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Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators “there was no doubt” what President Donald Trump was demanding during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

During that conversation, now central to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Trump pressed Zelenskiy to launch investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as a conspiracy related to the 2016 U.S. election, according to the record of the call released by the White House.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent,” Vindman, who was on the call, said, according to the transcript of his closed-door testimony made public Friday.

Vindman also testified that Trump administration officials delivered a clear quid quo pro message to Ukraine.

According to the transcript, U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland informed Vindman that not only was a White House meeting Zelenskiy wanted contingent on the probes Trump desired, but that this condition “had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney.”

Vindman said at another point in his testimony that Sondland had told the Ukrainians “would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens” for a White House meeting.

“There was no ambiguity,” Vindman said, according to the transcript.

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Vindman also said he had become aware “by about July 3” — two weeks earlier than the date other officials have cited in their testimony — that military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, adding that the hold had occurred following “abnormal” questions from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The transcript of Vindman’s October deposition was released Friday alongside the transcript of testimony from Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe. It’s the latest in a series of witness transcripts House Democrats have made public as the impeachment inquiry into Trump enters a new phase.

Vindman was the first witness to the July conversation that sparked the whistleblower complaint to come before Congress.

The whistleblower, whose name and gender has not been released and who House investigators have said may not be called to testify, lodged the formal complaint out of a belief that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 election.

The transcripts of witness testimony released by House Democrats so far this week have largely established a narrative that suggests Trump directed officials to tie nearly $400 million in military and security aid to Ukraine as well as the White House meetings to demands that Zelenskiy announce probes into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Trump has characterized the July phone call as “perfect” and has said there was no quid pro quo. He has called the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt” and a “fraud.”

The transcript of Vindman’s more than 10 hours of testimony confirmed NBC News’ earlier reporting that Vindman was so concerned about the Trump administration’s handling of Ukraine relations — and its potential to undermine U.S. national security — that he twice raised the issue with superiors.

It also reveals new details of Republican efforts to identify the whistleblower, whose right to anonymity is protected by law, including a tense exchange between Vindman’s attorney, Michael Volkov, and Steve Castor, an attorney for House Oversight Committee Republicans.

At one point, Castor asked Vindman to whom he had expressed his concerns about the July 25 call, beyond the two officials on the National Security Council he’d already mentioned. (The whistleblower, a member of the intelligence community, has said he did not listen to the call himself, but spoke to others who had, so attempts to learn more about Vindman’s conversations could be interpreted as an attempt to identify the whistleblower.)

Volkov objected, saying, “I think this is question that may elicit some concern with regard to intelligence officers.”

Castor then interrupted, saying, “Can you let me finish my question here,” leading the two to bicker.

“If you want to keep going down this road, we’re going to just keep objecting, OK?” Volkov said.

Seconds later, Castor tried again more clearly, saying to Vindman, “There’s a little bit of a disconnect, because in your statement you say you don’t know who the whistleblower is, and now all of a sudden we’re asking who you had communications with.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Volkov says. “My client does not want to be in the position of being used to identify the whistleblower, OK? Now, our objection to that is we don’t want — it’s purely a matter of intelligence professionalism that he not be put into that situation.”



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John Kerry endorses Joe Biden for president

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WASHINGTON — John Kerry, the former senator from Massachusetts, secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, threw his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid on Thursday.

Kerry praised Biden in a statement released by the Biden campaign, saying that “there’s never been a time more urgent for leadership at home.”

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“I believe Joe Biden is the president our country desperately needs right now, not because I’ve known Joe so long, but because I know Joe so well,” Kerry said. “I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on Day One can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart.”

“Joe is uniquely the person running for president who can beat Donald Trump and get to work on Day One at home and in the world with no time to waste.”

Kerry will campaign with Biden on Friday in Iowa and in New Hampshire on Sunday.

The endorsement comes as Biden has amplified his qualifications to be commander-in-chief, given his foreign policy experience. On Wednesday, his campaign released a video saying that “the world is laughing at President Trump.”

Kerry has a long history with Biden — they served together in the Obama administration and in the Senate, where both were on the Foreign Relations Committee. When Biden left the Senate to become vice president, Kerry succeeded him as the chairman of the committee.

With his deep relationships on Capitol Hill, Biden is outpacing his Democratic peers in endorsements from sitting lawmakers, too. He’s backed by 22 House representatives, five senators and three governors — more of each category, and more endorsements in total, than any other candidate in the race.



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Pete Buttigieg talks 2020 election, diversity in Democratic party

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In an exclusive interview, 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg sat down with NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard to discuss varying issues including diversity in the Democratic party, his appeal to voters and how he compares to former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Trump asks Supreme Court to void financial records subpoena

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to void a subpoena from the House of Representatives that seeks the president’s financial records from his accounting firm.

The justices already have shielded the documents from being turned over while they consider whether to hear Trump’s case and his separate appeal of a court order that requires the same accounting firm, Mazars USA, to give his tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney.

The court could say as early as mid-December whether it will hear and decide the cases by the end of June.

Yet another case involving House subpoenas for Trump’s records from New York banks also is headed for the Supreme Court, and the justices are likely to prevent the handover of any documents for the time being.

The two court cases involving House subpoenas are distinct from the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

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