On Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff’s super-secret committee heard testimony from the Democrats’ latest star witness — Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
But if Vindman’s opening statement is any indication, the impeachment narrative pushed by Schiff, the Democratic Party and the establishment media took another brutal shellacking.
Vindman, a career Army officer, Purple Heart recipient, and the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, appeared before Schiff’s kangaroo court — which included lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees as well — to discuss his “concerns” regarding President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Without a hint of irony, The New York Times reported Monday, ahead of his testimony, that Vindman “will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call.”
It should strike anyone as bizarre that it has taken over a month since the entire Trump-Ukraine “scandal” began for Schiff and company to finally get someone in the room who was actually on the call.
In fact, the whistleblower’s earliest memo regarding the call relayed at least seven lies or pieces of misinformation (We compared that memo to the call transcript and counted ourselves) that did not at all correspond with the call transcript Trump shrewdly released.
Then, there were assorted other witnesses, including former, and now acting, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor.
Taylor imploded on the stand in Schiff’s super-secret SCIF by confirming he could only offer hearsay and that Zelensky’s people didn’t even know of the much-ballyhooed suspension of U.S. military aid to Ukraine until after the much-ballyhooed July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky.
Now we come to Vindman, whose testimony anti-Trumpers everywhere were certain would prove Trump tried to execute a quid pro quo scenario with Zelensky.
Vindman, however, not only bombed in terms of helpfulness to the Democrats, but he also revealed four pieces of information — one of them extremely important — and effectively pulled a Tonya Harding on the quid pro quo narrative’s knees.
First, Vindman appears to have at least attempted to mislead the committee, claiming on page five of his pre-written opening statement that he “did not think it was proper [for Trump] to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen.”
The only problem with that comment is that it’s predicated on a complete lie.
Trump didn’t demand anything during the call. Remember, it was Zelensky who urged Trump to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, and it was Zelensky who offered to investigate.
“We are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine,” Zelensky said during the call, adding, “I guarantee as the president of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.”
Whether Vindman was actually trying to mislead (which seems foolish given the transcript) or genuinely doesn’t recall the conversation he heard (which obviously presents other credibility problems), the net effect was not good for Democrats.
Second, Vindman took note of an earlier Trump-Zelensky call he sat on that took place on April 21, 2019.
During that call, Vindman claimed that “Trump expressed his desire to work with President Zelensky and extended an invitation to visit the White House.”
That testimony undermines the idea that Zelensky’s invitation to the White House was predicated on him launching investigations into the Bidens, Burisma Holdings (where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board) and Crowdstrike.
Taylor helped undermine that Democratic chestnut when he confirmed the Ukrainians — and the general public — didn’t know about the aid freeze until August, after the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky.
Now, Vindman’s testimony makes the quid pro quo premise that much more unlikely by moving the date that the White House invitation was extended back to April 21.
If Trump invited Zelensky to the White House back in April with no strings attached, how could the White House visit been part of the alleged quid pro quo?
Third, Vindman testified: “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support 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.”
Consider that warning said differently: If Ukraine investigated the Bidens and Burisma, Democrats would revoke their support for the country, thereby undermining U.S. national security.
While that’s not exactly what Vindman said, it generally describes the gist of his comments.
Think about it.
It’s not Republicans who would object to Ukraine investigating the Bidens’ alleged wrongdoing. It’s Democrats.
It’s not Republicans who would turn on Ukraine and destroy bipartisan support. It’s Democrats.
Vindman’s testimony reveals a very real concern in the NSC — or at least on his part — that Ukraine investigating alleged wrongdoing by a former U.S. vice president and current candidate for the presidency would cause Democrats to withdraw support for Ukraine and thus undermine U.S. national security.
That the NSC has to even consider the possibility of such childish behavior shows exactly where national security ranks on House Democrats’ priorities list — somewhere below protecting an allegedly corrupt presidential contender and above, maybe … I don’t know. Cow flatulence? No, it’s definitely below that too. Maybe a sex workers’ bill of rights.
Yes, Democrats’ concern for national security might rank above a sex workers’ bill of rights, but definitely below cow flatulence and protecting Joe Biden.
Jesting aside, if that doesn’t give you serious pause about the priorities of the party controlling the House of Representatives, then your priorities are wrong.
Fourth, and most significantly, Vindman dropped a line that anyone could be forgiven for glossing over. But it’s one that also has bombshell implications.
Vindman testified: “On July 21, 2019, President Zelenskyy’s party won Parliamentary elections in a landslide victory. The NSC proposed that President Trump call President Zelenskyy to congratulate him.”
The second sentence is the stunner.
The NSC proposed that Trump call Zelensky. Not Trump. Not Vice President Mike Pence. Not Stephen Miller or Ivanka Trump or Mike Pompeo or whichever White House boogeyman/Trump stand-in is most hated by the establishment media at the moment.
No, the National Security Council proposed the call.
That means the call likely wasn’t even Trump’s idea. It came from outside the Oval Office.
The call that was supposed to prove Trump’s dirty. The call that was supposed to show corruption. The call that when exposed to the light of day was supposed to reveal Trump’s evil machinations.
But that call was the NSC’s idea, not Trump’s.
More interesting, however, are the implications of the call being proposed by the NSC.
The first implication is that Trump decided to use that NSC-proposed call to initiate a quid pro quo (knowing that NSC members would be listening). That’s unlikely.
The second implication is that Trump demanded a quid pro quo — on a phone call that he didn’t even propose having. That’s extremely unlikely.
Vindman, certainly inadvertently, torpedoed the entire Trump-Zelensky quid pro quo narrative.
No president would try to set up a quid pro quo on a call monitored by the NSC.
There couldn’t have been a quid pro quo anyway, since Zelensky offered Trump everything he wanted before Trump could set up a quid pro quo (and Trump had already invited him to the White House). And regardless, Zelensky didn’t know Trump was delaying Ukraine’s military aid.
There is a reason Schiff is holding his super-secret, triple-committee meetings in the super-secret SCIF and allowing Republicans absurdly limited access to the committee’s super-secret documents.
Schiff knew launching any credible impeachment effort would be like threading a needle, so he moved his work into the dark where he could manipulate information released to the public.
The only problem is that Democrats went all-in on the whistleblower quid pro quo narrative, and it turns out there was less than nothing there.
The result is that Schiff keeps calling witnesses he hopes will bolster the Democrats’ narrative, but their testimony ends up being so bad that they only add more pressure to the already buckling narrative.
Whether Schiff manages to salvage some usable, albeit tattered, narrative from the super-secret SCIF remains to be seen.
Barring that, however, Schiff’s super-secret efforts may go down as the super-obvious reason Democrat impeachment efforts end up a super failure — that and the fact that as far as anyone can tell, Trump has done absolutely nothing worthy of removal from office.
CORRECTION, Jan. 17, 2020: This commentary originally included a reference to the since-debunked theory that the ICIG’s whisteblower form was changed just prior to the event in order to allow the Ukraine whisteblower to submit a complaint without first-hand information. In fact, the change was the result of a review of the form that found it to be non-compliant with the regulation, which does not, in fact, require first-hand knowledge of the incident reported. Moreover, the whistleblower complaint filed in this instance indicated that the individual had both first- and second-hand knowledge of the incident, not merely second-hand knowledge.
We have removed the two paragraphs that referenced that idea, and apologize for any confusion we may have caused.
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