White House official says transcript of Ukraine call omitted key phrases: report

A White House official who testified in front of the House on Tuesday as part of its impeachment investigation reportedly said the White House’s rough transcript of a July phone call between President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky left out key words and phrases.

Three people familiar with the situation told The New York Times that Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanVoters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog pledges independence amid Democratic skepticism Federal officials fired by Trump face tough road in court MORE testified to congressional investigators that among the omissions were Trump’s assertions that there were recordings of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign raised M more than Trump in the month of June RNC, Trump campaign raised 1M in June Michigan shuts down most indoor bar service in bid to prevent virus resurgence MORE discussing Ukrainian corruption and a reference by Zelensky to Burisma Holdings, the energy company on whose board Biden’s son sat.

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Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, also testified that he sought to change the memorandum of the conversation to include the omissions. While he was successful in making certain edits, those two omissions were not corrected, The Times reported.

The omissions do not alter the heart of the conversation, as the reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House on Sept. 25 shows Trump repeatedly pushing Zelensky to investigate Biden, a top political rival, on unfounded corruption allegations.

Still, while Vindman did not identify a motive behind the omissions, his testimony is likely to fuel further speculation and questions from House Democrats as to how the call over the summer between Trump and Zelensky was handled.

Vindman expressed alarm Tuesday about the content of the conversation, saying he twice raised objections to his superiors about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. 

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman said in his testimony. “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 it has thus far maintained.”

The testimony comes as House Democrats plan to expand their impeachment investigation into a new public phase.

The House is expected to vote Thursday to direct the House Intelligence Committee to conduct public hearings and compile a report to help the House Judiciary Committee as it mulls filing formal articles of impeachment. 

The impeachment investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine was launched last month, with Democrats alleging that the president may have tied $400 million in military aid to Kiev to its compliance with Trump’s requests for an investigation into Biden. 

Trump has maintained there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, but William Taylor, who serves as the chargé d’affaires for Ukraine, testified last week that the aid was directly linked to a commitment from Zelensky to open investigations into Biden and 2016 election meddling.