Army Providing Security for Vindman During Probe

jennifer williams alexander vindman testify
Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman are sworn in before they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON --  A U.S. official says the Army and local law enforcement are providing security for the officer who is testifying Tuesday during the House impeachment hearing.

The official says that the Army did a security assessment in order to make sure that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his family are secure, so the officer didn’t have to worry about that as the proceedings go on.

Vindman, who wore his military dress blue uniform with medals to the hearing, is testifying about his service as a National Security Council aide and his concerns surrounding President Donald Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.

The official said the Army is prepared to take additional steps if needed, which could include moving Vindman and his family to a more secure location on a base.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal security issues.

During his testimony, Vindman told lawmakers that he was offered the post of Ukraine’s defense minister three times but rejected the suggestion.

Vindman, the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, said he was made the offer while attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as part of the official U.S. delegation.

"I immediately dismissed these offers," said, adding that two American officials witnessed the exchange with a top adviser to Zelenskiy, and that he notified his chain of command and counterintelligence officials about the offer upon returning to the U.S.

Vindman declined to tell lawmakers who in the intelligence community he may have spoken to after he listened in to a July call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

In response to questions from California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Vindman testified he would not answer on the advice of his lawyer and the recommendation by the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.

Schiff said Nunes’ questioning was an attempt to out a whistleblower who first revealed the essence of the call and whose formal complaint triggered the impeachment probe. The whistleblower based the complaint on conversations with people who were familiar with the call.

Schiff said “these proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower.”

Vindman said he heard envoy Gordon Sondland describe “specific investigations” as a requirement for Ukraine’s president to get a coveted White House visit.

Testifying at Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, Vindman said the conversation took place at the White House on July 10.

He says Sondland referred to “specific investigations that Ukrainians would have to deliver in order to get these meetings.” Those desired investigations were into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and also into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Vindman says he told Sondland that the request for investigations was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security policy.

He said he doesn’t “take it as anything nefarious” that a transcript of Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy was put on a highly secure server.

Vindman said there was a discussion among lawyers in the White House about the best way to manage the transcript because it was “viewed as a sensitive transcript.”

On the July 25 call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to do him a favor and investigate Biden and his son. At the time, the U.S. was holding up military aid to Ukraine.

Vindman said the rough transcript of the call was segregated to a small group to prevent leaks.

He explained that his military experience shapes how he views the phone call, adding that he believes Trump was demanding that Zelenskiy undertake an investigation into Biden even if he didn’t phrase it as a demand.

Vindman says that in the military, when someone senior "asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it's not to be taken as a request. It's to be taken as an order."

He added that he doesn’t think the omission of the word “Burisma” from the transcript was significant, explaining that he thinks the people who do transcripts may not have caught the word. He said they put in “company” instead. Burisma is a Ukrainian gas company affiliated with Biden's son.

He said that he tried to edit the transcript of the call to note the word “Burisma” but it didn’t make it into the rough transcript released publicly. He doesn’t know why.

He told the committee that Sondland later said the Ukrainians needed to provide “a deliverable” that was “specific investigations.”

Vindman later told Ukrainian officials they should steer clear of the requests.

He said that he recognizes that what he is doing -- testifying before Congress -- would not be tolerated in many other countries.

In Russia, for example, his “act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel” would have cost him his life, he said.

Vindman testified that he felt Trump’s request to investigate a political rival was “improper.”

The U.S. Army official is an immigrant from Ukraine. He said that he is grateful his father came to the United States some 40 years ago, a place “where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”

He then addressed his father, saying “Dad, my sitting here today ... is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union.”

Vindman is one of several witnesses coming before the committee this week. He and the other witnesses have already testified behind closed doors.

Trump has denied doing anything wrong.


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