Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified Tuesday that for all of President Donald Trump’s professed concern about rooting out Ukrainian corruption, he didn’t bring it up on his two calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Faced with accusations of leveraging a quid pro quo — military aid in exchange for investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election — Trump and his allies have fallen back on the excuse that the money was withheld due to concerns about widespread corruption in Ukraine.
Daniel Goldman, staff counsel for the House Intelligence Committee Democrats, asked Vindman if Trump brought up corruption in his April 21 call with Zelensky, a congratulatory call shortly after the latter’s election.
The White House readout of that conversation included that the men discussed reforms to address the country’s endemic corruption. When the White House’s rough transcript of the call was released soon after the readout, devoid of any mention of corruption, administration officials laid the blame at Vindman’s feet.
Vindman testified on Tuesday that the White House description of the call was “not entirely accurate,” since Trump did not mention corruption at all. He also confirmed that Trump didn’t bring up Ukrainian corruption during the July 25 call with Zelensky either.
“So when the President says now that he held up security assistance because he was concerned about rooting out corruption in Ukraine, that concern was not expressed in the two phone conversations that he had with President Zelensky earlier this year. Is that right?” Goldman asked.
“Correct,” Vindman responded.