Here are 12 revealing excerpts from Lt. Col. Vindman's impeachment testimony that are damning for Trump
Donald Trump’s allies have been trying to smear the reputation of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and reading the transcript of his testimony makes it obvious why he’s such a threat: He’s a highly decorated military officer who’s also highly principled and took a lot of notes. None of that is good in Trumpworld. Here are some excerpts from his testimony.
Vindman was immediately alarmed on the July 25 call to the Ukrainian president by Trump's insistence on opening investigations into the Bidens, because he believed it would harm the national security interests of both countries
"It had inherent risks in that, frankly, if Ukrainians took a partisan position, they would significantly undermine the possibility of future bipartisan support," Vindman said. "Losing bipartisan support, they would then lose access to potentially, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance funds." While $400 million in aid was a fraction of the U.S. national budget, Vindman explained, it amounted to about 10% of Ukraine's defense budget.
"They’re fighting an active conflict against the Russians," Vindman noted. "So this is not a negligible amount and, you know, we’re basically trying to continue the relationship and advance the U.S. national security interests. And losing bipartisan support would have a significant cost."
Vindman gave some notable dates and said he knew of no “factual basis” for the investigations Giuliani was pushing
Before Vindman listened to the problematic July 25 call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, he listened to the two talk on April 21, a call in which Trump "expressed his desire to work with President Zelensky and extended an invitation to visit the White House."
That same month, Vindman also said he became aware of Giuliani's involvement in a certain "narrative" related to the 2016 elections and "supposed Ukrainian involvement in partisan support of candidate Clinton and in opposition to President Trump."
"I am unaware of any factual basis for the accusations against Ambassador Yovanovitch," he said, "and I am, frankly, unaware of any authoritative basis for Ukrainian interference in 2016 elections, based on my knowledge."
Some White House officials tried to prevent Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland from joining a May 21 meeting with a delegation of Ukrainian officials because he wasn't in sync with official U.S. policy
A: I think that Dr. [Fiona] Hill may have possibly removed him, because of the understanding that she didn’t think that Ambassador Bolton wanted him on the delegation.
Q: Yeah. Do you know why not?
A: Because it was outside of his portfolio, and he tended to go off script so there was some risk involved.
Vindman explained that "off script" meant Sondland's contributions sometimes weren't consistent with everyone else's talking points and "the rest of the consensus view." Ultimately, Sondland made it back on the list but Vindman did not know how.
Vindman testified that the July 10 meeting "proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between the two Presidents," which they viewed as a "critically important" show of solidarity with the U.S. That's when Sondland apparently went off script.
"When Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short," recalled Vindman.
Sondland told Vindman that conditioning the presidential meeting on investigations had been "coordinated" with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
"I heard [Sondland] say that this had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney," Vindman said. "He had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting. ... he was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma."
Vindman also said that Sondland again brought up the investigations in a later meeting with the Ukrainians. "There was no ambiguity, I guess, in my mind. He was calling for something, calling for an investigation that didn’t exist into the Bidens and Burisma," Vindman recalled.
Q: What did you hear Sondland say?
A: That the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.
Q: Into the Bidens. So in the Ward Room he mentioned the word “Bidens”?
A: To the best of my recollection, yes. ... My visceral reaction to what was being called for suggested that it was explicit. There was no ambiguity."
Vindman said that "discord" then unfolded between members of the National Security Council and Sondland and the Ukrainians were "asked to leave."
Dr. Hill later told Vindman that Bolton was "distressed" about what occurred during the meeting
"It became clear from what Dr. Hill told me later that [Bolton] was actually fairly distressed by what had occurred," Vindman said, noting that Hill later referred to Giuliani as a "hand grenade."
"In her account to me, she did specifically say, you know, he was a live hand grenade, or something to that extent," he said, adding, "Let me complete that logic. So that Ambassador Sondland was trying to orchestrate an investigation being called by Mayor Giuliani who was a live hand grenade."
Both Vindman and Hill reported their concerns to the National Security legal counsel, but no one from the legal office ever followed up.
Vindman testified that the July 10 meeting happened "late afternoon" and said that he "very quickly" went to speak with the senior National Security Council attorney.
Q: Did either he or anyone from the legal staff circle back to you on this issue?
Later in the testimony, Vindman said he probably went to NSC counsel John Eisenberg "within an hour" of the call.
Vindman prepared briefing materials for Trump for the July 25 call, none of which included the sought-after investigations
Who knows whether Trump actually read any of the materials Vindman prepared for him leading up to the July 25 call, but they sure didn't include anything having to do with any "favors" or investigations into his political rivals.
Q: Did you include anything in your talking points about investigations into the 2016 election or the Bidens or Burisma?
A: Definitely not.
Vindman viewed Trump's ask as a "demand,” given the power differential between the two presidents
Q: You used the word “demand,” it was not proper to demand. Where in the transcript do you believe that the President made a demand to investigate a U.S. citizen?
A: So, Congressman, the power disparity between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine is vast, and, you know, in the President asking for something, it became—there was—in return for a White House meeting, because that’s what this was about. This was about getting a White House meeting. It was a demand for him to fulfill his—fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting.
Vindman suggested substantive edits to the July 25 call that were ignored
Vindman testified that Trump's reference to "recordings" of Biden's misdeeds was left out of the rough transcript despite him suggesting that it be added in. Also, a specific reference by President Zelensky to "Burisma" was left out. Vindman called that omission "significant" because it would have shown that Zelensky had been prepped on Burisma for the call.
Q: Okay. So that would be significant?
A: It would be significant.
Q: Okay. And why?
A: Because – because, frankly, the President of Ukraine would not necessarily know anything about this company Burisma. I mean, he would certainly understand some of this – some of these elements because the story had been developing for some time, but the fact that he mentioned specifically Burisma seemed to suggest to me that he was prepped for this call.
White House officials handled the July 25 call entirely differently in both editing it and securing it.
Q: And you said that normal process did not occur here?
A: It didn’t. It did not.
Q: What was different?
A: As opposed to going into the standard communications system, it went into a different type, a different, more secure system. And in this particular system, while I did have an account, it was not functioning properly, so I had to go analog and take a look at—get a hard copy of it, make some—annotate some changes to it, return it, and, you know, I guess it went through a paper process.
Q: So even in the editing process that you normally do, that was done in a different way?
Q: In other words, it was on a different system and you had to use a different process to put your edits in?
Vindman drafted a memo arguing the $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine should be released
In mid-August, Vindman was instructed to draft a presidential decision memo including "consensus views" from the NSC for why the aid should be released. He was told that Bolton presented that memo to Trump at an Aug. 16 meeting that also included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
“The President didn’t act on the recommendation,” Vindman concluded.
Around the same time, Vindman began getting inquiries from his Ukrainian counterpart about the assistance.
As a result of the episode, Vindman said the relationship between the two countries had been been “damaged” and that it would continue to be “damaged and undercut.”