tv ABC7 News 600AM ABC November 19, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PST
watching. all right. several people testifying this morning, of the national security counsel. we will take you to it right now. >> announcer: this is an abc news special report. the house impeachment hearings. now reporting, george stephanopoulos. good morning and welcome to our special coverage of the impeachment of president trump. that is the scene inside good morning, everyone. it is tuesday, november 19th. "abc 7 mornings" is continuing on abc7news.com and on the abc 7 news app. we will be here until 7:00. >> we will continue on with our newscast starting with meteorologist mike nicco, who is tracking changes in our forecast. hi, mike. . >> hi, guys. let's talk about what's going on. we have that red flag warning
out there for the north bay mountains, east bay hills and diablo range. any time they vindman, now serving as the ukraine now exrtdehearg mary, democrats expect that vindman is going to be their star witness. >> reporter: george, he's a decorated combat veteran and said he was so concerned by what he heard on that phone call between the president and the ukrainian leader that he feared it could undermine u.s. neuratil security. he said it was not proper to ask the ukrainian president to investigate the bidens and he quickly alerted his superiors. the president has attacked vindman as a, quote, never trumper, but vindman will describe himself as a patriot. he has served for 20 years and received a purple heart. we saw him a short while ago and he is in full military uniform.
republicans though are going to go after his judgment and his loyalty to the president, and george, while republicans so far have been dismissing much of the testimony as hearsay, that argument will be difficult for them to make today as they face off with firsthand witnesses. >> we will be accompanied by his twin brother, also a member of the national security council and a lawyer. i want to go to jon karl. the president has not been shy about attacking these witnesses. >> reporter: he's not been shy about it at all. the white house legal team has tried to tone down those attacks focused on the substance of the hearings and not to get into a personal battle with the witnesses which is especially difficult here again with somebody who is a lieutenant colonel in the army, a purple heart recipient, a hard person to attack. but george, you have seen some very harsh attacks on colonel vindman from the president's allies, ron johnson, the republican senator from
wisconsin suggested that vindman may be trying to sabotage the president, remove him from office because he never accepted his legitimacy. >> jon, you had the president saying yesterday that he might be willing to testify. of course we heard that during the mueller investigation as well. >> reporter: he told that to me about mueller at least a half a dozen times and of course it never happened. the president did tweet that he would perhaps be interested in taking up nancy pelosi on her offer of providing written testimony, written answers to questions from the committee. george, that is something that is highly unlikely, perhaps all the more so because the democrats in the white house are actually now investigating whether or not the president lied in his written answers to the mueller investigation. >> david muir, we'll be hearing first from jennifer williams. >> one of the main differences is three of the four witnesss today were tactually on that phone call while the president
was talking to the president of ukraine. it's important to note that wiia,here you see her right there, she's already testified that trump's insistence that ukraine carry out politically sensitive investigations struck me as unusual and inappropriate, more political in nature than other phone calls with foreign leaders and she pointed out there were specific references to the president's personal political agenda and we know the president targeted her as a never trumper. >> she was at that meeting between vice president mike pence and president zelensky. it doesn't appear that the witnesses have yet arrived inside the hearing room. martha raddatz, some concerns over colonel vindman's security. >> reporter: exactly, there's been so much said about colonel vindman that there are reports this morning that the army would provide security for him and possibly move him to a military base to ensure his safety if there are any threats. they would move both he and his family to a military base. you know, you look, the optics
of this this morning when lieutenant colonel vindman arrives sitting in that uniform because that uniform tells the story of his life, tells the story of his combat. he was injured in a roadside bomb. he was a combat infantry badge. he is an army ranger. that combat infantry badge means he came under direct fire when he was in iraq. the entire family has served in the u.s. army. his older brother, his twin brother is still active duty. you see on the right sleeve when he walked in this morning that he has two small slashes. each one of those is six months in a combat zone. >> it appears he's entering the hearing room right now. of course both colonel vindman and jennifer williams will take the oath, opening statements we expect from chairman schiff and the ranking republican on the committee as well, devin nunes, before ms. williams will speak first, followed by colonel vindman. dan abrams, we've noticed that colonel vindman's opening
statement which we've received is somewhat toughened up from reports of his previous depositions. >> you compare the transcript of his opening statement from the previous time that he testified behind closed doors and this one, and the language is tougher. now he's talking about -- he's using words like improper, twice. it is improper for the president of the united states to demand a foreign government investigate a u.s. citizen and political opponent. before we saw language more like, i was worried, et cetera. so the key today when you look at both of these witnesses together, they're going to be talking about the phone call and they're going to say certain things were left out of that phone call when the notes were taken, that critical words like the bidens and burisma were not included. that's going to be the most important thing to focus on. >> of course colonel vindman also went directly to a white house lawyer with his concerns about the phone call after he had heard it. chris christie, we're sitting here watching, getting ready for the hearing this morning, now day three of thegs.
