Washington: Democratic lawmakers responded angrily to attacks on Lt Col Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, as the White House and Republicans sought to discredit the colonel during his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.

“There have been a lot of insinuations and suggestions, maybe, that your service is somehow not to be trusted,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. He accused Republicans of trying to “air out some allegations with no basis or proof, but they want to get them out there, hoping some strands of spaghetti will stick on the wall.”

PREPARED FOR CRITICISM

Earlier, Jim Jordan had cited that comment as well as criticism from Fiona Hill, Vindman’s former boss at the National Security Council. Vindman, who apparently came prepared for the criticism, pulled out a copy of the performance evaluation Hill wrote about him in July and read aloud from it.

‘Alex is a top 1 per cent military officer and the best army officer I have worked with in my 15 years of government service,’ Vindman said, quoting Hill. ‘He is brilliant, unflappable and exercises excellent judgment.’

‘I COULDN’T BELIEVE WHAT I WAS HEARING’

Two senior national security officials at the White House challenged Trump’s description of his call with the Ukraine president as “perfect,” testifying about how concerned they were as they listened in real time to Trump appealing for an investigation of former vice-president Joe Biden. Vindman testified that he was so disturbed by the call that he reported it to the council’s top lawyer. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said under questioning about his first thoughts when he heard Trump’s mention of investigations into Biden and an unproven theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

DOMESTIC POLITICAL MATTER?

Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice-President Mike Pence, said she found the president’s call unusual because it included discussion of a “domestic political matter”. Their testimony kicked off three days of hearings featuring nine diplomats and national security officials as Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee continue to build their case that Trump abused his power by trying to enlist Ukraine to publicly commit to investigations that would discredit Biden, a leading political rival, and other Democrats.

— New York Times News Service