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  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives to testify as part of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.

    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives to testify as part of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry. | Photo: Reuters.

Published 29 October 2019

On Tuesday, the Director of European affairs on the National Security Council became the first current White House official to testify in the inquiry.

United States Democrats presented legislation Tuesday calling for public hearings and a public report in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump.

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The move is the result of Republican criticism that the Democrat-led probe has been conducted with too much secrecy. The resolution will likely come to a vote as soon as Thursday, as the impeachment inquiry gains momentum.

Robert Blair, an aide to the acting White House chief of staff, is expected to testify on Friday in a closed session of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, an official working on the impeachment probe said on Tuesday. While Republicans continue to push for the whistleblower's identity to be revealed: "to assess his or her motivations."

On Tuesday, the Director of European affairs on the National Security Council and a Ukraine expert, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman became the first current White House official to testify in the inquiry. The Ukraine-born U.S. citizen also became the first person to testify who listened in on the July 25 call at the heart of the Ukraine scandal.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman said in his opening statement to the three House committees conducting the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, adding that he “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 testimony is one of the most damaging to date, as he is the first Trump official to testify in an inquiry in which other White House officials and Republican lawmakers have to refused to cooperate as they criticize and oppose the process.

In a bid to appease lawmakers across the aisle, the resolution calls for public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee and allows for a lawyer for Trump to participate in proceedings in the Judiciary Committee, the panel that eventually could vote on formal charges against the Republican president. 

House passage of such articles of impeachment would trigger a trial in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. The measure also calls for the Intelligence Committee to issue a public report detailing its findings, with redactions to protect classified and other sensitive information.

The Ukraine scandal is the result of a whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodging a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The July 25 call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer,  which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.

Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

Following the scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections." 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.

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