republican sylienheep strategy being run out of the oval office. as much as they try to do things up on capitol hill, as we saw with the tweet regarding the former ambassador, that can get changed right away. i think in the end, a smart republican strategy is going to be this is who the president is and the fact is that the american public knows this and we can't permit a national election to be overturned in the shadow of the next election. i think you're going to see republicans turning to that more and more as a process defense rather than a defense of any particular conduct. >> melissa, constitutional scholar at nyu, one of the things that we saw last week -- i believe jennifer williams is entering the hearing room. the republicans are arguing that the aid went through, no harm, no foul, so nothing wrong here. you also could see them start to move from maybe this was wrong but not an impeachable offense. >> that's definitely the democrat strategy, while this may have happened, there's nothing to see here.
this is the usual course of events for a president that's highly unorthodox and a little bit of a maverick in terms of how foreign policy is conducted. >> both witnesses at the witness table standing, facing chairman schiff. they will take their seats, take the oath. chairman schiff just waiting for the reporters now to clear. it's expected to be a long day on capitol hill. we'll be facing testimony this afternoon from kurt volker, the special envoy on morrison, a me national security council who colonel vindman reported to. >> we will come to order. good morning, everyone. this is the third in a public hearing on the impeachment inquiry. without objection the chair is authorized to declare recess of the committee at any time. there is a quorum president. we'll proceed in the same
fashion as our first hearing. i'll make an opening statement and then ranking member nunes will have the opportunity to make his statement. then we will turn to our witnesses for their opening statements and then to questions. beg he.und res int in turn, we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. as chairman i'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 660. with that i now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump, it the 45th president of the united states. last week we heard from three experienced diplomats who testified about president trump's scheme to condition official acts, a white house meeting and hundreds of millions of dollars of u.s. military aid to fight the russians on a deliverable by the new ukrainian president zelensky to
politically motivated investigations that trump believed would help his re-election campaign. one of those investigations involved the bidens and the other involved a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine and not russia was responsible for interfering in our 2016 election. as ambassador sondland would later tell foreign service officer david holmes immediately after speaking to the president, trump did not give a -- he then used an ex pla tif -- about ukraine. he cares about big stuff that benefits the president like the biden investigation that giuliani was pushing. to press a foreign leader to announce an investigation into his political rival, president trump put his own personal and political interests above those of the nation. he undermined our military and diplomatic support for a key ally and undercut u.s. anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. how could our diplomats urge ukraine to refrain from political investigations of its
own citizens if the president of the united states was urging ukraine to engage in precisely the same kind of corrupt and political investigations of one of our own citizens. at the white house, career professionals became concerned that president trump through an irregular channel that involved his acting chief of staff, mick mulvaney, eu ambassador gordan sondland and rudy giuliani was pushing a policy toward ukraine at odds with a national interest. this morning we hear from two of the national security professionals who became aware of those efforts. lieutenant colonel alexinan whoseled oppression a iraq war o was awarded a purple heart, and an expert in russia and ukraine who has worked at the highest levels of the pentagon. in july 2018 he was detailed to the white house in part to coordinate policy on ukraine.
jennifer williams is a career foreign service officer who is currently detailed to the office of the vice president and responsible for europe and eurasia related issues. following the phone call with ukrainian president zelensky on a april 21, president trump asked vice president pence to represent him. pence would be a coveted attendee, second in significance only to the president, and would have sent an important signal of support to the new ukrainian president. in early may, however, rudy giuliani had been planning to go to ukraine to pursue the president's interest in having the bidens investigated but had to call off the trip after it became public. among others, giuliani blamed people around zelensky for having to cancel and claimed that they were antagonistic to trump. three days later the president
called off the vice president's inauguration. instead, a lower level delegation was named energy secretary rick perry, ambassador sondland and ambassador cukurt volker, the three amigos. after returning from the inauguration, several members of the delegation briefed president trump on their encouraging first interactions with zelensky. they urged trump to meet with the ukrainian president, but trump instead criticized ukraine and instructed them to work with judy -- work with rudy. a few weeks later on july 10 ambassador sondland met at the white house with a group of u.s. and ukrainian officials including colonel vindman and informed the group that according to chief of staff mulvaney, the white house meeting sought with president trump, what happened if ukraine undertook certain investigations. national security adviser bolton abruptly ended the meeting and
said afterwards that he would not be part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are cooking up on this. undeterred, sondland brought the ukrainian delegation downstairs to another part of the white house and was more explicit, according to witnesses. ukraine needed to investigate the bidens or burisma if they were to get a white house meeting with trump. after this discussion which vin witnessed, he went to the national security council's top lawyer to report the matter and was told to return with any concerns. a week later on july 18 a representative of the office of management and budget announced on a video conference call that mulvaney, at trump's direction, was freezing nearly $400 million in military assistance to ukraine which was appropriated by congress and enjoyed the support of the entirety of the u.s. national security establishment. one week after that, trump would have the now infamous july 25 phone call with zelensky.
