TLDRUpFront: We review the opening statement of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Army officer and National Security Council expert on Eurasia, including Ukraine. At the same time the National Securiy Advisor, John Bolton, seems to be navigating legal needles to introduce both an aide and his own testimony against the President.
FullContext in the Back:
The statement is brief, only six pages, and it reads like an Army officer’s summary of event. Brief intro, relevant context, timeline of events, concluding remarks. Very to the point without a lot of speculation.
A few key takeaways:
He asserts he is not the whistleblower.
He was personally involved in many key meetings already conveyed by Dr. Hill, but additionally was also on the 25 JUL call in question. He also asserts he sent two memorandum to the NSC attorney expressing his concerns, those are now on a subpoena list for when the courts break the impasse between Executive and Congressional branches.
He avoids giving salacious details, stating simply:
“On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.
I was concerned by the call. 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. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would 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. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel.”
Indeed, reading it, if someone wanted to create an interesting writing assignment for a Poli-Sci/English college class – putting the WhistleBlower statement against the opening statements of Taylor, Sondland, and Vindman would be an interesting compare contrast of professional stylistic differences between intelligence analysts, diplomats, and military officers; and the resulting effectiveness in conveying information. I’m a nerd for noticing that, but it strikes me as something that leaps out.
About the only real “gotcha” is a direct call out that contradicts Sondland’s testimony, indicating that it was Sondland who brought up Bidens, Burisma, and 2016 elections in connection with the quid pro quo. In his own testimony Ambassador Sondland denied he had “ever heard Biden’s name” prior to the transcript being released. I imagine the Ambassador is already booking a visit back to the Intelligence Committee to ‘clarify’ his prior remarks.
Lt. Col Vindman spoke today despite a directive from the White House not to testify to Congress, the first individual in the White House to do so.
On that front there’s been an interesting development as a key aide to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Charles Kupperman filed suit on Friday with the Courts asking for resolution of the impasse between the Executive and Congress. Which seems imminently reasonable and may bring the reluctance of the White House to support the investigation to a conclusion faster than a Democratic led Congressional suit. There are rumors that, because they share the same lawyer, as the Judge rules in the Kupperman case then so too will Bolton follow that guidance. Which means if the Court rules that Kupperman should follow Congress’s authority to seek testimony, and ignore the Executive directive not to testify, then John Bolton may follow the same path, resulting in a Bolton testimony on the hill. Around the time the hearings are scheduled to go public or conclude near the end of the year.
John Bolton’s being incredibly savvy here, on multiple fronts. First he’s using his aide to float the trial itself, so it’s not directly on him. Plus, there is a pathway now to cover his involvement in testimony on two fronts. The first on the loyalist front of “betraying” the President, he can point to a potential Court ruling and say “They decided not me.”
Plus given his long-time support for executive privilege over congressional oversight, it’s a personal cover to indicate that in following the court’s ruling it’s “out of his hands” to any personal view on the matter. Which preserves his intellectual pedigree.
I have no doubt Bolton is principled, I just disagree with his principles. But beyond that he is a consummate inside player making sure, to borrow a phrase from Clear and Present Danger, when the music stops he’s not the one without a chair. Indeed, I imagine him sometimes dialing a safe on his wall and pulling out a document that is his get out jail free memo saying, “You don’t…have one of these do you Jack?”
From a court standpoint, given that a court has already ruled that the impeachment is legal, and that the current precedent on Congressional v. Executive tensions is that executive privilege does not cover discoverable material evidence during an impeachment inquiry, I would not be surprised if the first ruling in the Kupperman case is in favor of the Democrats (e.g. “Kupperman should testify.”) That of course will just set up a fast-track to the Supreme Court unless the White House resistance breaks.
Opening statement of Lt. Col. Vindman.
Details of what I am forecasting will in future cases be known as “the Kuppreman compromise”:
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