Vindman Testimony: Nunes Aide Tricked Trump Into Believing He Was Ukraine Expert
The National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert reportedly testified in a House impeachment hearing that one of Rep. Devin Nunes’ aides “misrepresented” himself to the president in order to gain proximity to Ukraine policy, Politico reported.
According to two people familiar with his testimony, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said Kashyap Patel, a longtime staffer of the California congressman, had convinced the president that he — and not Vindman — was the NSC’s resident Ukraine expert.
After returning from Ukraine President Volodymyr’s Zelensky’s inauguration in May, Vindman was looking forward to debriefing President Donald Trump and “giving a positive account of Zelensky’s vision for Ukraine’s future.”
But “at the last second,” Vindman said, he was told not to attend the debriefing, due to Trump’s belief that Patel was the point man on Ukraine and fears among the president’s advisers that Vindman’s presence might confuse Trump.
The decorated Army officer said it was his boss, NSC senior director for European and Russian affairs Fiona Hill, who directly instructed him to steer clear of the meeting.
Hill said she and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton thought it best to avoid “an uncomfortable situation,” Vindman testified.
Politico noted that it had previously reported on testimony from Hill to the same effect: that Trump thought Patel was heading up Ukraine policy for the NSC.
However, “Vindman’s exclusion from a key Ukraine meeting because of concerns over a potential conflict with Trump has not been disclosed before,” the publication reported.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he had never met Vindman.
The man Trump claims he never met also testified that Patel “had been circumventing normal NSC process to get negative material about Ukraine in front of the president, feeding Trump’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.”
Patel had no discernible Ukraine experience of expertise, Politico noted, and according to Vindman, he also was not communicating with officials at the State Department or Pentagon on the issue.
Prior to joining the National Security Council’s International Organizations and Alliances in February — where he was promoted to a senior role around the time of Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky — Patel served as Nunes’ top staffer on the House Intelligence Committee.
There, he “worked to discredit the FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference,” Politico noted.