during that call, trump complained that the u.s. relationship with ukraine had not been reciprocal. later zelensky thanks trump for his support in the area of defense and says ukraine was ready to purchase more javelins that was one of the most important deterrents of military action. trump's immediate response, i would like you to do us a favor, though. trump then requested that zelensky investigate the discredited 2016 conspiracy theory and even more ominously, look into the bidens. neither was part of the official preparatory material for the call, but they were in donald trump's personal interest and in the interest of his 2020 re-election campaign. the ukrainian president knew about both in advance because sondland and others had been pressing ukraine for weeks about investigations into the 2016 election, burisma and the bidens. both colonel vindman and ms.
williams were on the july 25th call. vindman testified that due to the unequal bargaining position of the two leaders and ukraine's dependency on the u.s., the favor trump asked of zelensky was really a demand. after the call, multiple individuals including vindman were concerned enough to report it to the national security council's top lawyer. it was the second time in two weeks that vindman had raised concerns with nsc lawyers. for her part, williams also believed that asking zelensky to undertake these political investigations was inappropriate and that it might explain something else that she had become aware of, the otherwise inexplicable hold on u.s. military assistance to ukraine. both colonel vindman and ms. williams also took note of the explicit use of the word burisma by zelensky. in fact, speleft out of the cal.
colonel vindman believed it was a fact that other witnesses have now confirmed. in the weeks that followed the july 25 call, colonel vindman continued to push for a release of the military aid to ukraine and struggled to learn why it was being withheld. more disturbing, word of the hold had reached ukrainian officials prior to it becoming public. by mid august the ukrainian deputy ambassador asked vindman why the united states was withholding the aid. although vindman didn't have an answer, sondland made it explicit to the ukrainians at a meeting in warsaw. they needed to publicly commit to these two investigations if they hoped to get the aid. ms. williams, we all saw the president's tweet about you on sunday afternoon and the insults that he hurled at ambassador yovanovitch last friday. you are here today and the american people are grateful. colonel vindman, we have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character and watched
certain personalities on fox question your loyalty. i note that you have shed blood for america and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude. i hope no one on this committee will become part of those vicious attacks. today's witnesses, like those who testified last week, are here because they were subpoenaed to appear, not because they are for or against impeachment. that question is for congress, not the fact witnesses. if the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in your elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, a white house meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, it will be up to us to decide whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency. i now recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks he'd like
to make. >> thank the gentleman. i'd like to address a few brief words to the american people watching at home. if you watched the impeachment hearings last week you may have noticed a disconnect between what you actually saw and the mainstream media accounts describing it. when you saw three diplomats who dislike president trump's ukraine policy discussing secondhand and thirdhand conversations about their objections with the trump policy, meanwhile they admitted they had not talked to the president about these matters and they were unable to identify any crime or impeachable offense the president committed. what you read in the press were accounts of shocking, damning and explosive testimony that fully supports the democrats' accusations. if these accounts have a familiar ring, it's preposterou reporting the media offered for three years on the russian hoax. on a nearly daily basis, the top
news outlets in america reported breathlessly on the newest bombshell revelation, showing that president trump and everyone surrounding him were russian agents. it really wasn't long ago that we were reading these headlines. from cnn, congress investigating russian investment fund with ties to trump officials. this was false. "new york times," trump campaign aids had repeated contacts with russian intelligence. also false. slate, was a trump server communicating with russia? this was false. new york magazine, will trump be meeting with his counter part or his handler? this was false. the guardian, manafort held secret talks with assange in ecuadorian embassy. also false. buzzfeed, president trump
directed his attorney to lie to congress about the moscow tower project. all of these were false. there was no objectivity or fairness in the media's russia stories, just a fevered rush to tarnish and remove a president who refuses to pretend that the media are something different from what they really are, puppets of the democratic party. with their biased misreporting on the russia hoax, the media lost the confidence of millions of americans and because they refused to acknowledge how badly they botched the story, they've learned no lessons and simply expect americans will believe them as they try to stoke yet another partisan frenzy. in previous hearings i've outlined three questions the democrats and the media don't want asked or answered. instead of shedding light on these crucial questions, the media are trying to smother and dismiss them. those questions start with, what is the full extent of the
