Readers will be shocked…just shocked…to learn that a senior Trump administration official — a cabinet member no less — appears to have lied about ever hearing the topic of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter being brought up in connection to American pressure on Ukraine to investigate corruption in their nation.
Now that you’ve had time to recover from your fainting spell, it can be revealed that the cabinet member in question is Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
While Perry has fervently denied ever being present when discussions of tying the release of already congressionally-approved U.S. military aid to Ukraine to that country’s cooperation in Donald Trump’s and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani’s, efforts to find substantial negative information about his political opponent to weaponize, he did so while almost simultaneously announcing his resignation from his cabinet post.
The reason why became somewhat clearer after this morning’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official overseeing Ukraine policy who was one of the people listening in on the notorious phone call between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Vindman gave congressional impeachment investigators a detailed account of a July 10th meeting that included Perry along with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
The meeting was a debriefing after former National Security Advisor John Bolton quickly cut short a meeting with Ukranian officials after Sondland allegedly brought up the issue of their country’s cooperation in investigations of Donald Trump’s most pernicious conspiracy theories involving the Democratic National Committee servers in the 2016 election and the Bidens and their relationship with Burisma, the Ukraine energy company that Hunter Biden worked with.
The debriefing gave Vindman the opportunity to tell Ambassador Sondland that his attempts to involve the Ukrainian officials in an internal American political campaign were improper — something that Sondland, like Secretary Perry denied ever hearing. (Unfortunately, Sondland made his claim while under oath while testifying before the same congressional committee a couple of weeks ago.)
“I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the [National Security Council] was going to get involved in or push,” Vindman said in his pre-released opening statement to the committee.
The decorated NSC official then related that once he was finished with his admonition to Sondland, another senior National Security Council official, Fiona Hill, entered the briefing room.
Hill also informed Sondland that his efforts to enlist the Ukraine government in a partisan political exercise were not appropriate, but, as Politico reports, she also testified that she entered the debriefing just as Secretary Perry was leaving, meaning that Perry had to have been present when the objections to involving the foreign officials in domestic spying on political rivals was discussed.
If Vindman and Hill are both telling the truth — and, despite attacks on their credibility from Trump’s fawning Republican defenders, there is no reason to believe that they are not — then this makes things quite awkward for Secretary Perry who has vociferously denied that the Bidens were ever discussed.
“Not once, as God is my witness, not once was a Biden name — not the former vice president, not his son — ever mentioned,” Perry told the CBN News on Oct. 7, according to Politico.
Perry repeated those denials last week in a Fox News radio interview, and an Energy Department spokesperson confirmed that Perry still stands by that claim, despite having refused to honor a congressional subpoena to discuss under oath his involvement in the administration’s dealings with Ukraine.
With Sondland having already testified that Secretary Perry was part of a Trump administration team dedicated to outreach to the Ukraine government — a team that also included himself and former U.S. special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker — Secretary will have a considerable amount of explaining to do to congressional investigators before he is allowed to abandon the Trump ship.
With the House set to vote on Thursday on a formal impeachment process, Perry and the rest of the Trump administration will soon lose any excuse they may make up to try to prevent its members from honoring Congressional subpoenas.
Get out your popcorn! Things are only going to get more interesting from here on in.
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Original reporting by Ben Lefebvre and Natasha Bertrand at Politico.