A U.S. judge on Friday granted a request by a House of Representatives committee for access to information that was blacked out of former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., gave the Justice Department a deadline of Oct. 30 to hand over the materials to the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee's need for disclosure of the materials "is greater than the need for continued secrecy," the judge said.
The ruling is a major victory for House Democrats, who sought access to the redacted materials as part of their effort to build a case for removing U.S. President Donald Trump from office through impeachment proceedings.
A Justice Department spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Mueller probe found that the Russian state ran a hacking and propaganda operation to disrupt the U.S. election and undermine Trump's Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Mueller found insufficient evidence to establish that Trump, then the Republican candidate, and his campaign had engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.
A Department of Justice review of the Russia probe is now a criminal investigation, an anonymous source says. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
The Justice Department reportedly shifted its review of the Russia probe to a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday, a move that is likely to raise concerns Trump and his allies may be using government powers to go after their political opponents.
The revelation comes as Trump is already facing scrutiny about a potential abuse of power, including a House impeachment inquiry examining whether he withheld military aid in order to pressure the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of former vice-president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The person who confirmed the criminal investigation was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It is not clear what potential crimes are being investigated, but the designation as a formal criminal investigation gives prosecutors the ability to issue subpoenas, potentially empanel a grand jury and compel witnesses to give testimony and bring federal criminal charges.
The Justice Department had previously considered it to be an administrative review, and Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead the inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. It's not clear when Durham's inquiry shifted to a criminal investigation.
The chairmen of the House judiciary and intelligence committees, which are leading the impeachment inquiry, said in a statement late Thursday the reports "raise profound new concerns" that Barr's DOJ "has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge."
The Justice Department is led by Attorney General William Barr, who appointed John Durham to lead the inquiry into the origins of Mueller's probe. (Aaron Bernstein/Reuters)
"If the Department of Justice may be used as a tool of political retribution, or to help the President with a political narrative for the next election, the rule of law will suffer new and irreparable damage," Democratic Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff said.
The New York Times first reported that Durham's inquiry had become a criminal investigation.
Mr Durham will have the power to summon witnesses and documents and to enrol a grand jury that could bring criminal charges.
He was tasked with determining whether the collection of intelligence on the Trump campaign in 2016 was lawful.
Mr Durham is widely respected and known for investigating links between FBI agents and organised crime, and investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos.
Last April, Mr Barr told members of Congress that he believed "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016, adding: "The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated. But I need to explore that."
Critics accused Mr Barr of launching an administrative review more in the interests of the president than the interests of justice.
In a joint statement, the chairs of the House judiciary and intelligence committees said reports of a criminal investigation "raise profound new concerns that the Department of Justice under AG Barr has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge".
The two Democrats, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, said the move could bring "new and irreparable damage" to the rule of law.
President Trump said at the time he did not order Mr Barr to launch the administrative review, but added that he was "so proud of our attorney general" and it was "a great thing that he did".
Mr Trump has previously accused the FBI investigators who first launched the probe into his election campaign of treason.
On Friday, Mr Trump told reporters of the investigation: "I think you're going to see a lot of really bad things."
The president said he would "leave it all up to the attorney general".
"I will say this...this was the worst hoax in the history of our country."
What don't we know?
So far, the justice department has not made clear what potential crime is under investigation.
It is also unclear why this investigation has started now, or what prompted it.
And given the department itself appointed Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, this criminal probe means the department may be in essence investigating itself.
What's the Mueller report?
The 448-page Mueller report did not conclude that there was a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
However, it did detail 10 instances where Mr Trump possibly attempted to impede the investigation.
The report concluded that Russia had interfered in the election "in sweeping and systematic fashion".
That interference took the form of an extensive social media campaign and the hacking of Democratic Party servers by Russian military intelligence, the report said.
Washington (CNN) The White House is urging all federal agencies to cancel their subscriptions to The New York Times and the Washington Post.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Thursday that "not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving for taxpayers -- hundreds of thousands of dollars."
The move was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. It follows President Donald Trump's recent indication that the White House would "terminate" its existing subscriptions with the two newspapers, which have been the frequent target of the administration's criticism through Trump's candidacy and presidency.
"The New York Times, which is a fake newspaper -- we don't even want it in the White House anymore. We're going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post," Trump said on Fox News' "Hannity" Monday evening.