democrats' prior coordination with the whistle-blower and who else did the whistle-blower coordinate this effort with. the media have fully accepted the democrats' stunning reversal on the need for the whistle-blower to testify to this committee. the democrats were insisted on his testimony, the media wanted it too. but things have changed since it became clear the whistle-blower would have to answer problematic questions that include these. what was the full extent of the whistle-blower's prior coordination with chairman schiff, his staff and any other people he cooperated with while preparing the complaint. what are the whistle-blower's political biases and connections to democratic politicians. how does the whistle-blower explain the inaccuracies in the complaint. what contact did the whistle-blower have with the media which appears to be ongoing. what are the sources of the
whistle-blower's information, who else did he talk to, and was the whistle-blower prohibited by law from receiving or conveying any of that information. the media have joined the democrats in dismissing the importance of cross examining this crucial witness now that the whistle-blower has successfully kick started impeachment. he has disappeared from the story as if the democrats put the whistle-blower in their own witness protection program. my second question, what was the full extent of ukraine's election meddling against the trump campaign. in these depositions and hearings republicans have cited numerous indications of the ukrainian's meddles to oppose the trump campaign. many of these instances were reported, including the posting of many primary source documents by veteran investigative journalist john solomon. since the democrats switched
from russia to ukraine for their impeachment crcrusade, solomon s reported on burisma, hunter biden, and ukraine election meddling has become inconvenient for the democrats. in fact, the publication "the hill" told its staff yesterday it would conduct a review of solomon's ukrainian reporting. coincidentally it comes three days after a democrat on this committee told a "hill" writer that she would stop speaking to "the hill" because it would stop writing the stories and she spoke to management. now that the reporting is a problem for the democrats, it's a problem for the media as well. i'd like to submit for the record john solomon's october 31 story entitled "debunking some of ukraine's scandal myths about
election interference." i encourage viewers today to read this story and draw your own conclusions about the evidence solomon has gathered. i ask unanimous consent to put this into the record, mr. chair. >> without objection. >> the concerted campaign by the media to discredit tanand disow some of their own colleagues is shocking. we see it again in the sudden denunciations of "new york times" reporter ken vogel as a conspiracy theorist after he covered similar issues including a 2017 politico piece entitled "ukrainian efforts to sabotage trump backfire." my third question, why did burisma hire hunter biden? what did he do for them, and did his position affect any u.s. government actions under the obama administration. we have now heard testimony from the democrats' own witnesses
that diplomats were concerned about a conflict of interest involving hunter biden. that's because he had secured a well paid position despite having no qualifications on the board of a corrupt ukrainian company while his father was vice president charged with overseeing ukrainian issues. after trying out several different accusations against president trump, the democrats have recently settled on bribery. according to widespread reports, they replaced their quid pro quo allegation because it wasn't polling well. if the democrats and the media are suddenly so deeply concerned about bribery, you would think they would take some interest in burisma paying hunter biden $83,000 a month. you'd think they would be interested in joe biden threatening to withhold u.s. loan guarantees unless the ukrainians fired a prosecutor
who was investigating burisma. that would be a textbook example of bribery. the media of course are free to act as democrat puppets and they're free to lurch from the russia hoax to the ukraine hoax at the direction of their puppet masters, but they cannot reasonably expect to do so without alienating half the country who voted for the president they're trying to expel. americans have learned to recognize fake news when they see it, and if the mainstream press won't give it to them straight, they'll go elsewhere to find it, which is exactly what the american people are doing. with that i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. today we are joined by lieutenant colonel vindman and jennifer williams. lieutenant colonel alexander vindman is an active duty military officer who joined the army after college and served
multiple tours overseas, serving in south korea, germany and iraq. he was deployed to iraq at a time of heavy fighting and was awarded a purple heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb. since 2008 colonel vindman served at home and in embassies in ukraine and russia. he served as a politico military affairs officer for russia for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. he joined the trump administration in july 2018 when he was asked to serve on the national security council. jennifer williams began her government career in service in 2005 shortly after graduating from college when she joined the department of homeland security as a political appointee during the george w. bush administration and after working as a field representative on the 2004 bush/cheney presidential campaign. she joined the foreign service the following year completing tours in jamaica, beirut and lebanon.
