WH Lawyer rushed To Put Ukraine Call Transcript On Classified Server
A White House lawyer rushed to move a transcript of President Donald Trump's call with the Ukrainian president on to a highly classified server after White House Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman raised concerns about the call, according to a new report.
Vindman scrambled into the office of White House lawyer John Eisenberg after the July 25 call, complaining that what the president had said on the call was wrong, according the the Washington Post.
Eisenberg, the White House's legal adviser on national security issues, immediately proposed moving a transcript of the call to a highly classified server and restricting access to it, according to two people familiar with Vindman's account.
House impeachment investigators on Wednesday evening announced they have asked Eisenberg and a fellow White House lawyer, Mike Ellis, to testify Monday.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at a closed session before the House Intelligence on Wednesday
Vindman, who was born in Ukraine, expressed strong concerns about Trump's policy toward the country after the July 25 phone call
It comes after Vindman told House lawmakers he became convinced that Trump was personally holding up $400 million in aid for Ukraine to force the country into announcing that it was investigating 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son.
CNN reported Wednesday that Vindman, who sat down for a deposition on Capitol Hill Tuesday, was convinced that a quid pro quo existed by July 10, which was before the now-infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Vindman also told lawmakers, according to Politico, that he planned to debrief Trump on Zelenksy's May inauguration, but was instructed 'at the last second' not to attend because advisers worried it might confuse the president.
Trump, Vindman said, was under the impression that the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert was Kash Patel, a longtime staffer of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Intelligence Committee's top Republican.
Vindman's boss, NSC Senior director for European and Russian affairs Fiona Hill told Vindman that she and national security adviser John Bolton decided to keep Vindman out of the meeting to avoid 'an uncomfortable' situation.
Vindman said Patel 'misrepresented' himself as a Ukraine expert, Politico reported.
Alexander Vindman testified, according to Politico, that Kash Patel (right) 'misrepresented' himself as a Ukraine expert. And while Vindman was the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, he was told to not attend a meeting with Patel as it might confuse Trump
The president began his day on Twitter swinging at Vindman, an active-duty Army lieutenant colonel who was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq, saying he had 'never heard of' him but insisting he is a 'Never Trumper.'
But hours in, Vindman's testimony was already alarming Democratic members of Congress.
Acting chair of the Oversight Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, called it 'extremely disturbing,' NBC News reported.
During the closed-door questioning by lawmakers in a secure room used by the House Intelligence Committee, Republicans and Democrats clashed. Democrats, led by panel chair Rep. Adam Schiff, accused Republicans of trying to use the interview to out the whistle-blower who first brought forward claims of an alleged effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, using military aid and a White House meeting as leverage.
'It's very hard to out somebody that you don't know who they are,' Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Trump ally, told DailyMail.com, denying the charge.
'In general, you want to know who your witnesses have talked to about certain information that they're sharing. And that's the extent of the conversation,' he said. He said he wanted to know 'whomever they've talked to.'
Even as he denied trying to unmask the whistle-blower though stoked the impeachment inquiry, Meadows said he had a high amount of certainty of who it might be.
'This was just some questions about who did you talked to, and [Democrats] got all weirded out because they thought we were going to out somebody that we have no knowledge of who they are,' he said.
'If I had a degree of certainty of who the whistle-blower is, I promise you I would tell you. I have no idea who it is. Well, I have an idea, but I don't - I'm less than 80 per cent confident,' he continued. 'I think there's three or four people it could be.'
'I don't do anything without a hundred per cent knowledge. It's not 100, I'm not going to say it,' he concluded.
Vindman told investigators Tuesday that he listened to Donald Trump's call with Ukraine's new president Volodymr Zelensky and 'did not think it was proper' - potentially a huge boost to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
The White House also ordered the officer not to testify, prompting the House Intelligence Committee to issue a subpoena directing him to give evidence.
Vindman testified that he twice raised concerns over the Trump administration's interest in having Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and his son.
He is the first White House official to say he heard the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
House Republican conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney blasted 'shameful' questioning of Vindman's patriotism after attacks from Trump allies.
Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, issued her public admonition hours after high-profile conservative commentators sought to discredit Vindman before his testimony - with a former top Bush administration comparing him to a spy.
'I also want to say a word about something else that's been going on over the last couple of hours, and last night, which I think is also shameful, and that is questioning the patriotism, questioning the dedication to country, of people like Mr. Vindman - Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who will be coming today - and others who have testified,' Cheney said at a House leadership press conference.
