As part of the ongoing impeachment effort against President Donald Trump, the House Intelligence Committee heard public testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer and one of the Democrats’ star witnesses.
Here are some of the key moments from Vindman’s Tuesday public testimony:
At one point, Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman — whose background as an anti-Trump NBC pundit is detailed here — appeared to imply that it’s the president’s job to follow the foreign policy lead given to him by the unelected people working under him. He asked about talking points Vindman prepared for the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vindman clarified, “The president can choose to use the talking points or not. He’s the president.”
Moment of clarity on foreign policy powers at today's hearing.
"Did you observe whether [POTUS] was following the talking points based on official U.S. Policy?"
Vindman: “The president can choose to use the talking points or not. He’s the president.” pic.twitter.com/nQZKKjeDnk
— Nate Madden (@NateOnTheHill) November 19, 2019
Despite the fact that his job is to handle Ukraine policy, Vindman appeared really uninformed when it came to the relationship between one of the country’s energy companies and the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter. He also said that the younger Biden “didn’t seem to be” qualified to sit on the company’s board, but “I don’t know his qualifications.”
Nunes: Did you know that financial records show a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, routed more than $ 3 million to American accounts tied to Hunter Biden?
Vindman, whose job is to handle Ukraine policy: "I'm not aware of this fact." pic.twitter.com/6yFbWkufmH
— Nate Madden (@NateOnTheHill) November 19, 2019
Vindman — who testified that the publicly released call transcript was “accurate” — said that he heard the word “Burisma” mentioned on the call. He explained that, even though it wasn’t on the transcript, that the word’s absence was “not a significant omission” since it was mentioned as “the company” anyway. This admission serves to bolster the anti-impeachment position that the American people have had access to an accurate, public transcript of the July 25 phone call that they can read for themselves, regardless of what opinions some in the foreign policy world might hold.
WATCH: Alexander Vindman admits that although the transcript of President Trump's July 25 phone call did not mention Zelensky saying "Burisma," it was "accurate" and "not a significant omission." pic.twitter.com/15gxJHqTft
— Trump War Room (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TrumpWarRoom) November 19, 2019
The White House is sticking to its guns on the position that the claims here are more about policy disagreements than anything legitimately impeachable. “The President is in charge of setting the foreign policy of the United States, not unelected bureaucrats,” the White House said in a Tuesday statement. “The president has every right to conduct American foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit and is not in any way obligated to follow bureaucratic talking points written by staff.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., really doesn’t want Republicans to find out whom Vindman told about the July 25 phone call outside the White House. During questions from both Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and committee ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., about whom Vindman told about the phone call, Adam Schiff felt the need to remind lawmakers not to try to out the identity of the federal employee whose whistleblower complaint started the current impeachment effort, giving the strong impression that Vindman was indeed a source of information contained in the complaint, despite his claim that he doesn’t know who the individual is.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about why Vindman didn’t raise his concerns about the July 25 phone call with his supervisor, Tim Morrison. When asked why he didn’t go to Morrison on the matter, he said that he was instructed by National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg not to discuss the matter with anyone else after he had already talked to other people about it and tried, unsuccessfully, to talk to Morrison.
At one point, Vindman corrected Ranking Member Nunes for calling him “Mr. Vindman,” insisting that “it’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.” He later explained to another member of the committee, “I’m in uniform wearing my military rank; I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that” and cited “attacks” in the press and social media that “marginalized me as a military officer.”
The full hearing is available here:
(For more from the author of “7 Key Moments from Alexander Vindman’s Public Impeachment Testimony” please click HERE)