Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a main accuser in the Democrats’ impeachment drive, wrongly credited President Obama for sending advanced anti-tank weapons to Ukraine when President Trump was the first.
The claim from Col. Vindman, the White House National Security Council staff expert on Ukraine, came in closed-door testimony for which the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a transcript.
Mr. Obama talked internally about sending lethal aid but did not.
Mr. Trump’s decision in late 2017 to ship Javelin anti-armor weapons is significant amid impeachment proceedings. The deal showed he went beyond Mr. Obama in committing first-time lethal weapons for Ukraine to combat Russia-backed separatists.
Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of risking national security by withholding aid for several months this year as he allegedly tried to win a commitment from Ukraine to investigate the dealings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden won a lucrative seat on the board of Ukraine’s Burisma Holdings natural gas firm when his dad was the Obama administration’s point man on Kyiv.
Col. Vindman has become a hero to the liberal media for bucking his commander in chief. Some conservatives target him over testimony they say shows hostility toward Trump appointees.
Col. Vindman immediately filed a complaint with the National Security Council legal counsel after Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Col. Vindman said he believed it was wrong for the president to urge a Biden investigation.
At his Oct. 29 deposition, Col. Vindman, an infantry officer and decorated war veteran, was asked about military aid by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat.
“Under the previous administration, there was a, I’m aware of the transfer of a fairly significant number of Javelins, yes,” Col. Vindman testified.
The historical record shows that assertion to be wrong. The Obama administration limited its aid to support items to Ukraine after the 2014 Russian invasion.
Col. Vindman was assigned to the Joint Chiefs in late 2017 when the Trump administration made the decision to send the first Javelins to Ukraine. The delivery happened in the spring of 2018. Col. Vindman arrived at the White House that July.
The new Trump team did a review and significantly upped the aid to not only the first-time Javelins but also other battlefield weapons.
The trade paper Defense News reported: “One irony is that the Trump administration was going further with its aid than the Obama administration by deciding to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. In 2017, Trump announced his intent to provide the Javelin, and Congress approved an assistance package of 210 missiles and 37 launchers, together worth $47 million.”
One reason for the irony is that Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of being a yes man for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yet, Mr. Trump directly confronted Mr. Putin by helping Ukraine better defend against Russian tanks.
J.D. Gordon was the Trump’s campaign’s director of national security. He negotiated a Republican Party platform that promised appropriate military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces.
He has been critical of the new Trump team letting Obama-era NSC staffers stay in place, such as the CIA analyst who turned into the whistleblower whose 9-page complaint triggered Democratic impeachment action.
“If President Trump thought it was harmless to keep Obama-era holdovers throughout the government like the so-called whistleblower and hiring an abundance of people who obviously despised him like Lt. Col. Vindman, he was sorely mistaken,” Mr. Gordon said.
Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Mr. Trump doesn’t get credit for ramping up Ukraine’s defense in the face of Putin aggression.
“We’re the first administration, President Trump is the first president to send lethal military aid to Ukraine,” he said. “I think that’s very important. And I think that’s something that’s been lost in all the hullabaloo about the telephone call.”
Ironically, Mr. Schiff, who is trying to remove Mr. Trump from office and has accused him many times of a Russian election conspiracy, talked about how important it was to ship Javelins to Ukraine.
“And in terms of the defensive weapons that we have been willing to sell Ukraine, is it one of the most important to Ukraine?” Mr. Schiff asked.
“Yes, in terms of the lethal munitions the U.S. provides, it is certainly one of the most important ones, yes,” Col. Vindman said.
Reuters reported in April 2018 that “Ukraine has received the first U.S. Javelin missiles and launch units, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday.”