Did Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman act outside of the chain of command in his relations with Ukrainian officials? At least one journalist believes he did.
Vindman was the star of Tuesday’s testimony on Capitol Hill as the National Security Council’s top adviser on Ukraine. However, in testimony, Vindman’s superior — outgoing NSC senior director for European affairs Tim Morrison — said that he was unreliable enough that he had to be kept out of meetings with top Ukrainian diplomat William Taylor.
The reason, according to the New York Post, is that “Vindman had an ‘unfortunate habit,’ Morrison thought, of defying the sprawling executive branch’s carefully delineated chain of command.”
Vindman’s testimony seemed to confirm that Morrison wasn’t wrong. Read a certain way, it looked like the adviser had gone rogue and was advising the Ukrainian government outside of approved channels.
According to Sara A. Carter, Vindman said during testimony that he had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directly at a bilateral meeting in April and warned him to “stay out of U.S. politics.”
“I offered two pieces of advice — to be particularly cautious with regards to Russia and its desire to provoke Ukraine and the second one was to stay out of U.S. domestic policy,” Vindman said when asked by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
The California Democrat asked, “you mean politics?”
“Politics, correction,” Vindman reportedly said.
“Why do you feel it was necessary to advise President Zelensky to stay out of domestic politics?” Schiff asked.
“Chairman, in the March and April timeframe, became clear there were actors in the U.S., public actors, non-governmental actors that were promoting the idea of investigations and 2016 Ukrainian interference and it was consistence with U.S. policy to advise any country, all the countries in my portfolio, any country in the world to not participate in U.S. domestic politics,” Vindman said.
The Constitution makes things clear: “The executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America.”
The executive power to make foreign policy decisions — and to tell leaders to avoid U.S. politics — rests entirely with the president or those he specifically delegates power to. One of those individuals was not Alexander Vindman.
“His testimony raises jarring questions as to who was directing Vindman, if anyone, to deliver policy directives to the then newly-elected Ukrainian president,” Sara A. Carter wrote in her analysis.
Vindman also admitted he broke the chain of command in reporting his concerns with President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
“In your deposition you emphasize the importance of chain of command. You were a direct report to Dr. Fiona Hill and then Mr. Tim Morrison and they were your seniors, correct?” GOP Rep. Brad Renstrup asked Vindman.
“That is correct,” Vindman said.
Vindman claimed that he followed the chain of command in reporting July 25 call.
To Vindman, a direct report was to Tim Morrison.
Vindman excluded Morrison from his reporting, choosing instead to speak to his lawyer outside of chain.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) November 19, 2019
“When you had concerns about the 7/25 call between the two presidents, you didn’t go to Mr. Morrison about that, did you?” Wenstrup said.
“I immediately went to John Eisenberg, the [NSC’s] lead legal counsel,” Vindman responded.
“That doesn’t seem like chain of command,” Wenstrup said.
Vindman would later claim under questioning from Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan that he went outside the chain of command because of the fact that “it was an extremely busy week.”
“I attempted to try to talk to Mr. Morrison. That didn’t happen before I received instructions from John Eisenberg to not talk to anybody else any further,” he said.
Jordan wasn’t impressed.
“The lawyer told you, ‘Don’t talk to any other people,’” he said. “And you interpret that as not talking to your boss, but you talked to your brother, you talked to the lawyers, you talked to [Deputy Assistant] Secretary [of State George] Kent, and you talked to the one guy Adam Schiff won’t let you tell us who he is.”
Jordan was referring to the whistleblower in the last case.
.@Jim_Jordan asks Vindman why he didn’t go directly to his superior with his concerns about the phone call instead of George Kent and an unnamed CIA person.
“It was a really busy week…”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 19, 2019
So, the question remains: Where did Vindman get the authority to act outside the chain of command?
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence during his testimony that he received approval to do any of this, which is a fairly good sign he didn’t have authority, period. That’s a serious concern. Tim Morrison was right not to trust Alexander Vindman. The American people shouldn’t trust him, either.
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