The White House on Tuesday pushed back against impeachment inquiry testimony from U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, saying his claims regarding President Donald Trump’s conversations with Ukraine’s leader are “nothing more than policy disagreements.”
Vindman, who currently serves on the National Security Council, told the House impeachment panel he was concerned by the Trump administration’s alleged pressure on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Ukraine’s meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The decorated Army vet also said that Trump, during an April phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, went off-topic from talking points approved by the NSC and did not address a broader issue of corruption.
“Those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the NSC staff,” he said.
But the White House pushed back, noting that Vindman’s talking points do not establish U.S. foreign policy, the president does.
“The President is in charge of setting the foreign policy of the United States, not unelected bureaucrats,” said the White House. “The president has every right to conduct American foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit and is not in any way obligated to follow bureaucratic talking points written by staff.”
Vindman testified at the hearing beside Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide assigned to the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
They were the first of nine witnesses slated to testify this during three days of impeachment hearings against President Trump.
The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, in which Democrats claim Trump sought a “quid pro quo” from Zelensky: Either launch an investigation, or he would withhold military aid.
A rough transcript of the call released by the White House doesn’t show any quid pro quo, however, though Democrats claim the threat was implied.
Ukraine’s military aid was delivered and Zelensky never did publicly announce an investigation.