A Busy Week For the House Intelligence Committee
by Omkar Ratnaparkhi
Staff Court Reporter
The week of November 18th provided ammunition for the Democrats in their great struggle to impeach President Trump. Although no Oscar-winning performances (i.e. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s temper tantrum during the Kavanaugh Hearings) took place, many details indicating a clear quid pro quo relationship between President Trump were stated. In total five witnesses testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee in the past week from a variety of different backgrounds ranging from advisors to the President to the US Ambassador to the European Union. The hearings put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a strategic bind; do the Democrats conduct more hearings, or do they have enough evidence to move forward with the next steps of impeachment?
On Tuesday morning two key national security officials provided insight to the defense and intelligence community’s reaction to the Trump administration’s decision to hold up $391 million in security aid to Ukraine for 55 days. The two individuals testifying were Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council and Jennifer Williams, an advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. The two witnesses were the first in the public hearings that listened to President Trump’s July 25th phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When LTC Vindman was directly asked if he knew of anybody who supported the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine, he flat out stated, “none.” Clearly, the decision had no backing from the Pentagon or the intelligence community. When asked about President Trump’s July 25th call, the words used to describe the event from Vindman and Williams were “wrong” and “unusual and inappropriate.” Vindman went on to say that President Trump’s requests to open investigations into the Bidens and the Burisma energy company were not just requests but really demands, and these demands had no significant importance to discussions about foreign policy and national security. Both Vindman and Williams continued to express concerns about the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s role in influencing Ukraine’s policy.
On Wednesday Gordon Sonlond the US ambassador to the European Union testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee on the nature of President Trump’s Ukraine Policy in regards to his requests for investigations into political rivals. Sonlond’s opening statement made it crystal clear that in his opinion the President wished to use a pressure campaign in order to launch investigations into the Bidens and other political rivals. Sonlond’s opening statement directly implicated the President and others in his administration of ordering himself and others to launch the pressure campaign on Ukraine, and how the vice president and the secretary of state were aware and supported such actions. Sonlond, in his own words, went as far as stating that a “clear quid pro quo” for a White House meeting between President Trump and the President of Ukraine. During his testimony, Sonland elaborated that the President was not concerned on whether or not the Ukranian investigation would be completed, but instead simply have a public announcement by the Ukrainians in order to destroy the reputations of political enemies.
David Holmes, a career diplomat and Fiona Hill a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House testified on Thursday. Both Holmes and Hill emphasized their lack of partisanship, which contrasted them from Ambassador Sonlond, who was appointed by the President mainly due to him being a wealthy GOP donor. Hill made it clear that she viewed Republicans as peddling false narratives that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election instead of Russia. Hill referred to the President’s demands for investigations as a political errand that had absolutely nothing to do with national security. Holmes stated that a “clear impression” was made by the decision to withhold nearly $400 million of aid to Ukraine: “(the aid was) likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation, or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”
In order to continue through the next steps of impeachment, the House Intelligence Committee will have to submit a report of their findings to the House Judiciary Committee which will decide if the evidence presented warrants a floor vote in front of the whole house. If the votes for impeachment within the next month, then the Senate could hold a trial for impeachment as soon as January. Speaker Pelosi, on one hand, needs to ensure that inquiries for impeachment do not stretch too far into the 2020 election cycle. However, on the other hand, she needs to ensure that an adequate amount of evidence can be brought to the public eye. When the trial for impeachment is brought to the Senate it will be a partisan fight and will most likely be voted down by a Republican majority Senate. However, if the Republican party votes against impeachment and is seen by the American public as incompetent and partisan, then Pelosi and the Democrats will set themselves up for success in the 2020 Presidential Election.
Image Source: NationalReview.com.