A top White House adviser on Ukraine told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that President Donald Trump disregarded talking points on corruption in an April phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
"Those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the NSC staff for the president," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said.
According to a rough transcript of the call, Trump did not address anything corruption-related. Yet the administration has claimed that the president withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine because he was concerned about corruption in that country, and the White House's official readout of the conversation incorrectly said that the president honed in on those efforts.
On a July 25 call with Zelenskiy, Trump pushed the Ukrainian leader to publicly announce investigations into Burisma, an energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board, and into investigating a theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Jennifer Williams, Vice President Mike Pence's special adviser on Europe and Russia, also testified on Tuesday that she found the July call "unusual" because "it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter."
"There's no evidence of the president trying to fight corruption," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D–Calif.). "The evidence all points in the other direction. The evidence points in the direction of inviting Ukraine to engage in the corrupt act of investigating a U.S. political opponent."
During a closed-door deposition last week, David Holmes, a career diplomat, testified that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that Trump doesn't "give a shit about Ukraine." According to Holmes, Sondland said that the president "only cares" about "big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."
Vindman also testified Tuesday that, during the July call, he provided Trump with similar anti-corruption talking points, which the president did not cover.
"It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent," Vindman said this morning. "It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play."
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R–N.Y.) sought to reinforce the Trump administration's anti-corruption defense, highlighting Lt. Col. Vindman's testimony that Burisma had "questionable business dealings."
Yet for the most part, the Republicans attempted to undermine Vindman's character and allegiance to the United States. Vindman was born in the Ukraine and immigrated to the U.S. when he was three-years-old.
Steve Castor, counsel for the GOP, leaned in on a job offer that Vindman received from Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, which Vindman declined on three separate occasions.
"I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler, and I immediately dismissed these offers, did not entertain them," Vindman said.
"When he made this offer to you initially, did you leave the door open?" Castor asked "Was there a reason that he had to come back and ask a second or third time or was he just trying to convince you?"
"Counselor, you know what, the whole notion is rather comical that I was being asked to consider whether I'd want to be the minister of defense," Vindman replied. "I did not leave the door open at all."
Vindman served in the Iraq War and is a Purple Heart recipient.
"Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family," he said in his opening statement. "Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth."
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