Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s top expert on Ukraine, testified yesterday in his closed-door joint deposition before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, NBC News reports. The New York Times has a must-read profile of Vindman.
“A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior,” the New York Times reports.
“Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a ‘sense of duty,’ he plans to tell the inquiry.”
“Lt. Col. Vindman told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted crucial words and phrases, and that his attempts to restore them failed,” the New York Times reports.
“The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.”
“Colonel Vindman, who appeared on Capitol Hill wearing his dark blue Army dress uniform and military medals, told House impeachment investigators that he tried to change the reconstructed transcript made by the White House staff to reflect the omissions. But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said, those two corrections were not made.”
A source familiar with Lt. Col. Vindman’s closed-door deposition told The Hill he has testified that he took notes during the July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Zelenskiy, and made two or so recommended edits to the summarized call transcript that weren’t even used in the end.
Testimony from Lt. Col. Vindman “appeared to contradict Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s ardent denials that he ever heard former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter discussed in relation to U.S. requests that Ukraine investigate corruption,” Politico reports.
Washington Post: The full Trump-Ukraine timeline, as of now.
Playbook: “Every major investigation has its breakout witness — someone who helps bury the target or changes the course of the investigation. Democrats think they might have that in Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who will testify today.”
“Vindman — a Ukrainian-born, two-decade veteran of the U.S. Army with a Purple Heart from fighting in Iraq — will testify today that ‘he believed President Donald Trump undermined U.S. national security when he appealed to Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals.”
“Shouldn’t this end all discussion of the whistleblower? There is now a named person who heard the call with Volodymyr Zelensky, was concerned about its contents and reported it to a government attorney.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WI) rebuked various television pundits — such as Laura Ingraham and Sean Duffy — who attacked Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s loyalty to the United States because he was born in Ukraine, the Washington Post reports. Vindman is the Purple Heart recipient who is testifying before the House impeachment inquiry today.
Said Cheney: “We are better than that.” No, your father’s Republican Party is not better than that. You remember, Liz, how the Swift Boat Attacks against war hero John Kerry in 2004? That was your father’s doing.
Philip Bump: The fundamentally un-American attacks on Alexander Vindman.
The House Democrats unveiled a resolution Tuesday afternoon to set the parameters of the public phase of the impeachment inquiry, the Washington Post reports. They also released a statement and fact sheet. The House plans to vote to formalize it Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he was growing more worried that President Trump could force a government shutdown as soon as next month over the impeachment fight, The Hill reports. Said Schumer: “I’m increasingly worried that President Trump may want to shut down the government again because of impeachment, an impeachment inquiry. He always likes to create diversions.”
The House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into President Trump have requested to hear from a top adviser to acting chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney, CNN was first to report Tuesday.
The committees want to hear from Robert Blair, who serves as a senior adviser to Mulvaney as well as an assistant to President Trump. Blair was on the now-infamous call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which has formulated the basis of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
It is still unclear if Blair will voluntarily agree to testify and the committees are still in negotiations with the Mulvaney adviser regarding the request, CNN reported.
“A federal judge blocked Alabama’s near-total ban on abortions on Tuesday, stopping the legislation from taking effect next month,” the New York Times reports. “The ruling, an early step in a legal confrontation that critics of abortion orchestrated to try to reach the United States Supreme Court, ensured that abortion services would remain available in the state, at least for now.”
President Trump has a long history of calling for the United States to “take the oil” in the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria in particular, ABC News reports. “But any oil in both countries belongs to their governments, and according to U.S. law and treaties it has ratified, seizing it would be pillaging, a technical term for theft during wartime that is illegal under U.S. and international law.”
Said Trump just yesterday: “We’re keeping the oil. I’ve always said that — keep the oil. We want to keep the oil, $45 million a month. Keep the oil. We’ve secured the oil.”
A man seen in a viral video refusing to shake Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hand at the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D-MD) funeral told the Washington Post the snub wasn’t based on his loyalty to Cummings.
Bobby Rankin said he blamed McConnell for denying veterans’ benefits to his brother before he died last year from cancer.
Said Raskin: “I could not put my hands in the man’s hand who refused to help somebody who served his country… I couldn’t do it, because I was thinking about my brother.”
“Robert Murray, the U.S. coal baron who pressed the Trump administration to help save America’s struggling miners, placed his company into bankruptcy as demand for the fossil fuel continues to weaken,” Bloomberg reports. If the largest coal mining operation goes bankrupt under Trump’s deregulatory era, imagine what is going to happen to these coal operations under a real EPA and regulatory framework. Coal is dead.
“A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has been providing conservative politicians and journalists with information—and misinformation—about the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the biggest crisis of Donald Trump’s presidency,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Derek Harvey, who works for Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, has provided notes for House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the high-profile depositions of Trump administration appointees and civil servants in the impeachment inquiry. The purpose of the notes, one source said, is to get the whistleblower’s name into the record of the proceedings, which committee chairman Adam Schiff has pledged to eventually release. In other words: it’s an attempt to out the anonymous official who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry.”
NBC News: “It’s been almost three weeks since Vice President Mike Pence said he had “no objection” to releasing a reconstructed transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. But as House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry continues moving swiftly into its second month, the White House still has not made a decision on whether to make those details of Pence’s call public.”
“The internal debate has divided White House officials over whether releasing the call would help or hurt their flailing efforts to counter accusations that President Donald Trump held up military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rivals.”
“One concern raised by some of Trump’s allies is that releasing his call with Zelenskiy was a mistake because it fueled the impeachment inquiry rather than tamp it down… Another is that a comparison of Pence and Trump’s calls with Zelenskiy could potentially make the president’s self-described ‘perfect’ conversation appear significantly less so.”
Wall Street Journal: “Top White House officials have been urging a cautious approach to the escalating impeachment proceedings in the House, operating under the belief that because President Trump withstood the Mueller investigation he can overcome the threat posed by the latest round of scrutiny.”
“That circumspect White House view, in the face of growing criticism from some Republican allies, has most clearly been articulated by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser and one of the few senior aides remaining in the West Wing since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017.”
“During impeachment-related meetings inside the White House, Mr. Kushner has urged officials to remain calm, homing in on one of the president’s often repeated lines: that the impeachment inquiry is the latest in a long line of partisan attacks the West Wing has had to endure. Mr. Kushner’s message has been that the facts are in the White House’s favor, and that reduces the need to be on the defensive.”
New York Times: “Deploying its international propaganda arms, the television channel RT and the Sputnik news agency, the Kremlin is honing this message: While Western Europe and the United States are continuing a centuries-old tradition of exploiting Africa, Moscow is ready to engage with Africa on mutually beneficial terms. Russia is also benefiting from a desire by African countries to lessen their reliance on China, even as Moscow acknowledges that it cannot come close to matching Beijing’s financial firepower.”
“Moscow has already injected itself into the geopolitics of Libya and the Central African Republic. Now it is looking for inroads in public opinion and the political elite across the continent.”