"They're fake," the President added. "You take a look at the New York Times and you take a look at the kind of reporting they do, it was all -- it turned out to be all wrong."
It's not clear how many subscriptions federal agencies have to the Times and the Post. The amount the federal government spends on these subscriptions is also unclear.
Trump isn't the first president to boycott a newspaper in the People's House. President John F. Kennedy canceled White House subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune over perceived bias. The White House eventually renewed its subscription.
New York Times COO Meredith Levien was asked at an event in New York for her response to Trump's call for the cancellation of the subscriptions.
"Maybe it means we can't host our next corporate retreat at the Trump hotel ... What's the saying? Do as I do, not as I say. He might be our most loyal reader, and I think people follow suit," she said Thursday.
Bannon returns from exile to wage impeachment battle for Trump
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has returned from exile to defend President Trump, believing the presidency is imperiled and that Trump is in urgent need of a more robust defense against the House impeachment inquiry.
Bannon spent the past two years on a journey to spark populist movements at hotspots around the world after he was banished from Trump’s inner circle and cut off from Breitbart News, where he was executive chairman, for trash-talking members of the president’s family to author Michael Wolff in the book “Fire and Fury.”
Now the impeachment fight has called him back to Washington.
Bannon is underwriting a new media venture from the basement of his Capitol Hill home, known affectionately among allies as “the Breitbart Embassy,” where he’ll broadcast live, seven days a week, from now until the Senate votes on impeachment.
Bannon, draped in his trademark green military coat, spoke to The Hill after recording the fourth episode of his “War Room: Impeachment” podcast at a dining table covered in a tangle of wires, microphones, computers and headphones.
Scrawling thoughts in a small, black leather notebook, with a Red Bull and Thursday’s Washington Post in front of him, Bannon said he’s not trying to get back into the administration — he says he’s just a Trump fan who recognizes the historic nature of the impeachment proceedings and believes the White House does not have an adequate defense strategy.
The Democrats, Bannon said, are routing Republicans with their top-shelf impeachment messaging operation as they investigate Trump's interactions with Ukraine.
“It’s a master class in disinformation warfare,” Bannon said.
The former Breitbart executive said he’s alarmed by polls showing support for impeachment is growing, particularly among independents.
He said he believes the likelihood of Trump’s removal is “remote,” but worries that even a Senate acquittal will “stop the arc of the Trump presidency.”
“The argument that this is all fake news and a deep state witch hunt is just not working,” Bannon said. “Look at the polls. Look at independents. It’s brutal. That’s got to be a fire bell in the night.”
The podcast launched on Saturday and is catching on in Trump World.
Former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller is on board, as is Raheem Kassam, who was Nigel Farage’s “Brexit” adviser.
The hourlong episodes air on a radio show anchored by John Fredericks, an influential conservative talker with a big audience in Virginia.
Fredericks, a 2020 Trump campaign advisory board member, has helped produce the show from the “Breitbart Embassy,” which is curated in Bannon’s unique style.
A framed Breitbart “honey badger” poster hangs across from a cartoon rendering of Hillary Clinton buying jewelry from an African militant beneath the words, “Warlord Economics.”
A glass trophy from a group called “The Remembrance Society” honoring Bannon’s "tireless pursuit of freedom” sits on a shelf below a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” rattlesnake print.
There are a handful of aides and family members passing through or working makeshift stations where podcast episodes are uploaded online.
The right-wing website “Gateway Pundit” has been airing the episodes live, and Miller said they’re in talks with other outlets, including One America News Network, to air clips of the show.
Bannon says he plans to clear out the living room in the basement to launch his own war room, complete with a rapid response team, a media booker and a polling outlet.
“I’m going all in now, I’ve got to,” Bannon said. “We’re riding to the sound of guns.”
Bannon says he’s been inundated with calls from allies eager to contribute.
“War Room: Impeachment” already has the attention of some of Trump’s highest profile defenders on Capitol Hill, including Rep.
“War Room: Impeachment” already has the attention of some of Trump’s highest profile defenders on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who dialed in Thursday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who led the effort to physically disrupt the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill this week, will call in Friday.
The show is a platform for Bannon’s kinetic flair and penchant for the dramatic.
