All throughout the impeachment scandal—and beyond—President Donald Trump has maintained that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was completely “perfect,” even as he clearly asked the Ukrainian leader to do him a “favor” by investigating his political rivals. “That call was perfect, and I say it again, it was perfect. It was totally appropriate,” the president reiterated Thursday in a podcast interview with Geraldo Rivera. But for as much as he defends his Zelensky conversation, when it comes to the president’s future talks with foreign leaders, Trump thinks that his “perfect” calls nevertheless shouldn’t be overheard by quite so many people—or open to quite so much scrutiny.

Talking with Rivera Thursday about his supposedly “perfect, appropriate” call with Zelensky, and how Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had reported it after listening in, Trump was asked why so many people were allowed to listen in on the president’s calls in the first place. “Well that’s what they’ve done over the years when you call a foreign leader, people listen,” Trump told Rivera, noting that sometimes there may be as many as “25 people” listening in to a call. But the president also suggested that this longtime practice—which just so happened to be the thing that spurred his impeachment—may be on the way out. “I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely,” the president claimed.

Trump’s desire to keep his conversations with foreign leaders private from now on appears to stem from the president’s lingering anger with Vindman, who raised concerns about Trump’s call both after it happened and in his impeachment testimony. Even as Trump’s decision to dismiss Vindman from his White House post has garnered controversy, the president doubled down Thursday on his dislike of the Iraq war hero, claiming that Vindman was “very insubordinate” for reporting the president’s Zelensky call. “He was the one that thought my call was bad and he ran in and started saying terrible things about the call,” Trump claimed, later questioning why Vindman wouldn’t “go to his immediate—you know, he went to Congress, or he went to Schiff, or he went to somebody.” Trump’s smearing of Vindman is, of course, full of lies: Vindman was far from the only one to report Trump’s call—at least four national security officials were so alarmed by its contents that they spoke out against it—and he did not go straight to congressional Democrats, but instead went through the proper channels and reported it to National Security Council counsel John Eisenberg. While Trump also claimed that Vindman should be disliked because of comments made by former NSC official Tim Morrison during the impeachment hearings, which suggested that Morrison’s predecessor Fiona Hill had concerns about Vindman’s judgement, Hill later clarified during her own testimony that she merely believed Vindman’s military expertise did not align with what had become an overtly political issue.

Of course, none of these pesky facts matter to Trump, who insisted Thursday without evidence that Vindman’s dismissal from the White House had been met with applause. “When we took him out of the building, the building applauded,” Trump claimed. Vindman’s attorney David Pressman pushed back against Trump’s comments to Rivera, saying in a statement that Trump’s “continued public attacks…on an active duty officer in the military are designed to intimidate and to punish,” and that “by using the power of his office to repeatedly humiliate and punish those following the law, the President is encouraging breaking the law.” “LTC Vindman complied with a subpoena. The President would have him defy it,” Pressman said. “LTC Vindman told the truth under oath. The President would have him lie.”





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