Witnesses say they heard Trump mention Burisma on July 25 call, though White House account does not mention it
Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET
Vindman and Williams both confirmed their earlier testimony that Trump said the word “Burisma” on the July 25 call with Zelensky, by their notes and recollection.
It’s a significant detail, because Burisma is the Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden served. But the company name is not included in the rough transcript of the call released by the White House.
Williams said she does not know why Burisma did not appear on the White House summary of the call.
Vindman suggested that the omission was an honest mistake by transcribers of the call, who may have simply missed the word.
“I attribute that to the fact that this transcript as it was being produced may have not caught the word Burisma … it’s not a significant omission,” he said.
Still, he added, “It was my responsibility to make sure the transcript was as accurate as possible, including putting that word back in, because I had it in my notes.”
Williams says she learned of Ukraine aid hold on July 3
Updated at 10:03 a.m.
Jennifer Williams, a State Department Ukraine expert, said in her opening statement that she learned of the hold on Ukraine aid on July 3, fifteen days earlier than other witnesses have said.
“According to the information I received, [the Office of Management and Budget] was reviewing whether the funding was aligned with the administration’s priorities,” she said.
Williams, a long serving State Department employee who has participated in at least a dozen other presidential phone calls, said she told the committee that “I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
Williams said she never discussed the July 25 phone call with Pence, and that a desire for investigations was not raised in the Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Zelensky.
She also declined to answer some questions in a public setting, offering to address them in a classified briefing.
Rep. Nunes attacks media but does not address Ukraine allegations
Updated at 9:42 a.m. EST
It wasn’t a new strategy to discredit the House Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, but Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, escalated attacks on the media in his opening remarks Tuesday.
Referring to last week’s public hearings, Nunes slammed news coverage as the “same preposterous reporting media offered for three years on the Russia hoax,” calling reporters “puppets of the Democratic Party.”
In another familiar attack line, he asked where the whistleblower, who initially prompted the opening of the inquiry, had gone.
“It’s as if the Democrats put the whistleblower in their own witness protection program,” he said.
He also sought to undermine the Democrats’ own rhetorical pivot, from describing the president’s actions not with the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” but the more commonly understood “bribery” — which also happens to be explicitly listed in the Constitution as an impeachable offense.
In personal note, Vindman thanks father for fleeing Soviet Union
Updated at 9:37 a.m. EST
Sitting before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in his full Army dress uniform, Vindman stressed that he reported his concerns about the requests out of a sense of duty.
“I privately reported my concerns, in official channels, to the proper authorities in the chain of command. My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country,” he said.
Vindman, who serves as the director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, ended his opening statement by thanking his father for choosing to flee the Soviet Union, noting that he could be killed in another country for raising such concerns.
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said.
A Capitol Hill staffer for the press gallery came around to the media tables to warn that Vindman’s identical twin brother, Yevgeny, would also be attending, in uniform, so that reporters would not confuse them.
Their family fled Ukraine when Vindman and his brother were 3 years old, and they were raised in Brooklyn. They both enlisted in the Army and are both serving on the National Security Council.
Vindman says Trump’s actions ‘had nothing to do with national security’
Updated at 9:37 a.m. EST
President Trump’s request that a foreign government investigate his political opponent was “improper,” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers in his opening statement as he appeared before the House impeachment inquiry.
“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent,” Vindman said, according to a copy of his statement reviewed in advance.
Vindman, one of four witnesses testifying Tuesday, told lawmakers that he twice contacted the top lawyer for the National Security Council, John Eisenberg, with concerns upon hearing demands that Ukraine investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and unfounded theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Vindman told he was worried that an investigation by Ukraine “would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”
Vindman also notified Eisenberg about a July 10 meeting at the White House with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Ukrainian officials in which Sondland said that the Ukrainian president would not be invited for a White House visit unless Ukraine conducted the investigations.
“I stated to Ambassador Sondland that this was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security,” Vindman said.
Hearing resumes Tuesday with four witnesses
Updated at 6 a.m. ET
Tuesday’s House impeachment inquiry hearings kick off a breakneck week of public testimony, with Democrats bringing in nine witnesses to testify before leaving Thursday for the Thanksgiving recess.
First up will be Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who said in his deposition that he repeatedly raised concerns in the White House about President Trump’s push on Ukraine for investigations into his political rivals during a July 25 phone call. Vindman was the first current White House official to give a deposition, and was one of the first witnesses to provide direct, firsthand confirmation of numerous details in an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that first fueled the inquiry.
Alongside Vindman will be Jennifer Williams, a State Department Ukraine expert assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s office. In her deposition, Williams testified that Trump’s request for specific investigations in the July 25 call struck her as “unusual and inappropriate” and “shed some light on possible other motivations” for Trump’s decision to freeze security aid to Ukraine.
Testifying in the afternoon is former Ambassador Kurt Volker and National Security Council official Tim Morrison, Trump’s top advisor for Russian and European affairs.
In his deposition, Volker spoke about how Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, pressed for a statement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, and into unfounded allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
“It was Mr. Giuliani who said, ‘If it doesn’t say Burisma and 2016, it’s not credible,’” Volker told lawmakers.
Like Vindman, Morrison told House investigators in his deposition that he immediately expressed concerns to National Security Council lawyers after the July 25 phone call, but he also told lawmakers that he did not believe anything illegal was discussed on the call.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee specifically requested that Volker and Morrison be brought in to publicly testify.