A top national security aide told House impeachment investigators Tuesday that the transcript of President Donald Trump's call to Ukraine did not include phrases referencing Ukraine corruption and Burisma, a prominent energy company, on which former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, served on the board.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told congressional investigators that he made efforts to add his edits to the transcript after the call, which he listened in on.
He said he was successful in adding some details, but his additions regarding the mention of Burisma — which he alleges Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referenced on the July call — and the mention of recordings of Biden discussing Ukraine corruption — which he alleges Trump spoke about on the call — did not appear in the transcript, The Times reported. It is unclear why some edits were made and others were not.
Although the mention of Burisma was not directly made in the reconstructed transcript released by the White House, The Times reported that note-takers and voice recognition software may have just missed the reference, simply calling it "the company."
Vindman's testimony also cleared the fog surrounding some of the ellipses that appear on Trump's side of the conversation. In one of the instances, Vindman told investigators that the president mentioned tapes of Biden talking about Ukraine corruption, The Times reported. It was likely a reference to a 2018 video of the former vice president talking about pressuring the country into ousting former prosecutor Viktor Shokin, leveraging a billion dollars in loan guarantees, The Times reported. At the time, multiple Western governments were pushing to have Shokin removed over concerns that he wasn't pursuing corruption cases among Ukrainian politicians.
Earlier this month, diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators that Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani pushed the State Department to grant Shokin a visa to the US after the Ukrainian prosecutor promised info on Democrats.
Vindman is the first White House official who listened in on the call to testify in the impeachment inquiry, given the White House has been steadfast in its refusal to comply with subpoenas. Vindman said that he felt "a sense of duty," in his opening statement released Monday, citing the notion that Trump's actions would "undermine US national security."
"I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics," he said in the opening statement.
While his testimony to investigators isn't pivotal to the understanding of the call, it does fill in some holes in the transcript. The July call is the subject of a whistleblower complaint that was filed by an intelligence official in August. A reconstructed transcript was late declassified and released by the White House. The whistleblower complaint was the impetus for the launching of an impeachment inquiry. The House is set to vote on the inquiry's procedures on Thursday.
"There is no recording of the July 25 call by the American side," The Times reported. "The White House uses note-takers listening in on the call as well as voice recognition software to create a rough transcript that is a close approximation of the call. But names and technical terms are frequently missed by the software, according to people familiar with the matter."
The rough transcript of the call was given to Vindman, The Times reported. He offered edits, as an official who listened in on the conversation and gave his edits to his boss on the NSC.
Following the call the call he also flagged the conversation as concerning, The Times said, and sought out the National Security Council's legal adviser John Eisenberg — one of the times he said he raised the issue with his superiors. It was Eisenberg who moved the transcript to a secure server that had limited access, according to The Times. Its placement in the secure server could have been why the edits were not made.