White House officials on Tuesday took issue with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, saying his complaints were “nothing more than policy disagreements.”
Col. Vindman, who serves on the National Security Council, told the impeachment panel that he was alarmed by the Trump administration pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Ukraine meddling in the U.S. 2016 election.
He also complained that President Trump, during an April phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, veered from the talking points approved by the NSC and did not talk about the broad issue of corruption.
“Those were the recommended talking points that were cleared through the NSC staff,” he said.
The White House pushed back, saying Col. Vindman’s talking points do not establish U.S. foreign policy.
“The President is in charge of setting the foreign policy of the United States, not unelected bureaucrats,” the White House said. “The president has every right to conduct American foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit and is not in any way obligated to follow bureaucratic talking points written by staff.”
SEE ALSO: Alexander Vindman, Gordon Sondland headline House intelligence committee impeachment hearings
The Trump campaign also took aim at Col. Vindman.
“He disagreed with the president,” tweeted Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. “Hate to break it to Adam Schiff & the Democrats but the President of the United States sets policy, not unelected bureaucrats. And policy disagreements are not impeachable offenses.”
Early in the hearing, it appeared that Mr. Trump was leaving the pushback to White House aides and his campaign team.
The president created a stir on Friday by tweeting negatively about former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat.
Col. Vindman testified at the hearing beside Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide assigned to the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
They were the first of nine witnesses slated to testify this during three days of impeachment hearings against Mr. Trump.
SEE ALSO: Officials alarmed by ‘domestic political matter’ in Trump-Zelensky phone call
The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating Mr. Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and other corruption allegations. A whistleblower who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House then accused Mr. Trump of abusing his power for personal gain, including withholding nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid from Ukraine to force the investigation.
A rough transcript of the call did not show a quid pro quo with the investigation request, but Democrats argue the threat was understood and part of an ongoing pressure campaign of “shadow” foreign policy conducted by Mr. Trump’s private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The testimony provided so far has largely centered on people’s opinions about what the president was doing when pressing for an investigation.
Mr. Trump wanted an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who got a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, while his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in the country, which is notorious for corruption, especially in the energy industry.
Mr. Trump also wanted Kyiv to look into Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.