prior to joining the office of the vice president, she served at the u.s. embassy in london as a public affairs officer. in april 2019, ms. williams was detailed to the office of the vice president, mike pence, where she serves as a special adviser on his foreign policy team covering europe and russia issues. in that capacity she keeps the vice president aware of foreign policies and prepares him for meetings with foreign leaders. two final points before witnesses are sworn. first witness depositions as part of this hearing were unclassified in nature and all hearings will be held at the unclassified level. any information touched on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress will not tolerate reprisal, threat of reprisal before testifying before congress including you or any of your colleagues. if you would both please rise
and raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? let the record show the witnesses have answered in the affirmative. thank you, and you may be seated. the microphones are sensitive so please speak directly into them. without objection, your written statement will be made part of the record. with that, ms. williams, you are recognized for your opening statement, and when you're concluded, lieutenant vindman, you will be recognized immediately thereafter for your opening statement. ms. williams. >> thank you, chairman schiff, ranking member nunes, and other members of the committee for the opportunity to provide this statement. i appear today pursuant to a subpoena and am prepared to answer your questions to the best of my abilities. i have had the privilege of working as a foreign service officer for nearly 14 years, working for three different
presidential administrations, two republican and one democratic. i joined the state department in 2006 after serving in the department of homeland security. it was with great pride and conviction that i swore an oath to uphold and defend the constitution administered by a personal hero of mine, former secretary of state condoleezza rice. as a career officer, i am committed to serving the american people and advancing american interests abroad in support of the president's foreign policy objectives. i have been inspired and encouraged in that journey by the thousands of other dedicated public servants who i'm proud to call colleagues across the foreign service, civil servic military, and federal law enforcement agencies. i have served overseas tours in kingston, jamaica, beirut, lebanon, and london, united kingd kingdom, worked on humanitarian
programs and served as an adviser on middle east issues to the deputy secretary of state. in this spring, it was the greatest honor of my career to be asked to serve as a special adviser to the vice president for europe and russia. over the past eight months, i have been privileged to work with the dedicated and capable men and women of the office of the vice president to advance the administration's agenda. i have also worked closely with talented and committed colleagues at the national security council, state department, department of defense, and other agencies to advance and promote u.s. foreign policy objectives. in this capacity i have advised and prepared the vice president for engagements related to ukraine. as you are aware, on november 7 i appeared before the committee for a closed door deposition pursuant to a subpoena. i would like to take this opportunity to briefly summarize my recollection of some of the events i expect the committee may ask me about.
on april 21st volodymyr zelensky won the ukrainian presidential election. on april 23rd, the vice president called to congratulate president-elect zelensky. during the call which i participated in, the vice president accepted an invitation to attend president zelensky's upcoming inauguration, providing to the scheduling worked out. the vice president had only a narrow window of availability at the end of may, and the ukrainian parliament would not meet to set a date for the inauguration until after may 14th. as a result, we did not expect to know whether the vice president would be -- could attend until may 14th at the earlie earlie earliest, and we made only preliminary trip preparations in early may. on may 13th, an assistant to the vice president's chief of staff called and informed me that president trump had decided that the vice president would not attend the inauguration in the ukraine. she did not provide any further explanation. i relayed that instruction to
others involved in planning the potential trip. i also informed the nsc that the vice president would not be attending so that it could identify a head of delegation to represent the united states at president-elect zelensky's inauguration. on july 3rd, i learned that the office of management and budget had placed a hold on a trosh of security assistance degree nasi for the ukraine. omb was reviewing whether the funding was in line with the administration's priorities. i subsequently attended meetings of the policy coordination committee where the hold on ukrainian security assistance was discussed. during those meetings, representatives of the state and defense departments advocated that the hold should be lifted and omb representatives reported that the white house chief of staff had directed that the hold should remain in place. on september 11th, i learned that the hold on security assistance for ukraine had been released. i have never learned what
prompted that decision. on july 25th, along with several of my colleagues, i listened to a call between president trump and president zelensky. the content of which has since been publicly reported. prior to july 25th, i had participated in roughly a dozen other presidential phone calls. during my closed door deposition, members of the committee asked about my personal views and whether i had any concerns about the july 25th call. as i testified then, 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. after the july 25th call, i provided an update in the vice president's daily briefing book indicating that president trump had a call that day with president zelensky. a hard copy of the memoranda transcribing the call was also included in the book. i do not know whether the vice president reviewed my update or the transcript. i did not discuss the july 25th