Over the course of Thursday’s hourlong episode, Bannon made multiple references to “star chambers” on Capitol Hill and West Point “decoder rings.”
After the episode, Bannon told The Hill about a separate radio show he’s been broadcasting from the New York City home of billionaire investor Guo Wengui, who goes by the name of Miles Kwok in the U.S.
Bannon said that show had circumvented Chinese firewalls to reach millions of people in the country, and he counted himself among the “black hands” behind the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
But broadly, the new “War Room” podcast aims to be a granular breakdown of the impeachment evidence being gathered on Capitol Hill, as well as strategic advice for the president’s allies and a warning to supporters that they must take the threat of impeachment seriously.
“This is already having a dramatic impact on the Trump presidency,” Bannon said. “There is not a single trend cutting toward the White House. I’m a math guy. I see the polls. This is not working…in less than four weeks they’re voting to impeach. Can someone start working 24 hours a day around here?”
There are still a few bugs to work out.
The show ended about 30 seconds early after an ad failed to load and Bannon didn’t realize a hot mic picked up some loose remarks.
“We gotta get this f***ing thing synced,” Bannon fumed. “I gotta have a clock that f***ing works!”
But mostly, Bannon seems thrilled to be back in the middle of a political fight that he views as a defining moment in American politics.
Several times over the course of the interview with Meadows, he raised his arms in triumphant victory.
“Boom!,” he shouted during a commercial break, pounding his fist into the table. “This is great!”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the House Democrats’ move “looks like kind of a fig leaf” after sustained criticisms of their process and said the GOP resolution is still needed.
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“I would think it’s still important,” Hawley said. “It’s not just the lack of initial authorization ... the closed-door sessions, the denial of subpoena rights to the minority, the denial of access to the president’s counsel. All of that stuff is historically atypical.”
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) disagreed, arguing Republicans got what they wanted and should declare victory.
“I’m glad the House has responded, and they're going to have transparent proceedings,” Fischer said. “We’ve seen what we’ve wanted to see.”
The conflict underscores how Senate Republicans have struggled to unite on a response to the House’s fast-moving impeachment inquiry into Trump, which centers on his alleged efforts to withhold military aid to Ukraine in an effort to secure an investigation into political rival Joe Biden.
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never committed to a floor vote on the measure in the first place.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said whether his committee takes action on the Senate resolution depends on how Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move this week plays out.
“I read her letter and it could mean not very much or maybe it will be more than ‘we’re just going to formalize the unfair way we’ve been doing things,’” he said. “It does mean we should see what she says.”
The resolution, introduced last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and McConnell, came after Trump complained that Republicans were not doing enough to defend him from impeachment.
The nonbinding Senate resolution would call for the House to hold a vote to open the impeachment inquiry, provide Trump with “due process” and give House Republicans subpoena power.
The measure has the support from 50 of the 53 Senate Republicans, with Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska the holdouts.
And Trump has been ebullient about the new defense effort.
"I appreciate the support of [Graham and McConnell] and their Great Senate Republican colleagues, on the resolution condemning the Do Nothing Democrats for their Witch Hunt Impeachment inquiry, behind closed doors....in the basement of the United States Capitol!” Trump tweeted on Friday after Graham introduced the resolution.
Republicans have focused their impeachment complaints on the House’s impeachment process, lambasting closed-door hearings and the leaking of testimony from key witnesses. But the planned House vote this week — which signals a move into a more public phase — could put those complaints to rest.
Graham, a close Trump apply, credited himself and his colleagues for “making the House [Democrats’] position untenable.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming response House Democrats heard from the American people and Senate Republicans in support of my resolution forced their hand,” Graham said in a statement after Pelosi announced this week’s vote.
But McConnell has not promised to hold a vote of his own.
The Kentucky Republican notably referred the resolution to the Senate Rules Committee rather than bringing it directly to the floor.
While that follows the Senate’s regular order process, it also could be shelved there for weeks before it sees a committee vote. After that, the resolution could be tied up on the Senate floor if Democrats force procedural votes, which seems likely. Democrats could also filibuster the resolution — which would require 60 votes to overcome.
And while a vote on the Senate resolution could show the president that Republicans are standing up for him, it also could take limited floor time away from other priorities like funding the government and confirming more judicial nominees.
