U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, called out President Donald Trump for his “reckless actions” and expressed that “every American should be critically concerned,” as the U.S. House Intelligence Committee continued its third public impeachment hearing in Washington, D.C.
Demings, the only Floridian serving on the committee, was forceful in describing the impact of Trump’s actions to the American people.
“It is vitally important that the American people understand how President Trump’s unethical demand that Ukraine delivered politically-motivated investigations in exchange for military assistance, created a security risk for the United States of America security,” Demings said.
“The president was not just playing a political game by upholding military aid and meetings with Ukraine, threatening the hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance that Congress had appropriated has real life consequences for Ukraine and for the USA.”
The Orlando congresswoman had opened her comments by expressing her gratitude for veterans with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council and a key witness who testified before the House committee on Tuesday.
“Lt. Col. Vindman, I had the honor of speaking to a group of veterans this past weekend, and what I said to them was that ‘no words are really adequate or sufficient to fully express our gratitude for their service to our nation,’” said Demings, a former Orlando police chief.
“So Lt. Col. Vindman, today I say to you ‘there are no words that are sufficient to fully express our gratitude to you for what you have done for our nation and amazingly what you are still willing to do for our nation.’”
Demings also noted that the fact that Ukraine aid “was delayed” could signal to Russia that the bond between Ukraine and the U.S. was weakening, which Vindman responded with “that was my concern.”
Both Vindman and another key witness, Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, heard the infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and sharply criticized his actions as improper and unusual.
They both were grilled by Republican lawmakers on their credibility. GOP members appeared to deviate from the main issue of Trump launching a politically-motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, with threats of blocking Ukraine’s military aid.
Specifically, ranking Republican Devin Nunes, R-California, aggressively confronted Vindman with a series of questions threatening the anonymity of the whistleblower who launched the drama. However, Vindman’s lawyer interjected immediately, pointing to Nunes’ conduct in discussing the whistleblower.
Demings also directed to Vindman on U.S. international affairs.
“Could you please explain why a strong and independent Ukraine is so critical and why it is so vital to U.S. interests?”
“We sometimes refer to Ukraine as a frontline state, it’s on the frontline of Europe…they considered themselves as a barrier between Russian aggression and Europe. And what I’ve heard them describe is the need for U.S. support in order to serve this role, in order to protect European and Western security,” Vindman explained.
“Lt. Col. this is not just a theoretical conflict between Ukraine and Russia, you’ve already said this morning that Russia is actively fighting to expand into Ukraine, that Ukraine is in a hot war with Russia right now, is that correct?”
“It’s stable but it’s still a hot war,” Vindman said.