“…I’m representing my witness here and this is my client. And for you to — I mean, the insinuation — if you guys want to go down this road, God be with you. But I’m telling you it’s so apparent that — and it’s so — it’s so cynical for you to go down such a road with such a — with such an individual like this. If that’s the game you guys want to play, go at it. Okay? But we’re going to –“
It’s really a simple question.
Do you believe that is legal or acceptable for the President of the United States to extort interference in a U.S. election from a foreign government by withholding previously appropriated military aid?
The following individuals who appear in the deposition transcript hold law degrees:
Michael Volkov, legal counsel for Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman
Representative John Ratcliffe (R)
Representative Eric Swalwell (D)
Representative Mike Quigley (D)
From page 157 through 163 in the deposition:
PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, joint with the
COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND REFORM
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Tuesday, October 29, 2Ot9
MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. Then let me move on to something that you said earlier that I want you to clarify for me, Colonel Vindman. You said that — I wrote down, in talking about the investigations that they — it was your opinion that they were, quote, “not credible,” end quote, that, quote, “there seemed to be a lot of leaks,” end quote. And then you — and, again, I’m not — I wrote this down. I want to give you an opportunity to address it or clarify it. That you had conversations with Ukrainian officials about what to do regarding Mr. Giu1iani, and I wrote down that your response was that you told them to stay out of U.S. domestic issues, stay out of U.S. politics. Does that sound like what you said earlier today, on words to that effect?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: So yeah. I mean, frankly, Congressman, I think you captured like three on four different responses to three on four different questions there. I don’t think those were all, you know, in the same — same, you know, question. But I think that I guess, as individual sections, that sounds accurate, yes.
MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. So on the issue of advising Ukrainian officials to stay out of U.S. domestic issues, is that one conversation, multiple conversations?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: I could probably — I would say that it became an increasing theme as the Ukrainians became increasingly concerned about the narrative that was emanating from Mr. Giuliani, that I would continue to get the same types of questions about what — you know, what do we do with regard to these calls for an investigation and things of that nature.
My answer would be consistent. I am not a — you know, a political individual. I’m not a political operative. I’m a professional military officer, a — you know — as designated by the National Security Council, a kind of foreign policy expert, though that might be extreme.
I would counsel them that this is outside of my wheelhouse and, frankly, you know, I don’t fu11y understand all the implications; but I would consistently also counsel them that it’s important to stay out of U.S. politics. Because if you recall, Congressman, we have Ukraine’s neighbor, who is actively engaged in war with them, was involved in 2016 election meddling, and that did not work well for the U.S. – Russian bilateral relationship. If anything, that significantly retarded that relationship.
MR. RATCLIFFE: So —
LT. COL. VINDMAN: And in order to — Congressman, I apologize. In order to avoid that kind of pitfall for what I considered to be an important ally to the United States and certainly an ally in the struggle to push back against Russian aggression, I counseled them to stay out of U.S. politics.
MR. RATCLIFFE: So after this July 25th phone call, how many of those conversations did you have and with what Ukrainian officials?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: So after the July 25th phone call, it was an extremely busy week. I know I didn’t speak to any of the Ukrainians that week. I believe in order — just for good housekeeping — I was getting ready to go on vacation. I went on vacation — I was supposed to go on vacation from the 3rd through the 18th of July. That didn’t happen. I got called back early. And I believe, in terms of good housekeeping, there was probably a conversation with the Ukrainians. My recollection is, best recollection is about the 31st of July. It’s the middle of that week right before I went on vacation, you know, we had a conversation.
MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. Who’s “we”?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: It would be my standard counterpart, which would be the Deputy Chief of Mission for Ukraine.
MR. RATCLIFFE: And who is that?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: Oksana Shulyar. It’s in the record, Congressman.
MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. And were you having that conversation in the course of your responsibilities and duties at the NSC?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: Absolutely.
MR. RATCLIFFE: All right. And you had authority to have those conversations?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: Absolutely.
MR. RATCLIFFE: So you — a week following you listening in on a phone call with the President of the United States making a request of the Ukrainian Government to assist in ongoing investigations, a member of his National Security Council subsequently told Ukrainian officials to do just the opposite and to ignore his request and stay out of U.S. politics. Is that what we’re to understand from your testimony today?
LT. COL. VINDMAN: That’s an interesting characterization, Congressman. I was certainly not going against the orders of my Commander in Chief. What I was suggesting is that very superficial — on at the basic 1evel, staying out of U.S. domestic politics is not a good idea. Congressman, I apologize, do you think this is —
MR. RATCLIFFE: Let me ask the question.
LT. COL. VINDMAN: Congressman, do you think this is a good idea to get involved —
MR. SWALWELL: Let him finish.
MR. RATCLIFFE: He has a lawyer here, President Swalwell.
LT. COL. VINDMAN: How could it possibly be a good idea —
MR. QUIGLEY: [Presiding.] Hold on, gentlemen. Gentlemen, let the witness finish answering this question.
LT. COL. VINDMAN: Congressman, how could it possibly be a good idea to counsel at my 1evel — I’m certainly not the President of the United States. The President of the United States has the authority to do this, I guess, I don’t know. I didn’t think it was right. And that is not a criticism against the President. I just don’t know how — a better way to put it, so I apologize.
But I, as a Director on the National Security Council, would certainly not counsel my counterpart to somehow involve themselves into U.S. domestic politics. You could take that as — I mean, I guess you could twist that into some sort of specific —
MR. RATCLIFFE: I’m not trying to twist anything.
LT. COL. VINDMAN: I guess I misunderstood the question.
MR. VOLKOV: I object to that characterization. It’s pretty obvious what you’re trying to do, sir.
MR. RATCLIFFE: Let me ask the question.
MR. VOLKOV: I’m representing my witness here and this is my client. And for you to — I mean, the insinuation — if you guys want to go down this road, God be with you. But I’m telling you it’s so apparent that — and it’s so — it’s so cynical for you to go down such a road with such a — with such an individual like this. If that’s the game you guys want to play, go at it. Okay? But we’re going to —
MR. RATCLIFFE: Let me ask my question, because what I heard —
MR. VOLKOV: You don’t have a jury here, sir. You don’t have the public here.
MR. RATCLIFFE: I understand that. I’m making a record.
MR. VOLKOV: And eventually you will and you can do it then.
MR. RATCLIFFE: I will.
MR. VOLKOV: Right now we’re going to object.
MR. RATCLIFFE: Well, you can object, but I’m going to ask this question, because the witness just testified —
MR. VOLKOV: Well —
MR. RATCLIFFE: Are you going to let me ask a question, Mr. Volkov?
MR. VOLKOV: Yes, I will. Ask a proper question.
MR. RATCLIFFE: All night. Colonel Vindman, You have spent a lot of today talking about the fact that you reported to national security lead counsel that you thought there was something wrong with respect to the conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky, correct?
MR. VOLKOV: Asked and answered. How many times are we going to go through this? I’m asking the chair, how many times are we going to go through this? Are we going to go through this over and over and over again?
MR. RATCLIFFE: Do You have an answer?
MR. VOLKOV: Wait a minute. He hasn’t had an instruction from the chain yet. Remember when you’re in front of a judge, you wait for the judge.
MR. QUIGLEY: So the question has been asked and answered, the ruling of the chair.
MR. RATCLIFFE: All night.
Colonel Vindman, on July 25th, 2O19, the President of the United States asked for the assistance of the Ukraine in connection with criminal investigation or investigations.
Your testimony a few minutes ago was that during the week of July 31, following that ca11, you advised Ukrainian officials to stay out of U.S. politics. Is that connect? I want an answer.
MR. VOLKOV: We’ve already been down this road.
MR. RATCLIFFE: No, you haven’t.
MR. VOLKOV: I object.
MR. QUIGLEY: Just one second.
MR. CICILLINE: May I raise a point of inquiry or point of order?
MR. QUIGLEY: Hold that for a second. So I believe you asked the question in terms of it being criminal, and I’m not sure that was even anywhere in the President’s comments, that he said, I’m asking you to help in a criminal investigation. The rest of the question has been asked and answered. And the time is up.
MR. CASTOR: You guys got to give him a few more minutes after all the —
MR. QUIGLEY: No, I don’t.
Mr. Ratcliffe (R) is quite a piece of work, eh?
Addressing another member of Congress (Eric Swalwell) as he did tells us all a lot about his views on comity and decorum.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman (November 9, 2019)