Graham’s resolution had an uncertain launch, as more than a dozen Republicans initially didn’t co-sponsor the resolution. But support quickly built within the GOP on Thursday and Friday, so that only the three Republicans have not endorsed it.
“I read her letter and it could mean not very much or maybe it will be more than ‘we’re just going to formalize the unfair way we’ve been doing things.' It does mean we should see what she says.”
- Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Collins said Monday she did not plan to co-sponsor the resolution. She added she has not yet decided whether she would vote for it if it came to the floor.
“I have been critical of the House not holding a vote to authorize the inquiry, but the House determines its own procedures,” Collins said. “Just as I don’t like it when House members try to tell us to abolish the filibuster, I’m not sure it’s productive for the Senate to try to dictate to the House how to conduct the inquiry.”
Romney said in an interview Monday that he would look at the resolution but noted that may no longer be necessary.
“From the beginning, I've been reluctant to weigh in on process, and it looks like Speaker Pelosi has scheduled a vote so that may be overtaken by events," Romney said.
Several senators reiterated that the decision to bring the resolution up to a vote rests with McConnell.
“I think it’s going to be entirely up to the leader at this point,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said.
“If you’d asked me this morning I’d say, ‘Yes,’” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on whether the Senate should vote on the Graham-McConnell resolution. “Now with Pelosi announcing that they’re going to take a vote in the House, I think that may factor in. ... That’s something.”
Mrs Pelosi, the most powerful elected Democrat, has until now rebuffed calls from Republicans to hold any such formal vote.
But in her letter to fellow Democrats on Monday, the California congresswoman pointed out the US constitution does not require such a step.
She said the move would "eliminate any doubt" as to whether the White House can withhold documents, disregard subpoenas or prevent witnesses from giving testimony. Several administration officials have failed to testify to committees involved in the inquiry.
Mrs Pelosi said the resolution in the Democratic-controlled House would also "ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward".
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the vote supported Mr Trump's contention "that Democrats were conducting an unauthorised impeachment proceeding".
She said Mrs Pelosi's party was "refusing to give the President due process, and their secret, shady, closed-door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate".
Last week some Republicans - who argue there has been a lack of transparency in the proceedings - disrupted and delayed a hearing being held behind closed doors.
On Monday, Charles Kupperman, who was a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, failed to appear before a House panel involved in the inquiry.
Democrats want to hear Mr Kupperman's testimony on Mr Trump's 25 July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A rough transcript of the call has revealed that Mr Trump urged President Zelensky to investigate former US Vice-President Joe Biden, the frontrunner to take on Mr Trump in next year's election, as well as Mr Biden's son.
Quick facts on impeachment
Impeachment is the first part - the charges - of a two-stage political process by which Congress can remove a president from office.
If the House of Representatives votes to pass articles of impeachment, the Senate is forced to hold a trial.
A Senate vote requires a two-thirds majority to convict - unlikely in this case, given that Mr Trump's party controls the chamber.
Only two US presidents in history - Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson - have been impeached, but neither was convicted and removed.
President Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.
Trump's Already Freaking Out Over Today's Impeachment Testimony. This Week's Star Witness Hasn't Even Testified Yet.
by Cameron Joseph
Oct 29 2019, 5:13pm
On Tuesday, National Security Council member Alexander Vindman told Congressional investigators that he was so alarmed by Trump and a top U.S. diplomat’s actions toward Ukraine that he voiced his concerns to NSC lawyers. Naturally, his remarks triggered a rage-tweetstorm from the president.
But Vindman isn't even this week’s star witness from Trump's NSC. That would be Tim Morrison, an NSC member tasked with overseeing policy for Russia and Europe, who is scheduled to testify on Thursday. According to what’s already been said in closed-door testimony, his testimony could be the most explosive yet.
Given Morrison's role as Trump’s top Russia aide, he’s well-positioned to fill in key details of President Trump’s alleged efforts to push Ukraine to investigate his political rivals — as well as knock down Republicans’ defense that other witnesses’ credible allegations of quid pro quo aren’t valid because they were based on secondhand knowledge.
“He brings this ever closer to Trump’s doorstep,” said Richard Arenberg, a longtime former congressional Democratic staffer who has foreign policy and intelligence expertise.
Morrison was mentioned 15 separate times by Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor in last week’s damning testimony, and he could corroborate some of Taylor’s most troubling claims.
