One of the first two witnesses in a full week of impeachment hearings, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he revealed that he spoke to an anonymous member of the intelligence community about President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Voldymyr Zelensky.
Vindman, a National Security Council official and the top White House expert on Ukraine, testified to the House Intelligence Committee that he had discussed Trump’s July 25 phone call with an unknown intelligence community member as well as State Department official George Kent, who testified to Congress last week.
During that controversial phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. Meanwhile, the Trump administration was temporarily holding up much-needed U.S. military aid to Ukraine, prompting suspicions of a quid pro quo involving Ukraine’s agreement to investigate the Bidens.
Vindman’s mention of his discussion with the unknown intelligence community member prompted suspicions that he may have been a source for the whistleblower, also an anonymous member of the intelligence community, who filed the complaint about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff interjected before Vindman could answer Representative Devin Nunes’s question about the identity of the intelligence official he spoke to regarding the call, warning the witness that he should not answer if doing so might expose the whistleblower’s identity.
However, Vindman maintained that he is unaware of the whistleblower’s identity.
“I do not know who the whistleblower is,” he testified.
Nunes shot back, asking Vindman how he could possibly reveal the identity of the whistleblower if he did not know it and telling him to “either answer the question” or “plead the Fifth.”
However, Vindman continued to decline to provide the identity of the intelligence community member he had spoken to about Trump’s call.
“Sir, under advice of my counsel, I have been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community,” Vindman said.
Vindman also told the committee that he considered Trump’s phone call with Zelensky “inappropriate.”
“I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate,” Vindman said. “It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.”
Tuesday’s other impeachment witness, Vice President Pence aide Jennifer Williams, said she also found the call “unusual.”
“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,” Williams testified.