The impeachment inquiry into Trump is quickly transforming into a possibly presidency-ending nightmare for this administration.
Numerous officials have already stated that Trump offered a crooked quid pro quo to President Zelensky of Ukraine. During their now-infamous phone call, Trump pushed Zelensky to launch an investigation into Joe Biden in the hopes of derailing his 2020 presidential bid. Prior to the call, Trump made sure that $391 million in aid to Ukraine was frozen, even as the Eastern European country struggles to fight off Russian military aggression. There is quite simply no charitable explanation for this behavior and it represents such a staggering abuse of executive power that there can be no legitimate way forward other than impeachment and removal.
Now, it appears that there’s another shocking wrinkle to the Ukraine scandal. The New York Times reports that yesterday National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman—who was a witness to the Zelensky call—testified before Congress that he tried to make some edits to the administration’s transcript of the conversation in order to make it more accurate.
Specifically, Vindman wanted to add in the fact that Trump brought up the existence of some kind of “tapes” of Joe Biden to the Ukrainian president. In the final version of the transcript released by the White House, the Biden tape section has been excised and replaced with ellipses and Vindman’s suggested additions were ignored.
Vindman’s testimony flies directly in the face of the Trump administration’s previous claim that the ellipses did not indicate any missing section of the conversation as well as Trump’s own claim that he has released the transcript in full.
Additionally, Vindman testified that Zelensky specifically mentioned Burisma, the gas company whose board Biden’s son Hunter served on and which Trump has made the center of one of his convoluted conspiracy theory smears. In the transcript released by the White House, the word “Burisma” was replaced with the vague phrase “the company.”
While these new details look incredibly suspicious and could indicate knowledge of guilt on the part of the administration—that is to say, they realized Trump had crossed a legal line and wanted to smudge the transcript a bit to obfuscate that fact—CNN reports that “sources from both parties” didn’t see the transcript changes as significant at the time. Of course, that is precisely the kind of defense a White House as habitually dishonest as this would wheel out of if caught in the act.
Vindman’s revelations could prove to be deeply damaging for this embattled president, and the case for impeachment was already incredibly strong. The transcript that Trump had released, even with the missing chunks, clearly shows him asking for a “favor” from a foreign leader in the hopes of undermining an American election. The case is cut and dry. Read the transcript here and then call your senators and representative and urge them to vote for impeachment.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.