the level of perjury. 

Sondland’s testimony apparently included the admission that Trump provided him with the script for his “no quid pro quo” text to other State Department officials. But the ambassador who bought his position with a $1 million donation to Donald Trump’s inaugural slush fund also delivered testimony apparently meant to place himself firmly on the side of the angels. The side that didn’t make it clear to Ukrainian officials that military aid was dependent on investigating Joe Biden, the side that in fact never heard anyone talk about investigating Biden, and the side that very, very definitely never heard anyone complain about the messages he was exchanging with Ukrainian officials.

None of that is standing up to testimony from Ambassador William Taylor, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and former White House adviser Fiona Hill. And now Vindman. Sondland and his attorney visited the House sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, on Monday to review his testimony. They have plenty to review. But it’s not as if even Sondland’s testimony was good for Trump. 

The major thrust of Gordon Sondland’s testimony was that Gordon Sondland is not one of those guys—those guys being Rudy Giuliani and and his recently jailed “associates.” They were the guys who went around Ukraine for months trying to find someone who would play along with their conspiracy theories. The guys who were working to get Trump the dirt he wanted, no matter if it was completely made up, no matter if people had to literally die in the process.

Even Sondland admitted that Trump was engaged in just this sort of deal. He just tried to present it as if he wasn’t one of those in charge of making it happen.

But the testimony from Vindman is absolutely consistent with that of Hill, Taylor, and other witnesses:

  • There was immediate concern about the arm-twisting applied to visiting Ukrainian officials.
  • Trump’s statements to Zelensky in the July phone call were enough to have both Hill and Vindman raising concerns to counsel.

As far as Gordon Sondland goes, there are now two sets of “facts”: those in his testimony, and those in the testimony of everyone else.

But when it comes to Donald Trump, there’s not even that level of disagreement. Trump abused his position to seek political persecution of a perceived opponent, and to forward conspiracy theories around the 2016 election that not only attacked Democratic officials, but excused Russia of any involvement. No one is disputing these facts.

But the smears are starting:


10:00 am: Trump is not taking this well.

He’s been POTUS for 3 years but has no idea how anything around him works.

Why so many, Donald? Because what you say to a foreign leader has to be told to various branches of the government: the State Department, the NSC, the CIA, the FBI, etc. You really hate transparent government.

10:30 am:

And it seems that Pence may have tried to do some damage control for Trump’s “perfect” call, and the White House does not want us to know about it:

Mike Pence said he had “no objection” to releasing a reconstructed transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. But as House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry continues moving swiftly into its second month, the White House still has not made a decision on whether to make those details of Pence’s call public.

The internal debate has divided White House officials over whether releasing the call would help or hurt their flailing efforts to counter accusations that President Donald Trump held up military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rivals, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

One concern raised by some of Trump’s allies is that releasing his call with Zelenskiy was a mistake because it fueled the impeachment inquiry rather than tamp it down, these people said. Another is that a comparison of Pence and Trump’s calls with Zelenskiy could potentially make the president’s self-described “perfect” conversation appear significantly less so.

On another front, it is a little hard for Republicans to say they don’t have a part in the process:

UH OH…. Sondland feels the heat!

Yeah. Sondland didn’t want to go up against these guys:

12:30pm: It has been confirmed. The Mueller investigation is part of the impeachment inquiry.

GOP is looking like idiots.

This isn’t impeachment related, but it’s too good not to share: