Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified Tuesday that he immediately knew that President Donald Trump had done something improper when he mentioned political investigations during a July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.
Vindman said if Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, it would be seen as a “partisan play,” and would cause Ukraine to lose bipartisan support. Such a development would undermine U.S. policy and advance Russia’s interests, Vindman said.
“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent,” Vindman said.
Vindman, the director of European affairs at the National Security Council, said he reported the call to the NSC’s lead counsel.
“I did so out of a sense of duty,” Vindman said.
Vindman testified on the third day of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings. The committee also heard testimony from Jennifer Williams, an advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, who also listened in on on the July 25 call.
Williams testified that she found the call “unusual” because it involved a “domestic political matter.” She said she did not flag her concerns at the time, however, because her direct supervisor was also on the call.
Vindman also gave testimony about Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who is slated to testify on Wednesday. Vindman said that Sondland attended a July 10 meeting with Oleksandr Danylyuk, Ukraine’s national security adviser. Vindman said Sondland raised the issue of investigations in the meeting, at which point John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, cut the meeting short.
Vindman said he later told Sondland that it was inappropriate to raise investigations that had nothing to do with national security. He said he reported his concerns about that meeting to the NSC lead counsel.
Williams also testified about a Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw. The meeting came two days after a Politico report that a hold had been placed on nearly $400 million in military aid. Zelensky asked about the report, and Pence assured him that Ukraine had the administration’s “unwavering support.” Zelensky and Pence did not discuss the investigations in that meeting, Williams said.
Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, asked both witnesses if they had spoken to the press about the July 25 call. Both said they had not. Nunes also asked about the whistleblower who reported concerns about the call to the intelligence community’s inspector general. On advice of his attorney, Vindman declined to answer.
Nunes asked if he was invoking the Fifth Amendment, and Chairman Adam Schiff chided him for pursuing that line of inquiry.
“The whistleblower has the statutory right to anonymity,” Schiff said. “These proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower.”
In his opening statement, Vindman noted that his father had immigrated 40 years ago to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. He said that if he reported wrongdoing in Russia, it would carry severe consequences, and that speaking out publicly against the president would cost him his life.
Vindman thanked his father for coming to the U.S., and said that his public testimony offered proof that his father had made the right decision. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said.