Trump impeachment: White House erased mentions of Joe Biden from phone call transcript, expert says in damning testimony

Lt Col Alexander Vindman said he attempted to re-insert omitted words to White House transcript, but was denied permission

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 30 October 2019 12:48 GMT
Lt Col Alexander Vindman, second left, leaves a closed-door meeting after testifying for 10 hours as part of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump
Lt Col Alexander Vindman, second left, leaves a closed-door meeting after testifying for 10 hours as part of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump (AP)

The White House transcript of the phone call between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president, which is at the centre of the US impeachment investigation, omitted crucial words and phrases, according to the testimony of the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Lt Col Vindman said omissions included an assertion by Mr Trump that there were recordings of Democrat Party presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine.

Other omissions included a mention, by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of Burisma Holdings – the energy company whose board employed Mr Biden’s son Hunter.

Lt Col Vindman reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

He also told investigators on Tuesday he had tried to change the White House’s rough transcript of the call and had filled in at least one of the omitted words, including he said, “Burisma”, according to AP which spoke to three people familiar with the testimony.

However, Lt Col Vindman’s attempt was unsuccessful.

He said his concerns, though, were bigger than just the transcript’s alleged omissions.

The impeachment inquiry said his failed effort to edit it didn’t significantly change their understanding of what transpired during Mr Trump’s call which had sparked the investigation.

Lt Col Vindman’s appearance at the inquiry in military blue, with medals, created a striking image at the Capitol as the investigation reached deeper into the White House.

He testified for more than 10 hours.

“I was concerned by the call,” Lt Col Vindman said, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine.”

“I realised that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”

Acting House Oversight Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York told NBC News she had found Lt Col Vindman’s remarks “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing” during the committee’s closed-door testimony.

Lt Col Vindman, who has served in the US military for 20 years, added to the mounting evidence from other witnesses – diplomats, defence and former administration officials – who have all corroborated the initial whistleblower’s complaint against Mr Trump and are providing new details ahead of a House vote in the impeachment inquiry.

“Every person has put it in higher resolution,” said the Democrat representative for Washington Denny Heck, during a break in the day-long session.

Hi colleague, Tom Malinowski, the Democrat representative for New Jersey added: “Every single witness, from their own vantage point, has corroborated the central facts of the story we’ve heard.”

Lindsey Graham criticizes the impeachment inquiry: 'They've created a new process that I think is very dangerous for the country'

Mr Trump responded to Lt Col Vindman’s testimony, writing on Twitter: “Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call “concerned” today’s Never Trumper witness. Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!”

Additional reporting by AP

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