Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s bombshell testimony Tuesday raised significant questions as to what his authority is within the White House National Security Council when he delivered a direct message to the Ukrainian president in April and whether he undermined the White House when he spoke to the foreign leader.
At the hearing, Vindman stated to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D-CA), that during the scheduled bilateral meeting in April, at the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, he offered the foreign leader direct advice, to “stay out of U.S. politics.”
Rep. Schiff specifically asked Vindman as to “why did he felt it was necessary for President Zelensky to stay out of U.S. domestic politics?”
“Chairman, in the March and April timeframe, became clear there were actors in the U.S. …public actors, non-governmental actors that were promoting the idea of investigations and 2016 Ukrainian interference…and it was consistence with U.S. policy to advise any country…all the countries in my portfolio, any country in the world to not participate in US domestic politics,” explained Alexander Vindman.
His advice to the Ukrainian president was based on his knowledge of an alleged plot being organized by public nongovernmental individuals to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s sons dealings with a Ukrainian gas company and possible involvement of Ukraine in the 2016 presidential elections, he said.
Despite his concerns, he only advised the Ukrainian president and admits that he has never spoken personally with or directly advised Trump on these same facts. In fact, he’s never met Trump, he told lawmakers.
White House officials could not immediately respond for comment. (SaraACarter.com will update this story with comments from the White House when received.)
Remarkably, in attempting to build their impeachment case, House Democrats are using yet another witness who has never met or talked to @realDonaldTrump.
They are relying on the witness' disputed interpretation… of someone he's never worked directly with.
This is a farce. pic.twitter.com/ljE7SvXdAW
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) November 19, 2019
His testimony raises jarring questions as to who was directing Vindman, if anyone, to deliver policy directives to the then newly-elected Ukrainian president. Vindman, a top Ukraine and Russia analyst, still works with the White House National Security Council.
“I offered two pieces of advice – to be particularly cautious with regards to Russia and its desire to provoke Ukraine and the second one was to stay out of U.S. domestic policy,” said Vindman, under questioning from Schiff.
Schiff then corrected part of Vindman’s statement, “you mean politics?”
“Politics, correction,” affirmed Vindman.
“Why do you think it was necessary to advise President Zelensky to stay out of domestic politics,” questioned Schiff.
Vindman replied, “Chairman, in the March and April time frame, it became clear that there were actors in the U.S., public actors, nongovernmental actors that were promoting the idea of investigations and 2016 Ukrainian interference and it was consistent with U.S. policy to advise any country, all the countries, all the countries in my portfolio, any country in the world to not participate in U.S. domestic politics.”
What? First we need to ask: How did Vindman deliver the message to the Ukrainian president and who directed him to deliver such policy directives on behalf of the United States?
Vindman’s statement about his visit to Ukraine are highly unusual because any advice or policy directive initiated to a foreign leader must be fully approved by the administration.
It doesn’t appear that this was the case when Vindman spoke to Zelensky.
Even more puzzling, is that after the U.S. delegation returned from Ukraine the participants debriefed Trump. However, Vindman, who apparently spoke directly to Zelensky was not in attendance. He noted in his testimony that Trump’s former Russian advisor Fiona Hill, told him he was not needed.
I’m curious, did Vindman debrief anyone on his conversation with Zelensky? Did anyone in attendance inform the president of his private conversation with a foreign leader?
Another shocking question, is why was Vindman so concerned about “public actors, nongovernmental actors” questioning Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, when it is apparent that the intelligence agencies, who he worked for, were very concerned about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Wouldn’t Vindman, as well as the intelligence apparatus, be just as concerned with other governments, like Ukraine, interfering in the election as they are with Russia?
We now know based on Judicial Watch findings, that at the time Vindman warned Zelensky, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had already been monitoring a number of social media sites belonging to journalists, right wing pundits and sources close to President Trump regarding Ukraine.
For full disclosure, I was one of those reporters she was apparently monitoring with State Department resources, until she was told to stop because her requests were illegal.
The other important question is why was Vindman so concerned with “nongovernmental actors” promoting the idea of investigations and the possibility of involvement by Ukraine during the U.S. 2016 presidential elections.
Vindman told lawmakers repeatedly that he “thought it was wrong” that Trump brought up possible Ukrainian election interference in the 2016 U.S. election while on the phone with Zelensky. Vindman’s thoughts are not evidence that the president, who sets policy did anything wrong.
Vindman also repeated over and over again that he believed it was wrong that Trump discussed possible corruption by Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who was paid millions to sit on a board of a Ukrainian energy firm during the time his father was charged with the region.
However, those are all Vindman’s opinions and he offered no evidence that what Trump did was wrong. Instead, he appeared to be angry when pressed by Republicans to answer significant questions regarding the basic concept of ‘chain of command.’
When questioned by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Vindman admitted that he did not follow his chain of command to report the problems he had with Trump’s July, 25 phone call to Zelensky. In fact, during his opening statement Vindman said “I listened in on the call with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate and I reported my concerns to Mr. (John) Eisenberg. It is improper for POTUS to demand a foreign government to investigate a US citizen and a political opponent.”
Vindman did not report his concerns to his superior, former senior National Security Council Russia expert Tim Morrison. In fact, Morrison testified that he had no idea until much later that Vindman had reported those concerns about the president to a lawyer.
Wenstrup, along with other Republican lawmakers, questioned Vindman’s decision not to report it to his superiors and ignore the Chain of command. Instead, they questioned why Vindman went directly to the senior lawyer at the National Security Council, John Eisenberg.
Vindman appeared to be jarred by the questions and couldn’t fully answer why he did so.
“In your deposition you emphasize the importance in chain of command. You were to direct report to Fiona Hill and Mr. Tim Morrison and they were your seniors, correct,” questioned Wenstrup.
“That is correct,” said Vindman.
“When you had concerns about the 7/25 call between the two presidents you didn’t go to Mr. Morrison about that did you,” Wenstrup questioned.
“I immediately went to John Eisenberg, for legal counsel,” Vindman said.
“That doesn’t seem like chain of command,” the Republican lawmaker hammered. Westrup then went back and reread Vindman’s testimony slamming it for being incorrect regarding the chain of command. Morrison, who was his direct superior did not know about Vindman’s concerns until much later after it had already been reported to the Eisenberg.
Vindman claimed that he followed the chain of command in reporting July 25 call.
To Vindman, a direct report was to Tim Morrison.
Vindman excluded Morrison from his reporting, choosing instead to speak to his lawyer outside of chain.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) November 19, 2019
Later, Vindman was pressed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on the same question, as to why he didn’t follow the chain of command? Vindman said it “was a busy week” and added that he was later told by the lawyer not to speak to anyone else.
During questioning, Jordan asked Vindman why he spoke to his brother, the unnamed whistleblower and others about his concerns with Trump’s private conversation with Zelensky but failed to report those concerns to his superior.
“To say this impeachment case is collapsing is an understatement,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC.
.@Jim_Jordan asks Col. Vindman why he didn’t go to his boss, Tim Morrison, and instead went to a lawyer. Vindman says it was a busy week… and that eventually, the lawyer told him not to go to anyone else.
To say this impeachment case is collapsing is an understatement.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) November 19, 2019
Alexander Vindman looks really bad here as he gets grilled by Jim Jordan pic.twitter.com/3rq8qIGpM3
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 19, 2019