As damaging evidence against Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal continues to mount, the president continues to insist he had an innocuous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy in July. To hear the Republican tell it, the conversation was "perfect."
For the first time, Congress will hear today from a highly credible witness from inside the White House who has a very different perspective. NBC News reported overnight:
A U.S. Army official and White House national security official plans to tell members of Congress conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was on the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's leader in which Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens, and that he raised concerns about it.Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, considered the request so damaging to American national security that he reported it to a superior, according to his opening statement obtained by NBC News.
Vindman will be the first White House official to testify in the impeachment inquiry. He'll also be the first witness to have listened in on the infamous July 25 Trump-Zelensky call.
"I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine," Vindman is expected to say in his opening statement.
The National Security Council expert was so concerned that Trump's scheme would "undermine U.S. national security" that he reported his concerns to his superiors -- twice. After a July 10 meeting, Vindman took his objections to the National Security Council's lead attorney, John Eisenberg, after hearing U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland reference a quid-pro-quo scheme. Vindman then spoke up again after the July 25 call between the two presidents.
And why is this testimony so important? A few reasons, actually.
First, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council will corroborate the testimony of other impeachment inquiry witnesses, including a recent deposition from Fiona Hill, who also reportedly characterized the White House's scheme as a national security risk.
Second, Vindman is a White House official with direct, first-hand information about what transpired.
And third, Vindman's credibility will be difficult to go after. He is, after all, a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, where he was injured by an IED blast in the line of duty. The lieutenant colonel is also an immigrant -- he came to the United States as a small child -- who speaks Ukrainian.
"I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics," Vindman is expected to say in his opening statement.
I realize conservative media has already begun playing its role, and Vindman's heroic service clearly will not inoculate him from ugly far-right attacks. But for fair-minded observers, his testimony is poised to make Donald Trump's scandal quite a bit worse.