She spoke after former top Bush Administration official John Yoo even compared some of Vindman's activities on the National Security Council to 'espionage.'
Former Wisconsin GOP Rep. Sean Duffy joined in the attack, saying on CNN Tuesday about Vindman: 'It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don't know that he's concerned about American policy ... we all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from ... he has an affinity for the Ukraine.'
Host Laura Ingraham asked Yoo about a detail from a New York Times report that said Vindman advised Ukrainian officials on how to handle Rudy Giuliani
Rep. Adam Schiff accused Republicans of using questions to try to out the whistle-blower
'It's very hard to out somebody that you don't know who they are,' Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told DailyMail.com. But he said he was 80 per cent sure of the whistle-blower's identity
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called Vindman's testimony extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing'
Vindman arrived at the Capitol wearing his dress uniform, displaying his Purple Heart and a series of other decorations for his service.
He was due to tell lawmakers he was a Ukrainian-born Jewish refugee who had lived 'the American dream' by serving his country in combat and as a diplomat.
Trump vented just before Lt. Col. Vindman arrived that that a transcript of the call makes it clear he did nothing wrong, and that Vindman is an unimportant figure who never crossed paths with him.
'Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call. Just READ THE CALL TRANSCRIPT AND THE IMPEACHMENT HOAX IS OVER! Ukrain [sic] said NO PRESSURE,' Trump tweeted.
But calling Vindman a 'Never Trumper' came as pro-Trump pundits were attacked by other Republicans for questioning Lt. Col Vindman's patriotism, with one Fox News commentator going as far as to accuse him of 'espionage' against the president.
The officer was to testify that he is explicitly not the anonymous whistle-blower whose complaint about the call launched a now weeks-long chapter in the impeachment saga.
SCROLL DOWN TO READ LT. COL VINDMAN'S FULL OPENING STATEMENT
Alexander Vindman, an Army lieutenant colonel (pictured at center, arriving at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday), will tell House investigators he listened to President Donald Trump's call with the new Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky and 'did not think it was proper'
President Trump vented Tuesday morning on Twitter, saying a simple reading of the call transcript combined with Zelensky's own public comments should be enough to override the opinion of a junior official he has 'never even heard of'
About an hour afte rsaying he had 'never even heard of' Vindman, the president declared that he was a 'Never Trumper' - the name given to Republicans who opposed him beginning with his presidential campaign's launch in 2015
'The Impeachment Hoax is a disgrace. Read the transcript!' Trump added in another message.
Trump used the same 'never Trumper' insult to go after career diplomat William Taylor, who said in his own deposition that the was troubled by the administration's push to get Ukraine to make public statements about investigations that would help the president in order to get military aid and a White House meeting.
Zelensky has said he felt no pressure on the call with Trump to take action. The transcript doesn't appear to support Democrats' contention that Trump directly linked U.S. military aid to Ukraine with Zelensky's decision on launching an investigation that could give the president a political advantage in 2020.
Trump followed up his social media outrage with a string of retweets of congressional allies calling the entire impeachment inquiry illegitimate because of its secretive and one-sided beginning.
In his opening statement, first published by The New York Times, Vindman claimed the National Security Council proposed that Trump call President Zelensky to congratulate him after his party won parliamentary elections.
He explained: 'On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President.
'As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said. I was concerned by the call. 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.
'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.'
Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian energy company where Biden's son Hunter held a lucrative board seat while his father was vice president.
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Share '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.
Vindman claimed: 'This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC's lead counsel.'
The New York Times reported that Vindman is due to be interviewed privately on Tuesday by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees.
Vindman served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and was deployed to Iraq for combat operations. He was wounded in an IED attack and was subsequently awarded a Purple Heart.
He served in United States' embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., he was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his appointment to the NSC.
Vindman is the latest in a line of subpoenaed witnesses who House Democrats hope will provide incriminating evidence against the president
Alexander Vindman (left) is seen with twin brother Eugene (right) and photographer Carol Kitman in October 2016 at a ceremony in Washington. Eugene - born Evgeny - is also an Army lieutenant colonel serving in the National Security Council; the twins have offices in the same area of the West Wing
Alexander Vindman is seen with wife Rachel and their daughter in front of the White House
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