call with the vice president or any of my colleagues in the office of the vice president or the nsc. on august 29th, i learned t wou traveling toeet with president zelensky. at the september 1 meeting which i attended, president zelensky asked the vice president about news articles reporting a hold on u.s. security assistance for ukraine. the vice president responded that ukraine had the united states' unwavering support and promised to relay their conversation to president trump that entitlnight. during the september 1 meeting neither the vice president nor president zelensky mentioned the specific investigations discussed during the july 25th phone call. thank you again for the opportunity to provide a statement. i'd be happy to answer any questions. mr. chairman, ranking
members, thank you for the opportunity to address the house select committee on intelligence with respect to activities relating to ukraine and my role in the events under investigation. i have dedicated my entire professional life to the united states of america. for more than two decades, habeen my hor terve as infantryd multiple overseas tours including south korea and germany and i was deployed to iraq for combat operations. since 2008, i have been a foreign area officer specializing in european and eurasia political military affairs. i served in kyiv, ukraine and moscow, russia. in washington d.c. i was the political military affairs officer for russia for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff where i drafted the global campaign plan to counter russian aggression and russian maligned influence. in july 2018 i was asked to serve at the white house national security council. at the nsc, i'm the principal adviser to the national security
adviser on ukraine and other countries in my portfolio. my role at the nsc is to develop, coordinate, implement plans and policies to manage the economic national security issues of the countries in my portfolio. my core function is to coordinate policy with departments and agencies. the committee has heard from many of my colleagues about the strategic importance of ukraine against a bull work of russian aggression. our country's policy of ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, instructing a free and democratic ukraine as a counter to russian aggression has been a consistent, bipartisan foreign policy objective and strategy across various administrations, both democratic and republican. president zelensky's election in april 2019 created aroun unprecedented opportunity to realize our strategic objectives. in the spring of 2019 i became
aware of two disruptive actors, primarily ukraine's then prosecutor, lu and rudy giulian that undermined the united states/ukraine policy and grew increasingly concerned about the impact on our country's national security objectives. on april 21, 2019, volodymyr ukraine was elected president of ukraine on an anti-corruption platform. president trump called president zelensky on april 21, 2019 to congratulate him on his victory. i was the staff officer who produced the call materials and was one of the staff officers who listened to the call. the call was positive and president trump expressed his desire to work with president zelensky and extended an invitation to visit the white house. in may, i attended the
inauguration of president zelensky as part of the presidential delegation led by secretary perry. following the visit, the members of the delegation provided president trump a debriefing offering a positive assessment of president zelensky and his team. after this debriefing, president trump signed a congratulatory letter to president zelensky and extended another invitation to visit the white house. on july 10, 2019, ukraine's national security adviser visited washington d.c. for a meeting with national security adviser bolton. ambassador volker, sondland, and secretary rick perry also attended the meeting i attended with dr. hill. we fully anticipated the ukrainians would raise the issue of a meeting between the presidents. ambassador bolton cut the meeting short when ambassador sondland started to speak about the requirement that ukraine deliver specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with president trump. following this meeting, there was a short debriefing during
which ambassador sondland emphasized the importance of ukraine delivering investigations into the 2016 elections, the bidens and burisma. i stated to ambassador sondland that this was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security. dr. hill also asserted his comments when proper. following the meeting dr. hill and i agreed to report the incident to the nsc's lead counsel, mr. johnizen berg. on july 21, 2019, president zelensky won another land slide victory. the nsc proposed that president trump call president zelensky to congratulate him. on july 25, 2019 the call occurred. i listened in on the call in the situation room with white house colleagues. i was concerned by the call. what i heard was inappropriate and i reported my concerns to mr. izen berg. it is improper that the president of the united states
demand to investigate a u.s. citizen and political opponent. i was clear that if the ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 elections, the bidens and burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play and would undoubtedly result in ukraine losing partisan report and advancing russia's strategic objectives in the region. i want to emphasize to the committee that when i reported my concerns on july 10th relating to ambassador sondland and on july 25th relating to the president, i did so out of a sense of duty. i privately reported my concerns in official channels to the proper authority in the chain of command. my intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country. i never thought that i would be sitting here testifying in front of this committee and the american public about my actions. when i reported my concerns, my only thought was to act properly
