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Trump official who heard Ukraine call to offer ‘damning testimony’ to House impeachment investigators

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A White House National Security Council official who listened to President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader plans to tell House impeachment investigators in a sworn deposition Tuesday that he was so alarmed by the conversation that he reported it to his superiors and the NSC’s top lawyer.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an active-duty Army officer and the NSC’s top Ukraine expert, will be the first White House official to testify as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump. Vindman will also be the first official who heard Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to testify before the committees leading the impeachment probe.

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“The facts are damning. The facts must be followed, and the law. And the committees must do their work and the Congress must do its constitutional duty.”
—Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

“I was concerned about the call,” Vindman plans to say, according to a copy of his opening statement (pdf) obtained by Politico.

“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 will say, referring to Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Vindman’s “damning testimony… reinforces the fact that the president of the United States sought to have Ukraine provide dirt” on Biden.

“His efforts were not for the people of the United States, not for the safety and security of Ukraine, but for simply and purely selfish reasons to win a presidential election,” said Jackson Lee. “The facts are damning. The facts must be followed, and the law. And the committees must do their work and the Congress must do its constitutional duty.”

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In addition to corroborating the details of the whistleblower complaint prompted by Trump’s call with Zelensky, Vindman’s opening remarks also appear to contradict the sworn testimony of Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Vindman plans to say he told Sondland that Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden was “inappropriate.”

Earlier this month, Sondland told House impeachment investigators that no one on NSC staff “ever expressed any concerns to me about our efforts.”

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Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the evidence suggests Sondland is guilty of a crime.

“Based on all the testimony so far,” said Castro, “I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury.”

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2020 Election

Donald Trump has launched a 2020 campaign disinformation juggernaut — and it’s gaining speed

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You may be forgiven if you are under the impression that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak is just one more example of his incompetence, aggressive ignorance, contempt for science and outright abuse of government. But it's worse than that. For the White House, and especially for Donald Trump's re-election campaign, it's an opportunity to put into play the massive disinformation apparatus they have built for the 2020 presidential race.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Never Trumpers fear for their safety if they dare attend CPAC: report

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On Saturday, Politico profiled a handful of longtime conservatives who have criticized President Donald Trump — and the general consensus was that they feared hostility at this year's annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

One such figure was former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party darling who has since attacked Trump for undermining the rule of law, and briefly mounted a presidential primary challenge. He attended CPAC as a guest of comedian Trevor Noah, and attendees who saw him seemed conflicted. "Torn between catching up with an old colleague and being singled out by observers as talking to a Trump foe, they split the difference — and instead kept asking him how his wife was doing," wrote Tina Nguyen.

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HBO’s Maher scorches Trump for calling coronavirus a ‘hoax’: ‘Not something he can lie his way out of’

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During the "Overtime" segment of HBO's "Real Time," host Bill Maher launched into a broadside against Donald Trump for telling South Carolina rallygoers that the coronavirus outbreak is a "hoax" being pushed by the media Democrats.

In a furious back and forth with conservative guest Buck Sexton, Maher said this was one instance where the president "could not lie his way out of it."

According to Sexton, the crisis is serious but then he tried to deflect from the issue by accusing Democrats of "trying to score political points," when they point out the Trump administration's bumbling response.

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