Who Is John Eisenberg? Trump Lawyer Moved Ukraine Transcript to Classified Server After Vindman Complained

The impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump is gathering steam, with closed-door hearings and subsequent leaks thrusting previously obscure White House officials into the spotlight.

House investigators are uncovering the circumstances surrounding the president's July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump is accused of pressuring his counterpart to open a corruption investigation into 2020 rival Joe Biden in exchange for military aid.

This week, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified to investigators. Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and was one of those who sat in on Trump's call with Zelenskiy. Soon after, he raised concerns to NSC lawyers about the president's conduct during the conversation.

Vindman's testimony has dragged White House lawyer John Eisenberg—the administration's legal adviser on national security issues—deeper into the mire.

Eisenberg, 52, has served as deputy White House counsel for national security issues since Trump came into office. Before this, he worked in President George W. Bush's Justice Department and in the Washington, D.C. office of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.

The firm's alumni include prominent conservative legal minds including Attorney General Bill Barr, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

Politico described Eisenberg as a quiet and deeply private man. He kept such a low profile in the White House that the president reportedly did not know his name for some time, instead calling him "Mike."

Politico also cited friends and former colleagues who depict Eisenberg as a "brilliant" lawyer who is extremely cautious, perhaps even paranoid. The president reportedly did not like Eisenberg's rigorous note-taking during meetings, fearing he could use the records against him in the future.

The Washington Post explained that Eisenberg seems to have made the decision to move the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call onto a highly restrictive server, prompting concerns that the White House tried to hide incriminating evidence of Trump's abuse of power.

Soon after listening to the Trump-Zelenskiy call, Vindman—accompanied by twin brother and NSC ethics attorney Yevgeny—went to see Eisenberg to detail his concerns about the conversation. Mike Ellis, another White House lawyer, was also part of the subsequent conversation, the Post said.

Vindman reportedly read aloud the notes he took during the call, after which Eisenberg proposed moving records of the call to the highly classified computer system known as NICE—the NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment—thus tightly restricting access to it.

The NICE system is usually used to store the most top secret information, and experts have said it would be highly unusual to transfer records of presidential phone calls with other leaders there.

Citing former administration national security officials, the Post reported that Eisenberg did the same with at least the records of at least one other Trump phone call.

Both Eisenberg and fellow White House lawyer Mike Ellis have been asked to testify to House impeachment investigators on Monday about their role in the White House's response to the Zelenskiy call.

The Zelenskiy call was not the first time that Eisenberg had heard concerns about U.S. strategy in Ukraine.

Three weeks before, Vindman and White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill had complained to Eisenberg about a July 10 meeting in Washington in which European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland had pressured two Ukrainian officials to investigate corruption allegations against Trump's rivals—including Biden and his son Hunter.

The Post noted it is not clear if Eisenberg took any action regarding that meeting.

Ukraine, Donald Trump, John Eisenberg, Alexander Vindman
This file photo shows the U.S. Capitol on October 30, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/Getty
Who Is John Eisenberg? Trump Lawyer Moved Ukraine Transcript to Classified Server After Vindman Complained | Politics