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Donald Trump’s top adviser on Ukraine, dressed in military uniform, testified before an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, telling lawmakers he raised alarms that a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukraine's president could undermine U.S. national security.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is the first current White House official to testify behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry led by Democrats in the House of Representatives.
He is also the first witness who listened in on the critical July 25 call at the heart of the impeachment probe.
A whistleblower complaint and a White House summary of that call show Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic political rival.
In prepared remarks, Vindman said, “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.”
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: (MONDAY)
"I had a great conversation with the Ukrainian president."
Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment probe a politically motivated witch hunt.
Last week the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, told investigators that Trump loyalists pressed Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and Biden's son over their business dealings in that country.
Trump had frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in Congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine, which Kiev desperately wanted. The Ukrainians were also seeking a White House meeting between Zelenskiy and Trump.
The Democratic chairman leading the impeachment probe says their investigation has uncovered evidence of a quid-pro-quo.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING: (MONDAY)
"We have learned that a president of the United States abused his power to coerce an ally that is fending off Russian occupation of its territory, in order to get political dirt on an opponent."
Lt. Col. Vindman said he worried that by soliciting political interference, the Trump administration risked upending bipartisan American support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, and that could harm U.S. national security.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the president called Vindman a "Never Trumper witness."
Vindman is the director of European affairs on the National Security Council.
The child of Soviet emigres who fled Communism in the 1970s, Vindman rose through the ranks of the U.S. military and was awarded a Purple Heart after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during a tour of duty in Iraq.
He has served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.