Morrison’s attorney told VICE News his client plans to come to share what he knows, in defiance of the White House’s blanket ban on administration officials testifying.
“If subpoenaed, Mr. Morrison plans to appear for his deposition,” Morrison’s attorney Barbara Van Gelder said in an email, declining to discuss any part of his planned testimony.
Morrison will be the second NSC adviser to testify this week, after Vindman’s testimony Tuesday. According to Vindman’s prepared opening remarks, he was so “concerned” with Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president that he took his worries to the NSC’s top attorney — and before that confronted a top Trump official for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals.
But Morrison may have even more damning information about Trump’s push to force Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
He’ll be a tough witness for Republicans to ignore.
Morrison has spent his career as a leading Capitol Hill foreign policy hawk. He’s long held a dim view of Russia, which stands to benefit from a damaged U.S.-Ukrainian relationship, and according to those who worked with him, he fiercely advocated for more robust support for Ukraine.
“Tim was an excellent staffer, the best”
He’s also known personally by a number of Republican members: Morrison’s last job before joining the NSC last summer was as the top GOP policy staffer on the House Armed Services Committee. Before that he was then-Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) top foreign policy adviser, helping Kyl lead the Senate charge against ratifying a nuclear arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia.
“Tim was an excellent staffer, the best,” Kyl told VICE News in an email.
Morrison was brought onto the NSC in June by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, a fellow saber-rattling foreign policy hard-line hawk, to focus on nuclear arms agreements. He moved over to work on Russia and Europe when Trump forced out Fiona Hill, another hawk and Bolton ally, in mid-summer. Bolton was fired on Sept. 10 after reportedly attempting to stand up to Trump and Giuliani on Ukraine, but Morrison has stuck around.
That gives him a unique view into what Trump and his underlings were doing in Ukraine.
Taylor said in his opening statement that Morrison relayed a conversation that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had with a top Ukrainian official.
Taylor also said that Morrison was on Trump’s now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. According to Taylor, Morrison said the call “could have been better.” Morrison also allegedly told Taylor that Trump had suggested the Ukrainian president meet with Attorney General Bill Barr as well as Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, who allegedly set up a shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine to do Trump’s political bidding.
Those already convinced of Trump’s wrongdoing say Morrison could help clear up any ambiguity for lawmakers.
"He’ll have firsthand information,” former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told VICE News. “The more first-hand information, the clearer the story. But again, for me the story is very clear."
On August 22, according to Taylor, Morrison told him that Trump “didn’t “want to provide any assistance at all” to Ukraine and that “it remains to be seen” whether the administration still stood by America’s long-held policy of strong support for Ukraine.
A number of Democrats on the trio of committees responsible for the impeachment investigation declined to talk specifics of what they want Morrison to address. But they indicated that he could help them fill in gaps and corroborate other testimony like Taylor’s.
“It's like a bank robbery where you have a dozen witnesses and you want to call in each witness to fill in a different part of the picture. And we are getting a very textured and fine-grained portrait of exactly what happened,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told VICE News.
Morrison’s testimony could further fill in the picture. But it’s unclear exactly what type of witness he will turn out to be. There are signals that he wasn’t comfortable with what Trump and his aides were doing. But he’s also an aggressive conservative warrior known for his sharp elbows who’s spent his career warring with Democrats — a man the Daily Beast described as a “nuclear superhawk” whose Twitter avatar was a red MAGA-style hat that read “MAKE DETERRENCE GREAT AGAIN.”
Even those who’ve worked with Morrison aren’t sure how things will play out on Thursday.
One former Kyl staffer who worked closely with Morrison said he had “incredibly patriotic convictions” and wouldn’t do anything to harm national security, but that he was also a good foot soldier and “an incredibly loyal person” who “knows when to keep his mouth shut.”
And Morrison’s personal loyalties may lie less with Trump and more with Bolton, who brought him in and reportedly described what Giuliani and his cronies were trying to accomplish in Ukraine as a “drug deal.” Bolton is reportedly in talks with the committee to come and testify himself, a bad sign for Trump.
Another former Morrison colleague from Kyl’s office said if Morrison was alarmed, he wouldn’t shy away from letting the committee know.
