Republicans step in to defend ‘Never Trumper’ war veteran after president rallies attacks on impeachment witness

Liz Cheney: 'It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in this process'

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 29 October 2019 22:23
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Liz Cheneyn on questioning the patriotism of Alexander Vindman: 'It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation'

Donald Trump and right-wing media figures have questioned the credibility and loyalty of a key witness in the president's impeachment investigation, prompting several senior Republicans have come to his defence.

Lt Col Alexander Vindman, whose testimony revealed that Mr Trump and other US officials had pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, was awarded a Purple Heart after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the Iraq War. Originally from Ukraine, Lt Col Vindman arrived in the US with his family as a three-year-old after fleeing the Soviet Union in the late 1970s.

His testimony has lured Republicans into contradicting the president's party line by defending a key witness whose participation is crucial to an impeachment inquiry that they've aggressively tried to derail.

Following the release of Lt Col Vindman's opening statement, Mr Trump called the National Security Council official a "Never Trumper witness" and repeated his claim that the impeachment probe is a "witch hunt".

Fox host Laura Ingraham said that the "interesting angle" of Lt Col Vindman's evidence wasn't the testimony itself but that it came from a "security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest".

"Usually, they spoke in English," she said.

John Yoo, a former George W. Bush administration official, told Ms Ingraham that Lt Col Vindman's role could be considered "espionage".

In another Fox attempt to undermine Lt Col Vindman's testimony, Brian Kilmeade implied that he had split allegiances and is "simpatico" with Ukraine because he was born there.

CNN contributor Sean Duffy, a former Wisconsin Republican congressman who resigned in September, said Mr Vindman was "not concerned about American policy" because he "speaks Ukrainian".

"I don't know what he's doing there", Mr Duffy said.

However, Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, defended Lt Col Vindman in remarks to her House peers on Tuesday.

"It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in this process", she said.

Other Republicans also came to the witness's defence.

South Dakota Senator John Thune told Politico that "you can obviously take issue with the substance and there are different interpretations about all that stuff. But I wouldn't go after him personally. He's a patriot."

Republican attempts to undermine and slow down the impeachment proceedings have followed the revelation of a whistleblower complaint concerning Mr Trump's 25 July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, a call that Mr Trump has insisted was "perfect".

Their latest criticisms and protests are far removed from the substance of the allegations as evidence looks increasingly damning to the administration.

A "shouting match" erupted in the House Intelligence Committee as Republicans pressed Lt Col Vindman during his testimony in an attempt to out the "whistleblower" who first reported the phone call.

Last week, more than 30 Republicans attempted to storm a witness deposition claiming that the probe violates rules of "due process" despite the fact that 47 Republicans sit on committees that are able to participate in the investigation.

Republicans have also questioned the legality of the hearings, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell authored a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry.

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Nevada Democratic Congressman Dina Titus told CNN that Republican attacks are a "sideshow" to the serious nature of the allegations in the closed-door hearings.

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