Not in Fairfield?
December 15, 2019
Celebrate the holidays by supporting local news. Use code GIFTOFJOURNALISM at checkout. Ends 12/31/19.

Politics

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes questions Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman during Tuesday's House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry. Photo Credit: Screenshot
Lt. Col. Alexander VIndman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, testified on Tuesday during the House impeachment inquiry. Photo Credit: Screenshot

Congressman Jim Himes Blasts President Trump For Alleged 'Witness Intimidation And Tampering'

Fairfield County Congressman Jim Himes came to the defense of two new witnesses in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

During the third day of public testimony,  the Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee took Trump to task for sending a Tweet that he said maligned Tuesday's first witness, Jennifer Williams. 

Himes, who represents Connecticut's 4th Congressional District also came to the defense of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a highly-decorated Army officer and Ukraine expert at the National Security Council. When Trump's calls with the Ukrainian president occurred last summer, Vindman was serving as director for European Affairs for the NSA.

Republicans, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, attempted to get Vindman to admit that he knows a federal whistleblower who complained about a delay in U.S. defense money for Ukraine. After releasing transcripts of the call, Trump conceded asking Ukraine's newly elected president to launch an investigation of overseas business involving former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter. Trump described the phone call "perfect," insisting there was no quid pro quo for Ukraine to receive its military aid, which was released on Sept 11. House Democrats, however, have suggested bribery or extortion be their first order of impeachment against President Trump.

In another exchange, Vindman told the House Republican's counsel that is "comical" to think he'd qualify for -- or even take -- a top job offered in the Ukraine. ""The whole notion is comical." Two other staff officers were present, he said and the Ukrainian making the offer spoke near-flawless English. 

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D.-Calif., warned Congressman Jordan to cease attempts "to out the whistleblower." 

During his opening statement, Vindman testified that he listened in on President Tump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and called President Trump's comments “inappropriate." Vindman said that he reported his concerns to a superior “because they had significant national security implications for our country."

Himes also referred to a recent offer of a foreign service job in Ukraine, which Vindman said he turned down and reported to his superiors: “The three minutes that were spent asking you about the offer made to make you the Minister of Defense, that may have come cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit and in parliamentary language, but that was designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties," Himes concluded.

In other testimony on Tuesday, Williams, a career service officer who joined the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, said she previously worked in field operations for the the 2004 Bush/Cheney presidential campaign  Williams later served at the U.S. Embassy in London before being named special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence earlier this year.

Himes said that on Sunday, Nov. 17, "the President personally targeted you in a tweet: Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read both transcripts of the presidential calls and see the just released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other No Trumpers. who I don't know and mostly never even heard of, and work out a better presidential attack.'"

Under questioning by Himes, Williams denied making any attack on the President.. She also said she "would not characterize [herself] as a 'Never Trumper.'" Williams testified that Trump's tweet "certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name."

Himes replied: "It surprised me, too, and it looked a lot like witness intimidation and tampering in an effort to perhaps get you to shape your testimony today."

While interviewing Vindman, Himes asked the Army war veteran about the medals on his uniform—a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart. Vindman explained that his vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device or IED, causing him to be injured.. Vindman, whose family emigrated to the United States from Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) about 40 years ago—when he was three years old—said he rejoined battle during the largest urban operation outside of Fallujah, Iraq, later that same day.

Himes asked Vindman the same "Never Trump" question. 

Vindman immediately shot back, "I'd call myself Never Partisan." 

Himes then said it was wrong for people to conclude that Vindman harbored "loyalty toward Ukraine" and to accuse him of "espionage and dual-loyalty."