“He was squeaky-clean. If this guy’s freaked out, that’s completely legitimate to me,” said the former GOP Hill staffer. “He would do the right thing, too. I would never see him engaging in any kind of cover-up.”
A military officer at the National Security Council (NSC) twice raised concerns over the Trump administration's push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden, according to testimony the official is to deliver Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry.
Alexander Vindman, an army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and, later, as a diplomat, is prepared to tell House investigators that he listened to President Donald Trump's July 25 call with new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and reported his concerns to the NSC's lead counsel.
"I was concerned by the call," Vindman was to say, according to prepared testimony obtained Monday night by The Associated Press. "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's arrival in military blue with medals created a striking image as he entered the Capitol and made his way to the secure briefing room.
The inquiry is looking into Trump's call, in which he asked Zelenskiy for a "favour" — to investigate Democrats — that Democrats say was a quid pro quo that could be an impeachable offence.
Vindman's appearance came as Democrats on Tuesday released text of a resolution that authorizes the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.
The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday as Democrats aim to nullify complaints from Trump and his Republican allies that the impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
Vindman was the first official who listened in on that call to testify as the impeachment inquiry reaches deeper into the Trump administration and Democrats prepare for the next public phase of the probe. He's also the first current White House official to appear before the impeachment panels.
Gave warning to U.S. ambassador to EU
Vindman, a 20-year military officer and decorated veteran, will testify that he first reported his concerns after an earlier meeting July 10 in which U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stressed the importance of having Ukraine investigate the 2016 election as well as Burisma, a company linked to the family of Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Vindman said he told Sondland that "his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push."
That account differs from Sondland's, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million US to Trump's inauguration and testified before the impeachment investigators that no one from the NSC "ever expressed any concerns." He also testified that he did not realize any connection between Biden and Burisma.
For the call between Trump and Zelensky, Vindman said he listened in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and Vice-President Mike Pence's office and was concerned. He said he again reported his concerns to the NSC's lead counsel.
He wrote, "I realized 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. This would all undermine U.S. national security."
Vindman, who arrived in the United States as a three-year-old from the former Soviet Union, served in various military and diplomatic posts before joining the NSC. He was the director for European affairs and a Ukraine expert under Fiona Hill, a former official who testified earlier in the impeachment probe. Hill worked for former national security adviser John Bolton.
Vindman attended Zelensky's inauguration with a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and he and Hill were both part of a Ukraine briefing with Sondland that others have testified irritated Bolton at the White House.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, left, and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland were described by a previous witness as part of an 'irregular channel' of outreach to Ukraine. (Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press)
Vindman will testify that he is not the whistleblower, the still unnamed government official who filed the initial complaint over Trump's conversation with the Ukraine president that sparked the House impeachment inquiry. He will say he does not know the identity of the whistleblower.
"I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honour to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics," wrote Vindman, who was wounded in Iraq and awarded a Purple Heart.
"For over 2o years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations," he wrote.
Trump has questioned why people he's "never even heard of" are testifying. He has denied doing anything wrong and has repeatedly said the call with Ukraine's leader was "perfect."
Trump has dismissed the investigation and has ordered the White House not to comply with subpoenas.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday shared an altered image on Twitter of himself giving what is being interpreted as a canine version of the Medal of Honor to the military dog that suffered minor wounds in the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"AMERICAN HERO!" read the all-caps tweet accompanying the photo.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lauded the canine's "tremendous service" and said it was "still in theater." He declined to share the animal's gender or name for security reasons.
Photoshop skills are not known to be part of Trump's social media repertoire. Though it's possible a president can learn new tricks, the image bears a watermark from the conservative news site The Daily Wire, which shared the image in a Tuesday tweet.
The original image appears to be an Associated Press photo of Trump giving the Medal of Honor to Vietnam veteran James McCloughan in 2017.
President Donald Trump bestows the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, to retired Army medic James McCloughan during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 31, 2017, in Washington. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)
"Please, @realDonaldTrump," read the tweet, along with the image. That tweet came a day after Trump tweeted about the classified canine, praising it for the "GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS."
"Bravo @realDailyWire meme makers," tweeted Benny Johnson, the chief creative officer for Turning Point USA.
The president's post caused howls of laughter among some Twitter users, while others clearly had a bone to pick with the decision to crop out a war hero or with the quality of the Photoshop job.