Key White House aide arrives to testify on Trump Ukraine dealings

A key White House witness in the Democrats' impeachment probe arrived in the Capitol Tuesday morning for a closed door deposition with House investigators, who are expected to hear damning new revelations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE’s contacts with Ukraine.

Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanGOP senator calls impeachment 'sabotage' effort, raises questions about witness on eve of testimony Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE, the director for European affairs on the National Security Council (NSC), plans to tell three House committees that he raised concerns more than once about Trump and other officials pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch two politically motivated investigations that would benefit Trump, according to a copy of his opening remarks.

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Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and career civil servant, is one of a select few individuals who participated on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky — and the first to testify in the impeachment investigation.

Vindman says he was concerned about the national security implications surrounding Trump's request that a foreign leader launch investigations into both the 2016 election and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage MORE, one of Trump's top 2020 political rivals.

“I listened in on the call ... I was concerned by the call. 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,” according to his opening remarks, which were obtained by The Hill.

“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. This would all undermine U.S. national security,” he continues, referencing the Ukrainian energy company where Biden’s son Hunter worked.

Vindman arrived roughly 15 minutes before the start of the 9:30 a.m. deposition in the Capitol basement. He did not respond to questions from reporters.

Vindman is the 10th witness to appear before the three committees — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — leading the impeachment investigation. Most have testified under subpoena after the White House vowed not to cooperate in an investigation it deems to be illegitimate, since Democratic leaders declined to hold a floor vote launching the probe.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) announced the formal inquiry five weeks ago, after a government whistleblower alleged Trump had threatened national security by dangling U.S. aid to a foreign power in return for political favors.

Vindman, in his opening statement, said he is not the whistleblower, nor does he know the person's identity. But his statement corroborates key elements of the whistleblower's complaint, including allegations that Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, had pressured Ukrainian officials to launch the investigation into the Bidens by threatening to deny Zelensky a meeting with Trump if they didn't comply.

Vindman described a debriefing following a July 10 meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials in which he says Sondland "emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma."

"I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push," Vindman is set to testify, according to his prepared statement.

Trump and his Republican allies have hammered the impeachment investigation as a political ruse designed to hurt the president's chances of reelection next year. They've pressed Democrats to open the process up to the public, while warning that gauging witnesses on their opening statements alone is misleading, since it excludes the hours of closed-door questioning that's followed those remarks.

Democrats are preparing to do just that. On Thursday, they've scheduled a vote to launch the next phase of their fast-moving inquiry, to involve a series of televised hearings allowing the public a window into the witness testimony and lawmaker questioning.