On Nov. 19, the House Intelligence Committee held a public hearing in its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. The committee heard testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the U.S. Army, a National Security Council official, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign service officer detailed to the Vice President's staff. Both of their opening statements as prepared for delivery are below, along with that of Chariman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes.
Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, thank you for the opportunity to address the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence with respect to the 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, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantry officer, I served 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 Eurasian politico-military affairs. I served in the United States embassies in Kiev Ukraine and Moscow, Russia.
In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff where I drafted the Armed Forces' global campaign plan to counter Russian aggression and Russian malign influence. In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the White House's National Security Council. At the NSC I am the principal advisor to the National Security Advisor and the President on Ukraine and the other countries in my portfolio. My role at the NSC is to develop, coordinate, and implement plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic national security issues for the countries in my portfolio. My core function is to coordinate policy with departments and agencies partners.
The Committee has heard from many of my colleagues about the strategic importance of Ukraine as a bulwark against Russian aggression. It is important to note that our country's policy of supporting Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, promoting Ukrainian prosperity, and strengthening a free and democratic Ukraine, as a counter to Russian aggression, has been a consistent, bi-partisan foreign policy objective and strategy across various administrations, both Democrat and Republican, and that President Zelenskyy's election, in April 2019, created an unprecedented opportunity to realize our strategic objectives.
In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of two disruptive actors---primarily Ukraine's then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney— promoting false information that undermined the United States' Ukraine policy. The NSC and its inter-agency partners, including the State Department, grew increasingly concerned about the impact that such information was having on our country's ability to achieve our national security objectives.
April 21, 2019: President Trump Calls Ukraine President Zelenskyy
On April 21, 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected President of Ukraine in a landslide victory on a unity, reform, and anti-corruption platform. President Trump called President Zelenskyy on April 21, 2019, to congratulate him for 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 Zelenskyy and extended an invitation to visit the White House.
May 2019: Inauguration Delegation Goes to Ukraine
In May, I attended the inauguration of President Zelenskyy 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 Zelenskyy and his team. After this debriefing, President Trump signed a congratulatory letter to President Zelenskyy and extended an invitation to visit the White House.
July 10, 2019: Danylyuk Visit
On July 10, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, then Ukraine's National Security Advisor, visited Washington, D.C. for a meeting with National Security Advisor Bolton. Ambassadors Volker and Sondland and Secretary Rick Perry also attended the meeting. I attended the meeting with Dr. Hill.
We fully anticipated the Ukrainians would raise the issue of a meeting between the two 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 Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine delivering the investigations into the 2016 election, 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 were improper. Following the meeting Dr. Hill and I had agreed to report the incident to the NSC's lead counsel, Mr. John Eisenberg.
July 25, 2019: Parliamentary Election Call
On July 21, 2019, President Zelenskyy's party won parliamentary elections in another landslide victory. The NSC proposed that President Trump call President Zelenskyy 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 improper, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg. It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia's strategic objectives in the region.
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. 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.
I never thought 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 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 have done throughout my 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 state that the vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible. It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks.
The uniform I wear today 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, religions, and socio-economic 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 particular 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 have ever known. As a young man I decided that I wanted to spend my life serving the nation that gave my family refuge from authoritarian oppression, and for the last twenty years it has been an honor to represent and protect this great country.
Next month will mark 40 years since my family arrived in the United States as refugees. When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. 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. Our collective military service is a special part of our family's story 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 my concerns 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 am 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 of fear for mine and my family's safety.
Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United State 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, and I would be happy to answer your questions.
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 serving as a Foreign Service Officer for nearly fourteen 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 under Secretary Michael Chertoff. 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 whom I am proud to call colleagues across the Foreign Service, civil service, military, and federal law enforcement agencies.
I have served overseas tours in Kingston, Jamaica; Beirut, Lebanon; and London, United Kingdom. I have worked to implement humanitarian assistance programs to millions of victims of the Syria conflict, and served as an advisor on Middle East issues to the Deputy Secretary of State. And this spring, it was the greatest honor of my career to be asked to serve as a Special Advisor 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 in 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 ("NSC"), 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 7th, 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.
President Zelensky's Inauguration
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-elect Zelensky's upcoming inauguration, provided that 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 could attend until May 14th at the 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 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.
Hold on Ukraine Security Assistance
On July 3rd, I learned that the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") had placed a hold on a tranche of security assistance designated for Ukraine. According to the information I received, OMB was reviewing whether the funding was aligned 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.
July 25th Call Between President Trump and President Zelensky
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 memorandum 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.
September 1 Meeting Between the Vice President and President Zelensky
On August 29th, I learned that the Vice President would be traveling to Poland to meet with President Zelensky on September 1st. At the September 1st 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 night.
During the September 1st meeting, neither the Vice President nor President Zelensky mentioned the specific investigations discussed during the July 25th call.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide this statement. I would be happy to answer any questions.
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, two politically-motivated investigations Trump believed would help his reelection 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 career Foreign Service Officer David Holmes immediately after speaking to the President, Trump "did not give a" -- he then used an expletive -- 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. anticorruption 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 investigation 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 Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani, was pushing a policy towards Ukraine at odds with the national interest.
