November 19, 2019

Castro Questions Lt. Col Vindman, Williams During Third Impeachment Hearing of President Trump

– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today had the following exchange with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, during the highly anticipated third open impeachment hearing, where the American people continued to hear the evidence for themselves on President Trump’s abuse of power:

CASTRO: Thank you Chairman. Ms. Williams, thank you for your service to the country. Colonel Vindman thank you for your service. It’s great to talk to a fellow identical twin, I hope that your brother is nicer to you than mine is to me, and doesn’t make you grow a beard.   

You both listened in real-time to the July 25th call, in particular, you would have heard President Trump ask the President of Ukraine, quote, “I’d like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say Crowd Strike.” And, quote, “The server, they say Ukraine has it.” This is a debunked conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.  President Trump’s own former Homeland Security Advisor Thomas P. Bossert called the President’s assertion that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 elections, quote, “not only a conspiracy theory, but, quote on quote, completely debunked.” Colonel Vindman, are you aware of any evidence to support the theory that the Ukranian government interfered in the 2016 election?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: Congressman, I am not and furthermore, I would say that this is a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.

CASTRO: And are you aware of any part of the U.S Government, its foreign policy, or intelligence apparatus that supports that theory?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: No, I am not aware.

CASTRO: And you are aware that other parts of the U.S. government, our intelligence community for example, has said definitively that it was the Russians who interfered in the 2016 elections?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: That is correct.

CASTRO: It seems incredibly odd, though unfortunately but not inconsistent to me, that President Trump would be giving credence to a conspiracy theory about Ukraine that helps Russia really in at least two ways: first, it ignores and frankly undermines the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community, and seeks to weaken a state dependent on the United States support to fight Russian aggression. It also for the United States hurts our national security and emboldens Russia. Now I want to look at what President Trump was doing on his call instead of pushing back against Russian hostility.

He was pressuring the Ukraine to do his political work. President Trump stated on the July 25th call “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it...It sounds horrible to me.” Colonel Vindman, when you hear those words, do you hear the President requesting a thoughtful and well-calibrated anti-corruption program consistent with U.S. policy?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: I do not.

CASTRO: In fact, it sounds like President Trump was encouraging the Ukrainian president to engage in precisely the same type of behavior, for President Trump’s own political benefit, that we discourage foreign leaders from undertaking in their own countries. And discouraging other countries from undertaking politically motivated investigations is in fact, a major part of official U.S. anti-corruption policy. Is that correct?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: That is correct.

CASTRO: And are you in fact aware of any evidence that Vice President Biden improperly interfered in an investigation of his family members?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: I am not.

CASTRO: These folks’ narratives, it should be said, are damaging our country. They poison our politics and distract from the truth. And pressing another country to engage in corruption is antithetical to who we are as a nation. You also mentioned that this request, or you felt this request, was wrong. And you’ve also said that corruption in Ukraine is endemic to Ukraine just as it is in other places around the world. Can you speak to, what is the danger of a President of the United States, whether it's Donald Trump or any future president, asking another nation where there is rampant corruption to investigate a political rival or just any other American citizen? What would be the danger to that American?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: Congressman, the Ukraine, the Ukrainian judiciary is imperfect at the moment. And the reliance on U.S. support could conceivably cause them to tip the scales of justice in favor of finding a U.S. citizen guilty if they thought they needed to do that in their national security.

CASTRO: So they could trump up charges if they wanted to in a corrupt system like that?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: They could, and Ukraine is making progress, certainly more broadly in Russia that is likely to happen, where the state will be involved in judicial outcomes and drive them.

CASTRO: Thank you, I yield back.

# # #