The House impeachment investigators released more transcripts on Friday from the depositions of witnesses who spoke to them last week.
Among them, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman gave an alarming account of how he saw U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone conversation play out with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
Vindman was asked by investigators why he didn’t think it was proper for Trump to make demands for Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and a company Hunter Biden was a part of, Burisma Holdings. Vindman explained that it appeared to him that, in order for Zelensky to secure a public face-to-face meeting with Trump, he would have to open an investigation into Biden, and do so in a public way.
The pressure from Trump — and his immense position of power — was evident in the call, Vindman noted.
“The power disparity between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine is vast, and, you know, in the President asking for something, it became — there was — in return for a White House meeting, because that’s what this was about,” Vindman said. “This was about getting a White House meeting. It was a demand for him to fulfill his — fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting.”
Vindman also testified that the memorandum of the call that was released to the public — frequently and wrongly touted by Trump as a transcript of the call — omitted key portions of what was actually said, including a reference to Burisma that was left out, which in his mind was included to be another tie to Biden.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told House investigators per transcript https://t.co/l6XjTxdlyV via @NatashaBertrand, @AndrewDesiderio
— Laura Barrón-López (@lbarronlopez) November 8, 2019
When asked his opinion on the matter, on whether he felt Trump was attempting to get Ukraine’s leaders to investigate Biden, Vindman was curt and to the point about it.
“Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent,” Vindman said.
The call for investigating corruption in Ukraine is itself a contentious defense that’s been given by the Trump administration in recent weeks. Early in October, Trump said that there was nothing peculiar about the call to Zelensky in July, implying it was an ordinary call to request an end to corruption in Kyiv in a general sense.
“I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about Biden’s politics…I don’t care about politics. But I do care about corruption, and this whole thing is about corruption,” Trump said, per reporting from CNN.
Yet additional testimony from a State Department official, George Kent, which was released earlier this week, suggests otherwise.
Kent testified that Trump’s concerns weren’t about ending corruption in Ukraine, but rather seemed more specifically tied to looking into the Bidens and a separate 2016 election conspiracy theory. He called Trump’s request more “tactical” than “strategic and institutional.”
Trump’s calls for investigating Biden were not about being “anticorruption,” Kent said, and he agreed in his deposition that the process was more akin to “selective prosecution or investigation” of Biden.