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Trump’s demand for Biden probe was improper, says top White House Ukraine expert

Trump’s demand for Biden 
probe was improper, says top White House Ukraine expert

DPA
Washington
The second week of public impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives kicked off on Tuesday with two witnesses describing their concern over a July 25 phone call that is central to the probe.
The two witnesses, Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), and Jennifer Williams, an aide on Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, listened in on a July 25 call between President Donald Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to a transcript of the call released by the White House, Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favour” by investigating Democratic political opponent Joe Biden and alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election - the latter a theory widely dismissed by US intelligence community.
Vindman and Williams testified that Trump’s comments during the call raised their concerns.
“I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter,” Williams said.
She said comments struck her as “political in nature,” and she updated Pence’s briefing book with a summary transcribing the call.
Vindman, an active-duty military officer who appeared in his US army dress uniform, said he found it improper for the president to demand an investigation by a foreign power into a domestic political opponent. This could undermine US national security and its policies toward Ukraine, he said.
He said he immediately reported his concern about the call to “the top people in the chain of command.” Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry in September, after a whistleblower reported the call as an apparent attempt by the White House to make military aid to Ukraine conditional on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son. They have accused Trump of abusing his power by withholding the military aid while pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden in order to help his own 2020 re-election campaign.
Republicans accused the Bidens of corruption over Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company. Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress have said the inquiry is a waste of time and is detracting from the job of tackling the country’s problems.
Trump has called the inquiry a “great fraud” but on Monday said he is considering providing written testimony.

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