New impeachment witness rocks White House
Trump official says Ukraine call raised security concerns
WASHINGTON (AFP) — A decorated Iraq War veteran rocked the White House Tuesday with devastating testimony on Donald Trump’s alleged extortion of Ukraine as Democrats laid out plans for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency.
The Democratic-led House is investigating Trump over his bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on election rival Joe Biden — and accusations he conditioned nearly $400 million in military aid on the political favor.
National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in written testimony for his closed-door deposition he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressuring Ukraine for that help.
In explosive prepared testimony, Vindman recounted listening to Trump pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the now infamous July 25 phone call that sparked the impeachment probe.
His opening statement, released late Monday, offers some of the strongest evidence yet for accusations that Trump abused his office and broke election law to gain Kiev’s support for his re-election.
Vindman arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday in full military dress uniform, as Trump blasted him on Twitter as a “Never Trumper” — his label for Republicans who fundamentally oppose the president.
“How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call,” he asked.
“Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible!” Republicans mobilized to undercut Vindman’s credibility, questioning his loyalty by noting he moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union at the age of three and suggesting he is part of an effort by the U.S. national security bureaucracy to undermine Trump.
“Donald Trump is innocent. The deep state is guilty,” said Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s most strident defenders in
The first White House official to testify and a Purple Heart recipient after being wounded in Iraq, Vindman has proved a much more difficult witness for Republicans to dismiss, however, than previous civilian government figures.
The veteran, who ignored White House orders to defy a congressional subpoena to testify, said alarm bells rang during a July 10 meeting with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and a Kiev official.
Vindland said Sondland pressured the official to open corruption investigations into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine helped Democrats against Trump in the 2016 election.
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, second from left, a military officer at the National Security Council, departs a closed door meeting after testifying as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday.