WASHINGTON — During the congressional testimony, they both wore their country’s uniforms, but Alexander Vindman struck Oliver North’s reverse image.
Thirty-two years ago, North, then a Marine lieutenant colonel on the staff of the National Security Council, reported to Congress about his role in urging Congress to assist Nicaraguan rebels. Lindman, currently a lieutenant colonel on the National Security Council staff, told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that “demanding a foreign government to prosecute a U.S. citizen and political foe” is “improper” for President Donald Trump.
Had Vindman been standing alone — under pressure from Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and the president’s other supporters — he would have made a convincing accuser.
“Retroactively I now realize that others have used’ Burisma’ as the basis of pursuing former Vice President Biden’ as a possible corruption concerning a Ukrainian corporation,” he added. “I would have clearly looked at the partnership in the past and if I had, I would have reacted to it.”Ironically, Vindman was just the most riveting of four witnesses who argued that Trump’s remaining defenses deeply damaged against claims that he was directly involved in pushing for an arms-for-investigations contract.
Taken together, they contributed to the Ambassador’s direct access to the E.U. for almost a dozen hours. Gordon Sondland had to negotiate with Trump as Sondland, Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer of the president, Volker, and others, conducted a unique system of talks in Ukraine in which Biden and his son’s investigations addressed.
They argued that Biden’s pursuing political advantage was neither compatible with existing U.S. foreign policy goals nor consistent with the president’s proper conduct. And Volker dismissed the sought-after investigations as “conspiracy theories.”
To Republicans, Vindman’s willingness to attack the president, his family, and he had emigrated as a child from Ukraine and the truth. It was all reasons to doubt his loyalty to the United States that Ukraine was demanding that defense minister give him[ an offer he had refused]. That is why he thanked the Democrats for their assistance.
“Lt. Col. Vindman brought documents,” wrote Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, a member of the Intelligence Committee, in a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “You can try to discredit a decorated war hero, but today he brought his review of the results.”
It hoped that the other witnesses — Volker, Morrison, and Jennifer Williams — would provide useful evidence to the president.
It was bad enough that the central question multiple Republican lawmakers had for witnesses was whether they had observed others committing bribery, extortion. Traitorous acts—questions that both called on the witnesses to act as juries and could have put them at legal risk if they had answered affirmatively.
Williams characterized the main July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “unusual,” adding that Trump’s order for Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden “struck me as political in nature as the former vice president is the president’s political opponent.”
Volker started his testimony by revising what he had said to the legislators in an earlier session behind closed doors and portraying himself as being duped by his colleagues.
Initially, he said that when they spoke of prosecuting Burisma — the natural gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served — they did not understand how they wanted to initiate an investigation into the former vice president.
“There’s a way for the needle to thread,” he said. Yet, after seeing the transcript of the July 25 call from the president, he argued, recognizing that “it was interchangeable with them.”
“I now understand in retrospect that others saw the idea of investigating potential corruption involving the Ukrainian company, ‘Burisma,’ as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden,” he said. “I should have seen the relation clearly in retrospect, and if I had done so, I would have raised my objections.”
Morrison said that in a meeting with Ukrainians, he “was worried” about Sondland linking assistance to prosecutions, that Sondland briefed Trump on the call of July 25, and that Sondland talked directly with Trump twice.
Morrison also testified that he tried to limit the number of people who had access to a transcript of Trump’s contact with Zelenskiy because he was concerned the political ramifications would occur in the U.S. if it leaked. The fear: it would undermine Ukraine’s bipartisan support. Trump had suspended the funds that Congress had provided to Ukraine at the time, however.
“I am involved in locking down the transcript,” he added, but he consistently testified that he saw nothing wrong with anything the president said on the call.
That may be tough for Americans to square with Morrison’s concession it seeking an investigation into a political opponent is not appropriate for the president.
So much for Trump’s support. Holding the testimony of Morrison will be the same as that of Vindman: Trump’s behavior is unacceptable.