Impeachment inquiry: Trump Ukraine phone call 'improper' - Vindman

Grant Boone
November 20, 2019

Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine, told lawmakers in October he did not know of any effort by Trump to press Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender opposing Trump's bid for re-election next year. He appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in his military uniform.

Vindman, a decorated 20-year army veteran, testified to his certainty that Trump was using the military aid the USA sends to Ukraine to ward off Russian aggression, as well as a White House visit sought by Zelenskiy, as political tools.

At the inquiry's core is a July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, a member of the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm, and a discredited theory that it was Ukraine - not Russian Federation as determined by US intelligence agencies - that interfered in the 2016 USA election.

But other witnesses have identified Volker as one of the "Three Amigos", along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and diplomat Gordon Sondland, who were tasked by Trump to obtain Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's commitment to probing Biden and his son, Hunter.

"It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request - to demand - an investigation into a political opponent, especially (from) a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation and that this would have significant implications if it became public knowledge", Lt Col Vindman told the committee on Tuesday.

He testified alongside Jennifer Williams, an aide to US Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom were among the US officials who listened in on the 25 July call.

Vindman has called the attack on his character, particularly those questioning his patriotism, "reprehensible" as well as "callow and cowardly". "This has been the custom of our country since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than personal attacks", he told lawmakers.

Mr Trump has criticised both Mr Williams and Lt Col Vindman on Twitter as "Never Trump" witnesses, a term to describe Republicans who oppose him.

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He is a decorated Iraq war veteran and was born in Ukraine; his father made the decision 40 years ago to move his family out of the Soviet Union to go and live in the US.

"The reference to Biden sounded political to me", she said. He added that there was "no doubt" about what Trump was asking Zelenskiy for.

Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, at the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on October 3, 2019.

Mr Trump is facing a process that could eventually see him removed from office.

Media captionWhat does it take to impeach a president?

During his opening testimony, Mr Vindman also appeared to direct criticism towards Mr Trump as he issued a fierce rebuke of those who have attacked impeachment witnesses thus far.

She said the call was "unusual" in the way Trump raised the investigations.

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