and to carry out my duty. following each of my reports to mr. eisenberg, i immediately returned to work to advance the president's and our country's foreign policy objectives. i focused on what i've done throughout my military career, promoting america's national security interests. i want to take a moment to recognize the courage of my colleagues who have appeared and are scheduled to appear before this committee. i want to say that attacks on theseed andreehensible. itsat disagree and engage in spirited debate. this has been the custom of our country since the time of our founding fathers, but we are better than personal attacks. the uniform i wear today is that of a united states army -- is that of the united states army. the members of our all volunteer force are made up of a patchwork of people from all ethnicities, regions, socioeconomic backgrounds who come together under a common oath to protect and defend the constitution of
the united states of america. we do not serve any political party. we serve the nation. i am humbled to come before you today as one of many who serve in the most distinguished and able military in the world. the army is the only profession i've ever known. as a young man i decided i want to serve this nation that gave my family refuge from oppression. it has been an honor to represent and gre untry. next month will mark since my family steheas 47ea lt behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the united states so his three sons could have a better and safer life. his courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. all three of us have served or are currently serving in the
military. my little brother sits behind me here today. our collective military service is a special part of our family's history in america. i also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. in russia, my act of expressing concern to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life. i'm grateful for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an american citizen and public servant where i can live free, free of fear for mine and my family's safety. dad, i'm sitting here today in the u.s. capitol talking to our
elected professionals -- talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the soviet union and come here to the united states of america in search of a better life for our family. do not worry, i will be fine for telling the truth. thank you again for your consideration. i'll be happy to answer your questions. thank you, colonel. thank you, ms. williams. your brother and family are more than welcome here. grateful to have them with us. we'll proceed with the first round of questions. there will be 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman or majority counsel, followed by 45 minutes for the ranking member or minority counsel. under house resolution 660 that time may not be delegated to other members. following that, unless i specif specify, we will follow the
5-minute rule. i will recognize myself for five minutes. before we get into the substance of your testimony, ms. williams, i want to ask you about a phone call between investment pence and president zelensky of ukraine on september 18th. were you on that call? >> i was. >> and did you take notes of the call? >> yes, sir. >> is there something about that call that you think may be relevant to our investigation? >> have you previously discussed with the committee the office of the vice president has taken the position that -- >> sir, could you move the milkshake pho microphone closer. >> as we previously discussed with both majority and minority staff, the committee, the office of the vice president has taken the position that the september 18 call is classified. as a result, with respect to the call, i'd refer the committee to the public record which includes ms. williams' november 7 testimony which has been publicly released, as well as the public readout of that call
which has previously been issued by the white house. beyond that, given the position of the vice president's office on classification, i've advised ms. williams not to answer further questions about that call in an unclassified setting. >> thank you, counsel. ms. williams, i only ask you in this setting whether you think there's something relevant to our inquiry in that call and whether, if so, you'll be willing to make a classified submission to the committee. >> i would also refer to my testimony that i gave in the closed session and i'm very happy to appear for a classified setting discussion as well. >> it may not be necessary for you to appear if you'll be willing to submit the information in writing to the committee. >> i'd be happy to do so. >> thank you. colonel vindman, if i can turn your attention to the april 21 call, that is the first call between president trump and president zelensky, did you prepare talking points for the
president to use during that call? >> yes, i did. >> did those talking points include rooting out corruption in ukraine? >> yes. >> that was something the president was supposed to raise in the conversation with president zelensky? >> those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the nsc staff for the president, yes. >> did you listen in on that call? >> yes, i did. >> the white house has now released the record of that call. did president trump ever mention corruption in the april 21 call? >> to the best of my recollection, he did not. >> on the april 21 call, president trump told president zelensky that he would send a high level u.s. delegation to the inaugurate. ms. williams, was your understanding that the president wanted the vice president to
attend the inauguration in kyiv? >> yes, that was my understanding. >> did the president subsequently tell the vice president not to attend the inauguration? >> i was informed by our chief of staff's office, by the vice president's chief of staff office, that the president had told the vice president not to attend. i did not witness that conversation.>> am i correct thd this on may 13th is that correct? >> that's correct. >> am i correct that the inauguration date had not been set by may 13th? >> that's correct. >> do you know what accounted for the president's decision to instruct the vice president not to attend? >> i do not. >> colonel vindman, you were a member of the u.s. delegation to the inauguration on may 20th, is that correct? >> yes, chairman. >> during that trip did you have an opportunity to advice advice to president zelensky? >> yes. >> what was your advice?
