WASHINGTON -- A military official at the National Security Council (NSC) is expected to tell U.S. lawmakers he twice raised concerns over the administration of President Donald Trump in prodding Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic political rival, and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Alexander Vindman, an U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrived early on October 29 in full military uniform to begin what is likely to be several hours of closed-door testimony before a congressional impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Separately, Ukraine's foreign minister said his country's officials would not testify in the inquiry if asked because Kyiv did not want to become involved in another country's internal affairs.
"We don't have anything to do with this at all," he told news conference in the port city of Mariupol on October 29 "We won't go there, we won't comment."
Some Ukrainian officials have expressed concerns that, by appearing to side with either the Republicans or Democrats in the matter, it could endanger the bipartisan support Kyiv has long had within the U.S. Congress.
According to remarks Vindman prepared for his testimony, he was among those who listened to Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Following the July 25 call, he reported his worries to the NSC’s lead counsel.
“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman said in his prepared text.
Vindman, who attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration with a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, also will say that “if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma [energy company], it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play.... This would undermine U.S. national security.”
He is the first current White House official who is set to appear as the impeachment probe delves deeper into the Trump administration and as it enters a new phase.
The U.S. House of Representatives will on October 31 formally vote to authorize the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Aside from affirming the investigation, which aims to muffle complaints from Trump and his Republican allies that the process has been illegitimate and unfair, the House resolution would lay the foundation by setting rules for public hearings and outline the potential process of pressing formal charges, also known as articles of impeachment against the president.
While announcing this week’s vote on October 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that Democrats were not bowing to pressure from Republicans.
Her announcement came hours after a former White House national-security adviser failed to appear for questioning before three House panels that are determining whether Trump has pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.
Charles Kupperman, who served as deputy national-security adviser, ignored the subpoena, said Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat-California), chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.
Trump has asserted testimonial immunity for Kupperman, who has subsequently filed a federal lawsuit to let a judge determine whether he must comply with the House subpoena.
Schiff said Kupperman's lawsuit has "no basis in law" and claimed that the White House is seeking to obstruct Congress and prevent the adviser from possibly giving "incriminating" testimony.
Kupperman will comply with the subpoena if the court rules in the House’s favor, his lawyer Charles Cooper said in an October 27 letter to the senior investigative counsel for the House’s select committee on intelligence.
The House launched its investigation last month after an unnamed whistle-blower said Trump pressured Zelenskiy during the July 25 phone.