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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Top US officials say Donald Trump’s Ukraine call ‘improper’, ‘unusual’

In a phone call on July 25, Trump had pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, for latter’s association with a Ukrainian energy firm.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2019 22:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Washington
Top US officials say Donald Trump’s Ukraine call ‘improper’
Top US officials say Donald Trump’s Ukraine call ‘improper’(AP)
         

US National Security Council’s top two experts on Ukraine and the region told impeachment investigators Tuesday they found President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky, which they had both been tasked to listen in, “inappropriate”, “improper” and “unusual”.

Lt Colonel Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine expert in the National Security Council, said, “What I heard was inappropriate, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg (John Eisenberg, the top lawyer at the NSC).”

“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent.”

And Jennifer Williams, a national security adviser to Vice-President Mike Pence, said she found the call “unusual” because of the discussion of a domestic political matter.

In a phone call on July 25, Trump had pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, for latter’s association with a Ukrainian energy firm. And he had appeared to be holding out an offer of an Oval Office meeting in return. The call is at the heart of an ongoing impeachment inquiry being conducted by House Democrats against President Trump. The White House had also held up nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine.

Vindman and Williams were the first of the eight current and former officials who were scheduled to depose at public hearings by the House intelligence committee this week. They were among the few staffers who listened in on the call, and they have both challenged Trump’s description of the call as “perfect”.

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, testifies on Wednesday. A hotel magnate who donated generously to Trump’s inauguration, Sondland is one of the key Trump aides who drove the effort to force Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rivals. The others were White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who has declined to testify; and the third is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.