>> during the bilateral meeting with president zelensky and his team, i offered two pieces of advice, to be particularly cautious with regard to ukraine -- to be particularly cautious with regards to russia and its desire to provoke ukraine, and the second one was to stay out of u.s. domestic policy. >> you mean politics? >> politics. >> why did you feel it was necessary to advise president zelensky to stay away from u.s. domestic politics? >> chairman, in the march and april time frame, it became clear that there were actors in the u.s. -- public actors, nongovernmental actors, that were promoting the idea of investigations in 2016 ukrainian
interference, and it was consistent with u.s. policy to advise any country -- all the countries in my portfolio, any country in the world, to not participate in u.s. domestic politics. so i was passing the same advice consistent with u.s. policy. >> i know we'll have more questions about that when i turn to him. let me turn if i can to the hold on security assistance which i think you both testified you learned about in early july. am i correct that neither of you were provided with a reason for why the president put a hold on security assistance to ukraine? >> my understanding was that omb was reviewing the assistance to ensure it was in line with administration priorities, but it was not made more specific than that. >> colonel vindman? >> that is consistent. it was to remain consistent with administration policies. >> concern vindman, you attended
a meeting in john bolton's office on july 10 where ambassador sondland interjected to respond to a question by senior ukrainian officials about a white house visit. what did he say at that time? >> to the best of my recollection, ambassador sondland said that in order to get a white house meeting, the ukrainians would have to provide a deliverable, which is investigations, specific investigations. >> what was ambassador bolton's response or reaction to that comment? >> we had not completed all of the agenda items and we still had time for the meeting and ambassador bolton abruptly ended the meeting. >> did you report this incident to the national security council lawyers? >> yes, i did. >> based on ambassador sondland's remark at the july 10 meeting, was it your clear understanding that the ukrainians understood they had to commit to investigations president trump wanted in order
to get the white house meeting? >> it may not have been entirely clear at that moment. certainly ambassador sondland was calling for these meetings and he had stated that he had this -- this was developed per a conversation with the chief of staff, mr. mick mulvaney, but the connection to the president wasn't clear at that point. >> but the import of what ambassador sondland said during that meeting was that there was an agreement with mick mulvaney that zelensky would get the meeting with they would undertake these investigations. >> that's correct. >> about two weeks after that july 10 meeting, president trump and president zelensky had their second call, the now infamous july 25 call. colonel vindman, what was your real time reaction to hearing
that call? >> chairman, without hesitation, i knew that i had to report this to the white house counsel. i had concerns and it was my duty to report my concerns to the proper people in the chain of command. >> what was your concern? >> chairman, as i said in my statement, it was inappropriate -- it was improper for the president to request -- to demand an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there's at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation, and that this would have significant implications if it became public knowledge and it would be
perceived as partisan play. it would undermine our ukraine policy, and it would undermine our national security. >> colonel, you've described this as a demand, this favor that the president asked. what is it about the relationship between the president of the united states and the president of ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the president of the united states asked a favor like this, it's really a demand? >> chairman, 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. 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 these investigations. >> ms. williams, i think you
described your reaction in your deposition when you listened to the call as you found it unusual and inappropriate. but i was struck by something else you said in your deposition. you said that it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold. what did you mean by that? >> mr. chairman, i was asked during the closed door testimony how i felt about the call and in reflecting on what i was thinking in that moment, it was the first time i had heard internally the president reference particular investigations that previously i had only heard about through mr. giuliani's press interviews, in press reporting. so in that moment, it was not clear whether there was a direct connection or linkage between the ongoing hold on security assistance and what the president may be asking president zelensky to undertake in regard to investigations.
it was noteworthy in that regard. i did not have enough information to draw any firm conclusions. >> but it raised a question in your mind as to whether the two were related? >> it was the first i had heard of any requests of ukraine which were that specific in nature, so it was noteworthy to me in that regard. >> both of you recall president zelensky in that conversation raising the issue or mentioning buris burisma, do you not? >> that's correct. >> correct. >> and yet, the word burisma appears nowhere in the call record that's been released to the public, is that correct? >> that's right. >> correct. >> do you know why that's the case, why it was left out? >> i do not. i was not involved in the production of that transcript. >> i attribute that to the fact that this transcript that is
being produced may have not caught the word burisma and in the transcript that was released, it was released as a company which is accurate. it's not a significant omission. >> colonel, you pointed out the fact that that word was used, did you not? >> correct. >> and yet it was not included in the record released to the public. >> that's right. i'd say it's informed speculation that the folks that produce these transcripts do the best they can and they just didn't catch the word. that was my responsibility to then make sure that the transcript was as accurate as possible and that's what i attempted to do by putting that word back in because that was in my notes. >> i think, colonel, you testified in your deposition that you found it striking that zelensky would bring up burisma, that it indicated to you that he
had been prepped for the call to expect this issue to come up. what led you to that conclusion? >> it seemed unlikely that he would be familiar with a single company in the context of a call that was on the broader bilateral relationship and it seems to me that he was either tracking this issue because it was in the press or he was otherwise prepped. >> mr. goldman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning to both of you. >> good morning. >> on july 25 at approximately 9:00 a.m., you both were sitting in the situation room probably not too much further away than you are right now and you were preparing for a long awaited phone call between president trump and president zelensky. now, colonel vindman, in advance of this phone call, did you prepare talking points as you did for the april 21 call? >> yes,