Politics: Takeaways: Trump request to Ukraine seen as a "demand" - - PressFrom - US

Politics Takeaways: Trump request to Ukraine seen as a "demand"

21:37  19 november  2019
21:37  19 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

Former U.S. top diplomat Rice concerned by shadow diplomacy on Ukraine

  Former U.S. top diplomat Rice concerned by shadow diplomacy on Ukraine Former U.S. top diplomat Rice concerned by shadow diplomacy on UkraineRice was critical of President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential run but has been more restrained since the Republican took office.

WASHINGTON — A key National Security Council expert testified Tuesday he considered President Donald Trump's request that Ukraine investigate Joe and Hunter Biden as a "demand" that was "improper" for Trump to make.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on the eastern European country, was describing the July 25 phone call where Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe his political rivals while the Trump administration held up nearly $400 million in military assistance. 

Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry

  Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, penned an op-ed published Tuesday slamming the House's "unprecedented" impeachment investigation.The op-ed, which comes a day before the House holds its first public hearings in the inquiry, claims Trump's interactions with Ukraine were "innocent" and that House Democrats are unfairly targeting his client."The manner in which [Rep. Adam Schiff] and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are conducting this impeachment investigation is unprecedented, constitutionally questionable, and an affront to American fair play," Giuliani wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating whether Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine for the probe amount to an impeachable offense.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Vindman appeared Tuesday morning alongside Jennifer Williams, an NSC aide to Vice President Mike Pence. Both were among a handful of administration security officials authorized to listen in on the July 25 call.

Later Tuesday afternoon, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and NSC Senior Director for Russia and Europe Tim Morrison will appear before the panel.

Here are several key takeaways from Tuesday's hearing: 

Vindman: Trump request a 'demand'

In his phone call with Zelensky, Trump calls the request for the probe into the Bidens a "favor," according to a summary of the conversation. (The White House has yet to release the full transcript.)

Bill Taylor Reveals New Trump Call on Ukraine: Impeachment Takeaways

  Bill Taylor Reveals New Trump Call on Ukraine: Impeachment Takeaways Two State Department officials responsible for U.S. policy in Ukraine testified Wednesday in a House impeachment hearing, giving the public its first live, televised look at the evidence against President Donald Trump. © Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William B. Taylor (R), and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent (L) are sworn in prior to providing testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC.

But Vindman said he viewed it as more than a benign request. 

The army officer described how the "power disparity" between the United States and Ukraine made it clear Trump's asking for investigations was tantamount to a command.

"The culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it's polite and pleasant, it's not to be taken as a request," he told lawmakers. "It's to be taken as an order. In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver the investigations."

Protecting the whistleblower's identity

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, questioned Williams and Vindman on whether they leaked information regarding Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelensky.

When Nunes asked if either witness discussed the call with anyone outside the White House, Vindman said he discussed the call with State Department Deputy Secretary George Kent and an individual in the intelligence community.

White House releases summary of Trump's first call with Ukraine's Zelensky

  White House releases summary of Trump's first call with Ukraine's Zelensky The White House has released a document summarizing President Donald Trump’s first phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in April of this year. © Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images Ukraine's President Vladimir Zelensky during a briefing in the office of the President in Kiev. Ukraine, Thursday, June 27, 2019 The tone of the call released Friday was much more congratulatory, as it took place hours after Zelensky’s historic landslide election, and was significantly shorter than the July 25 call at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

Nunes asked who the member of the intelligence community was, prompting an interjection from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Schiff wanted to ensure it was not an attempt to out the whistleblower, whose letter about the July 25 call sparked the impeachment probe.

Slideshow by photo services

“I want to make sure that this is not an attempt to out the whistleblower,” Schiff said.

Vindman said he was advised by his lawyer not to identify anyone when asked about members of the intelligence community.

When asked by Nunes, Vindman repeated his previous assertion behind closed doors that he doesn't know who the whistleblower is "but I can offer that these people were properly cleared individuals with a need to know.”

The mystery of the Sept. 18 phone call

A Sept. 18 phone call between Mike Pence and Zelensky emerged as a potentially important issue but the details of the classified call remain under wraps.

Schiff pressed Williams about the call but she declined to speak about it in the open hearing at the direction of her attorney, Justin Shur, who sat next to her at the witness table.

Twitter slam: Trump dismisses Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who overheard Zelensky call, as 'Never Trumper'

After Williams testified she was on the call and took notes, Schiff asked her if there was anything she heard on the call "that you think may be relevant to our investigation."

Shur than jumped in and said that "as previously discussed (with) the committee," Pence's office considers the call classified. He referred lawmakers to a summary of the call the vice president's office released Sept. 18 and Williams' Nov. 7 testimony about the call to the committee behind closed doors.

A summary of the call released by the White House said the vice president called "to follow up on their productive September 1 meeting in Warsaw" and discuss Trump’s meeting with Zelensky the following week at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York City.

"The Vice President commended President Zelensky’s administration for its bold action to tackle corruption through legislative reforms, and offered full U.S. support for those efforts," according to the summary.

Williams said she would be "very happy" to discuss the matter further in a classified setting. In her Nov. 7 testimony, Williams said there was no discussion of any investigations.

Vindman moved by a sense of duty

Vindman said he felt compelled to report his concerns about not only the July 25 call but also a July 10 meeting where Gordon Sondland, Trump's U.S. ambassador to the European Union, emphasized the importance of Ukraine delivering the investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens

"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. "This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region."

Key witnesses: Read all the transcripts from the closed-door testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry

"I want to emphasize to the Committee that when I reported my concerns — on July 10, relating to Ambassador Sondland, and on July 25, relating to the President — I did so out of a sense of duty," he continued. "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."

Williams testified she also found the July 25 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."

Unlike Vindman, Williams did not share her concerns with anyone.

Contributing: Bart Jansen and Courtney Subramanian

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Takeaways: Trump request to Ukraine seen as a "demand"

3 takeaways from Laura Cooper’s and David Hale’s testimony .
Laura Cooper testified Ukraine asked about its military aid the same day Trump asked Ukraine's president for a favor.Cooper provided new information about when Ukraine knew there were conditions on receiving its military assistance. Here are three takeaways from their testimonies.

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks

Topical videos:

usr: 1
This is interesting!