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White House official criticises Trump call, decries 'cowardly' attacks

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Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, testified at the third public hearing in the impeachment effort before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

[WASHINGTON] A White House official testified in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday that the president's phone call urging Ukraine's leader to investigate Mr Trump's political rivals was improper and blasted what he called "cowardly" attacks on witnesses in the investigation.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, testified at the third public hearing in the impeachment effort before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

Col Vindman, who along with other witnesses has been publicly criticised by Mr Trump, also told lawmakers that "vile character attacks" against public servants testifying in the impeachment inquiry were "reprehensible," urging Americans to be "better than callow and cowardly attacks." Col Vindman, an Iraq war veteran, appeared at the hearing wearing his Army uniform and medals.

Col Vindman did not specifically mention Mr Trump when he referred to "cowardly attacks." Some Trump allies in the conservative media have questioned Col Vindman's loyalty to the United States.

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"It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent," Col Vindman said in his opening statement in the second week of public hearings.

Three other witnesses were scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing: Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence; and former National Security Council Russia expert Tim Morrison.

The inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to carry out two investigations that would benefit him politically including one targeting Democratic political rival Joe Biden. The other involved a debunked conspiracy theory embraced by some Trump allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.

REUTERS