The identical twin brother of Democrat “star witness” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official who appeared before House committees this week to express his concerns about President Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president, may also be called to testify, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
The president declassified and released the transcript of the call to the public weeks ago.
Vindman’s opening statement, which rested on his negative opinions of the call, rather than any new facts about the call, indicated that he believed the released transcript was accurate. He said: “As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.”
Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman is an NSC lawyer who handles ethics issues and worked in the West Wing with his brother under Fiona Hill, a former official who testified earlier in the impeachment probe. Yevgeny Vindman allegedly witnessed the decision to move the call’s transcript to a top secret server, and would be expected to corroborate his brother’s version of events, if called.
Lt. Col. Vindman is a really interesting character. His twin brother, Yevgeny, is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. He also serves on Trump’s National Security Council, as a lawyer handling ethics issues. https://t.co/x5GX0sucDE
— Steve Mullis (@stevemullis) October 29, 2019
According to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony, his brother didn’t listen in on the call, but did join him when he reported the call to the NSC’s general counsel, John Eisenberg.
The source of Vindman’s concern was Trump’s request that the Ukraine president look into a corruption case involving the energy firm Burisma, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
He allegedly reported his concerns to Mr. Eisenberg in person at the NSC shortly after the Trump-Zelensky phone call took place. During that meeting, Col. Alexander Vindman read the notes he took while listening in on the leaders’ call in his capacity as director of Ukraine policy and expressed his concern.
On Tuesday he told House investigators of asking his brother to join in his capacity as an NSC ethics lawyer, according to the person familiar with Col. Vindman’s testimony. During the meeting, Mr. Eisenberg listened to his concerns, jotting down notes on a yellow legal pad. Mr. Eisenberg’s deputy, Michael Ellis, entered the room toward the end of the meeting and Messrs. Eisenberg and Ellis then allegedly began discussing what to do with the transcript, given its “sensitive” nature, this person said.
Mr. Eisenberg then made the suggestion to store the transcript on the top secret server, according to this person.
The White House acknowledged in September that the Trump-Zelensky call record was added to the secure server at the direction of National Security Council lawyers.
In early 2017, after two sensitive conversations with foreign leaders were leaked to the press, moving such presidential call transcripts to the top secret server became “basically standard operating procedure,” according to a White House source cited by ABC News.
“The two calls in early 2017, with leaders from Australia and from Mexico, leaked early in Trump’s administration, and sources said the procedure to store them quickly changed — many calls between the president and world leaders instead were stored in a secure server to avoid leaks. The sources who talked to ABC News did caution that it’s unclear if the calls being stored were done so for national security or for political concerns.”
When asked in September how the Obama administration handled presidential phone calls with foreign leaders, former national security adviser Susan Rice acknowledged that they also sometimes moved transcripts of presidential conversations with foreign leaders onto the top-secret server.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement that the White House “will not discuss the internal deliberations of the White House Counsel’s Office.”