Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, told House impeachment investigators today that the White House transcript of the July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president missed key words or crucial phrases that he tried – and failed – to have corrected.

Such omissions, Vindman said, included Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, directly mentioning the energy company who once employed Hunter Biden to its board, Burisma Holdings.

‘He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue,’ the White House’s transcript cites Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as saying.

However, Vindman insists Zelensky specifically mentioned Burisma, telling investigators he tried to have the White House’s transcript changed to include the missing reference but the amendment was never made.

The rough transcript also contains ellipses in three instances where Trump is talking, which again Vindman says he tried to amend. He told investigators the third set of ellipses relates to Trump speaking about alleged recordings of former Vice President Joe Biden boasting about illegal Ukraine funding.

It’s believed the Trump’s mention of the tapes is most likely referring to comments Biden made in January 2018 that the US held $1 billion in loan guarantees until the nation fired its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

The comments have led Republicans – without evidence – to believe Biden was actively trying to prevent an investigation into his son from being launched. Democrats, meanwhile, say Shokin was lax in his anti-corruption efforts and was simply not fit for purpose.

Though a number of Vindman’s suggested edits were made, such as particular wording, the two cited corrections were never amended for reasons currently unknown.

Dressed in his dark blue Army uniform with military medals displayed proudly across his chest, Vindman didn’t suggest a motive behind the editing process during his more than 10-hour testimony, though his claims will likely prompt investigators to further scrutinize how officials handed the call.

Such lines of inquiry are likely to probe any changes to the transcript, the decision enter it into the White House’s most classified computer system, and whether such actions were purposefully made to conceal the call’s most controversial contents.

Vindman, who was listening in on the call from the White House Situation Room along with other members of Vice President Pence’s staff, said he was so ‘concerned by the call’ — and the idea the president’s request could be seen as ‘a partisan play’ that could ‘undermine U.S. national security’ — that he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel.

‘I was concerned by the call,’ Vindman said. ‘I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.’

The House inquiry is looking into Trump’s call, in which he asked Zelenskiy for a ‘favor’ – to investigate Democrats – that the Democrats say was a quid pro quo for military aid and could be an impeachable offense.

With the administration directing staff not to appear, Vindman was the first current White House official to testify before the impeachment panels, after being issued a subpoena.

Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to denounce the probe as a ‘sham,’ adding: ‘Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call. Just READ THE CALL TRANSCRIPT AND THE IMPEACHMENT HOAX IS OVER!’

Vindman, who arrived in the United States as a 3-year-old from the former Soviet Union, said that it was his ‘sacred duty’ to defend the United States.

Some Trump allies, looking for ways to discredit Vindman, questioned the colonel’s loyalties because he was born in the region. But the line of attack was rejected by some Republicans, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who said it was ‘shameful’ to criticize his patriotism.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called the slams on Vindman ‘absurd, disgusting and way off the mark. This is a decorated American soldier, and he should be given the respect that his service to our country demands.’

Though a number of Vindman’s suggested edits were made, such as particular wording, the two cited corrections were never amended for reasons currently unknown.

The testimony came the day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would vote on a resolution to set rules for public hearings and a possible vote on articles of impeachment.

Thursday’s vote would be the first on the impeachment inquiry and aims to nullify complaints from Trump and his allies that the process is illegitimate and unfair.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the resolution merely ‘confirms that House Democrats’ impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorization by a House vote.’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and other GOP lawmakers will review the resolution to see if it passes a ‘smell test’ of fairness to Trump.

The session Tuesday grew contentious at times as House Republicans continued trying to unmask the still-anonymous whistleblower and call him or her to testify. Vindman said he is not the whistleblower and does not know who it is.

GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio acknowledged Republicans were trying to get Vindman to provide the names of others he spoke to after the July 25 phone call, in an effort to decide whom to call to testify. ‘He wouldn’t,’ Jordan said.

In his prepared remarks, Vindman testified that in spring of this year he became aware of ‘outside influencers’ promoting a ‘false narrative of Ukraine’ that undermined U.S. efforts, a reference in particular to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

He first reported his concerns after a July 10 meeting in which U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stressed the importance of having Ukraine investigate the 2016 election as well as Burisma, a company linked to the family of Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

Vindman says he told Sondland that ‘his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.’

That differs from the account of Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and testified before the impeachment investigators that no one from the NSC ‘ever expressed any concerns.’ Sondland also testified that he did not realize any connection between Biden and Burisma.

For the call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Vindman said he listened in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and Vice President Mike Pence’s office. He said he again reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

He wrote, ‘I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.’

Vindman served as the director for European affairs and a Ukraine expert under Fiona Hill, a former official who testified earlier in the impeachment probe. Hill worked for former national security adviser John Bolton.

He told investigators that Ukraine, in trying to become a vibrant democracy integrated with the West, is a bulwark against overt Russian aggression.

Vindman attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration with a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and he and Hill were both part of a Ukraine briefing with Sondland that others have testified irritated Bolton at the White House.

‘I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics,’ wrote Vindman, who was wounded in Iraq and awarded a Purple Heart.

‘For over twenty years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations,’ he wrote.

 

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