Army officer on phone call said it was his ‘duty’ to report president

The second decorated U.S. military combat veteran to testify in the House impeachment inquiry told Congress Tuesday that he listened to President ’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine and immediately knew it was his “duty” to report President ’s “improper” behavior to White House lawyers.

“I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel … It was improper for the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent,” Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a 44-year old Army officer detailed to the White House for the past 18 months, told the House Intelligence Committee.

Vindman backed up testimony last week by three separate diplomats that was pressuring Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky to publicly announce that his government was investigating former Vice President Joe Biden – a top rival for the presidency – and his son Hunter Biden’s position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Vindman, a recipient of the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Iraq war by an improvised explosive device, appeared before the committee in his full dress blues.

He testified next to Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

Vindman was born in the former Soviet Union, and his parents fled the communist regime when he was three years old. He has been a Russia and Eastern Europe expert at the National Security Council since July 2018, after having served in a number of posts, including in the U.S. embassies in Moscow and Kyiv and at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America,” Vindman said, and he insisted that his decision to report the president’s comments as “improper” it was out of a sense of “duty.”

National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, 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. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, 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. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald 's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

He described to the committee that in some countries, his act of reporting the head of state to government attorneys “would not be tolerated” and that the act of giving public testimony “would surely cost me my life.”

But he reassured his father in his opening statement that he would be “fine for telling the truth” and that his testimony was “proof that you made the right decision” to leave his homeland.

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Williams, a foreign service officer for over a decade, told the committee about some of the details surrounding Pence’s decision not to attend the inauguration of newly elected Zelensky last April.

decided not to send Pence, Williams said, and it was not a scheduling conflict.

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Williams also told the committee that she, like Vindman, along with “several of my colleagues,” listened to the July 25 phone call between and Zelensky, as is customary for calls between heads of state.

Williams found the 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 the loose transcript of the call was included in Pence’s briefing book the next day but she did not know if he read it. And she said that in a Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw, Pence did not talk about the investigations that and Giuliani and others were pushing the Ukrainians to pursue.

Jennifer Williams, adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for European and Russian affairs, reads an opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jennifer Williams, adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for European and Russian affairs, reads an opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jennifer Williams, adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for European and Russian affairs, reads an opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the top Republican on the committee, spent most of his opening statement bashing the news media, and called the press “puppets of the Democratic party.”

Nunes complained that the media were not pressing Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to bring the whistle-blower in for testimony. 

Republicans are implying that the whistle-blower had partisan motivations and coordinated with Schiff’s staff to jump start the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats say that the whistleblower’s Aug. 12 complaint has been verified and corroborated by multiple public witnesses, and the need to have that person testify is no longer vital. And they want to protect the identity of the whistleblower to maintain a precedent that will encourage others to utilize this channel of communication without fear of retribution and keep government officials accountable.

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