(CNN) – Top White House Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman told congressional investigators he was convinced President Donald Trump was personally blocking $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to force that country to publicly announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his family, two sources present at the deposition told CNN.
Vindman, a decorated Army officer, on Tuesday testified that he was convinced that a quid pro quo existed by July 10, which was before Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call that is now at the heart of the House’s impeachment inquiry. Trump has repeatedly said he did nothing improper on the call and has cited it as the sole reason for the impeachment inquiry.
The sources at the deposition said Vindman believed the existence of a quid pro quo was clear during a July 10 meeting between American and Ukrainian officials. In his opening statement, Vindman wrote that date is when US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian government officials that they would need to deliver “specific investigations in order to secure the meeting” with Trump that they so desired.
In a separate meeting of US officials immediately afterward, “Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma,” Vindman testified.
But the fact that the $400 million in aid, including desperately needed military assistance, was also being used by the President didn’t become clear until the next month, Vindman testified.
Then-national security adviser John Bolton instructed Vindman to prepare a decision memo by August 15 for Bolton and others in the administration to present a government-wide interagency argument to the President that he should release the assistance funds to Ukraine as soon as possible.
On August 16, Bolton and other senior Cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, traveled to Trump’s resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, to discuss a number of national security issues with the President.
Vindman learned after their meeting that Trump still refused to allow the security assistance funds to go to Ukraine, which made Vindman think the President was still waiting for the “deliverable,” as Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, referred to it in his own deposition — the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens that Ukrainian officials needed to deliver in order to get the money they wanted.
While this conclusion by Vindman was perhaps the most consequential news to come out of his deposition, the source present tells CNN, some House Republicans seemed more focused on trying to undermine the National Security Council member.
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