Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the official who testified before Congress on Tuesday in a closed-door hearing, said he had concerns with the non-verbatim memo of President Donald Trump‘s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. One of those problems was how the writing left out “Burisma,” the name of the natural gas company where Democratic candidate Joe Biden‘s son Hunter Biden used to serve on the Board of Directors, according to a Washington Post report. Instead, the phrase was “the company that you mentioned in this issue.”
Here’s the usage in context [h/t CNN; emphasis ours]:
President Zelensky: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.
The July 25 call sparked an impeachment inquiry from the Democrat-led House. A rendition of the call showed that Trump was asking the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the company. Father and son have not been substantively accused of wrongdoing. Even Republicans had been calling for the firing of the prosecutor in question.
In any case, WaPo describes the phrase as “potentially fabricated,” but pointed out some suggested the transcribers misheard that part of the conversation. Some, the president included, have described the document as a transcript, but the memo itself said that it wasn’t a verbatim account of the conversation.
Vindman said he tried to fix the wording in the memo so that it matched his notes of the phone call, but discovered that he wasn’t successful, according to the report. He said he didn’t assume there were sinister reasons for this, and that he maintained he didn’t know why his attempt fell through.
The issue with the phrasing is whether the wording was done to buttress Trump insistence he wasn’t demanding a quid pro quo of Ukraine. Critics of the president took a dark interpretation of the matter:
Wow. ADDING false information to a call summary strikes me as a new level of obstruction. https://t.co/kS8iEryb0M
— Elizabeth de la Vega (@Delavegalaw) November 1, 2019
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) November 1, 2019
Obstruction. Of. Justice. https://t.co/DfB9wCQlEp
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 2, 2019
Adding to suspicions is the role National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg played in placing the call in a codeword-protected server. Vindman went to Eisenberg with his concerns about the call, and Eisenberg allegedly told Vindman not to discuss the call with anyone.
Eisenberg is expected to testify on Monday, but it’s not clear at this time if that will actually occur.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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