This morning we hear from two of the national security professionals who became aware of these efforts.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, whose family fled oppression in the Soviet Union when he was a toddler, is a career Army officer, an Iraq War veteran who 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 issues.
Following his initial and congratulatory phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky on April 21, Trump asked Vice-President Pence to represent him at Zelensky's upcoming inauguration. Ms. Williams was working on logistics for the trip. Pence would be a coveted attendee, second in significance only to the President, and it 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 they were antagonistic to Trump. Three days later, the President called off the Vice President's attendance at Zelensky's inauguration.
Instead, a lower level delegation was named: Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador Sondland, and Ambassador Kurt Volker — the Three Amigos. Senator Ron Johnson and Lt. Col. Vindman would also attend.
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 Rudy."
A few weeks later, on July 10th, Ambassador Sondland met at the White House with a group of U.S. and Ukrainian officials, including Col. Vindman, and informed the group that according to Chief of Staff Mulvaney, the White House meeting sought by the Ukrainian President with Trump would happen if Ukraine undertook certain investigations.
National Security Advisor 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 Vindman witnessed, he went to the National Security Council's top lawyer to report the matter. Vindman was told to return in the future with any further concerns, and he would soon find the need to do so.
A week later, on July 18, a representative from 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.
And one week after that, Trump would have the now infamous July 25th 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 that Ukraine was ready to purchase more Javelins, an antitank weapon that was among the most important deterrents of further Russian 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 interests of his 2020 re-election campaign. And 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 Col. 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 the 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 she had become aware of — the otherwise inexplicable hold on U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.
Both Col. Vindman and Ms. Williams also took note of the explicit use of the word Burisma by Zelensky, a fact conspicuously left out of the record of the call, now locked away on an ultra-secure server. Col. Vindman believed that Zelensky must have been prepped for the call, to be able to make the connection between Biden and Burisma, a fact that other witnesses have now confirmed.
In the weeks that followed the July 25th call, Col. 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 he hurled at Ambassador Yovanovich last Friday. You are here today, and the American people are grateful. Col. Vindman, we have seen far more scurrilous attacks on your character, and watched as certain personalities on Fox have questioned your loyalty. I note that you have shed blood for America, and we owe you an immense debt of gratitude.
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 our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection 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'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. What you saw were three diplomats, who dislike the President's Ukraine policy, discussing second-hand and third-hand conversations about their objections. 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.
But 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 because this is the same preposterous reporting the media offered for three years on the Russia hoax. On a near-daily basis, the top news outlets in America reported breathlessly on the newest bombshell revelations showing that President Trump and everyone surrounding him are 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." That was false.
From the New York Times: "Trump Campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence." That was false.
From Slate: "Was a Trump server communicating with Russia?" That was false.
From New York Magazine: "Will Trump be meeting with his counterpart or his handler?" That was false.
From the Guardian: "Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy, sources say." That was false.
And from Buzzfeed: "President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower project." That was 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 than 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 are:
First, what is the full extent of the Democrats' prior coordination with the Whistleblower and who else did the Whistleblower coordinate this effort with?
The media have fully accepted the Democrats' stunning reversal on the need for the Whistleblower to testify to this committee. When the Democrats were insisting on his testimony, the media wanted it too.
But things have changed since it became clear the Whistleblower would have to answer problematic questions, including
What was the full extent of the Whistleblower's prior coordination with Chairman Schiff, his staff, and any other people he cooperated with while preparing the complaint?
What are the Whistleblower's political biases and connections to Democratic politicians?
How does the Whistleblower explain the inaccuracies in the complaint?
What contact did the Whistleblower have with the media, which appears to be ongoing?
What are the sources of the Whistleblower's information, who else did he talk to, and was the Whistleblower 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 Whistleblower has successfully kickstarted impeachment, he has disappeared from the story—as if the Democrats put the Whistleblower in their own Witness Protection Program.
My second question: What is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign?
In these depositions and hearings, Republicans have cited numerous indications of Ukrainians meddling in the 2016 elections 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 crusade, Solomon's reporting on Burisma, Hunter Biden, and Ukrainian election meddling has become inconvenient for the Democratic narrative, and so the media is furiously smearing and libeling Solomon.
In fact, the publication The Hill told its staff yesterday it would conduct a review of Solomon's Ukraine reporting. Coincidentally, the decision came just three days after a Democrat on this committee told a Hill writer that she would stop speaking to The Hill because it had run Solomon's stories, and she urged the writer to relay her concerns to Hill management.
So now that Solomon's 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 titled, "Debunking some of the Ukraine scandal myths about Biden and election interference." I encourage viewers today to read this story and draw your own conclusions about the evidence Solomon has gathered.
The concerted campaign by the media to discredit and disown one of their own colleagues is shocking. And 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."
And 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.
But if the Democrats and the media are suddenly so deeply concerned about bribery, you'd think they would take some interest in Burisma paying Hunter Biden $83,000 a month. And 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.