White House Seeks to Undermine Credibility of Its Own Employee


(Bloomberg) -- The White House sought to undermine one of its own aides who is testifying in the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, sending talking points to allies alleging that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman “has major credibility issues.”

Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He’s testified that he was alarmed by Donald Trump’s July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which the U.S. president asked his counterpart to investigate his political rivals.

In the document circulated to allies, the White House pulled remarks from the deposition of Vindman’s boss, NSC official Tim Morrison, who said that Vindman’s supervisors had “serious concerns about his judgment” and suspected he might be leaking information to journalists. Morrison also said he had heard “second-hand” that others in the White House had concerns Vindman had improperly accessed information he wasn’t supposed to see.

“Vindman has faced accusations of poor judgement, leaking, and going around normal procedures,” the White House document reads.

For his part, the Army officer laced into the president in his testimony, saying that Trump’s effort to pressure Zelenskiy had “significant national security implications for our country” and benefited Russia. He also called “vile character attacks” on other witnesses in the inquiry “reprehensible,” “callow” and “cowardly.”

Asked by Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, about his White House colleagues’ supposed concerns about his credibility, Vindman read aloud from an evaluation of his work by Fiona Hill, a former NSC official who will testify later this week in the impeachment inquiry. She wrote that Vindman is “brilliant” and “exercises excellent judgment,” he said.

Trump attacked his former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in a tweet last week as she testified in the inquiry, claiming without substantiation that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” Democrats called the tweet an attempt at witness intimidation.

Trump defended his tweet and said he hadn’t sought to intimidate Yovanovitch.

“I have the right to speak,” Trump said. “I have freedom of speech just like other people do.”

Trump also went after Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who is testifying alongside Vindman on Wednesday, alleging in a tweet on Sunday that she is among a group of Republicans he derides as “Never Trumpers” who don’t support him.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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