House Democrats conducted their impeachment interviews in secret, but Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman still emerged as star of the show. Appearing at his Oct. 29 deposition in full dress uniform, the decorated Army officer, now a White House National Security Council Ukraine expert, was the first witness who had actually listened to the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the heart of the Democratic impeachment campaign. Even though lawmakers were forbidden to discuss his testimony in public, Vindman's leaked opening statement that "I did not think it was proper [for Trump] to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen" exploded on news reports. Vindman has not yet been scheduled to appear before the Democrats' public impeachment hearings. When that happens, he will undoubtedly again play a prominent role. But there will be a difference. The public now has a transcript of Vindman's deposition. And those who have taken the trouble to read the 340-page document will have a different picture of Vindman's testimony than the one presented in early media reports. Yes, Vindman testified repeatedly that he "thought it was wrong" for Trump, speaking with Zelensky, to bring up the 2016 election and allegations of Ukraine-related corruption on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. But the Vindman transcript also showed a witness whose testimony was filled with opinion, with impressions, who had little new to offer, who withheld important information from the committee, who was steeped in a bureaucracy that has often been hostile to the president, and whose lawyer, presumably with Vindman's approval, expressed unmistakable disdain, verging on contempt, for members of Congress who asked inconvenient questions. In short, Vindman's testimony was not the slam-dunk hit Democrats portrayed it to be. And that raises questions about how it will play when Vindman goes before the world in a public impeachment hearing. Here are four problems with the Vindman testimony: 1) Beyond his opinions, he had few new facts to offer. Vindman seemed to be an important fact witness, the first who had actually been on the July 25 call when Trump talked to Zelensky. But the White House weeks ago released the rough transcript of that call, which meant everyone in the secure room in which Vindman testified, and everyone on the planet, for that matter, already knew what had been said. Indeed, Vindman attested to the overall accuracy of the rough transcript, contrary to some impeachment supporters who have suggested the White House is hiding an exact transcript that would reveal everything Trump said to the Ukrainian president. As one of a half-dozen White House note-takers listening to the call, Vindman testified that he tried unsuccessfully to make a few edits to the rough transcript as it was being prepared. In particular, Vindman believed that Zelensky specifically said the word "Burisma," the corrupt Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden, when the rough transcript referred only to "the company." But beyond that, Vindman had no problems with the transcript, and he specifically said he did not believe any changes were made with ill intent. "You don't think there was any malicious intent to specifically not add those edits?" asked Republican counsel Steve Castor. "I don't think so." "So otherwise, this record is complete and I think you used the term 'very accurate'?" "Yes," said Vindman. Once Vindman had vouched for the rough transcript, his testimony mostly concerned his own interpretation of Trump's words. And that interpretation, as Vindman discovered during questioning, was itself open to interpretation. Vindman said he was "concerned" about Trump's statements to Zelensky, so concerned that he reported it to top National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg. (Vindman had also reported concerns to Eisenberg two weeks before the Trump-Zelensky call, after a Ukraine-related meeting that included Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.) Vindman said several times that he was not a lawyer and did not know if Trump's words amounted to a crime but that he felt they were "wrong." That was when Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, tried to get to the root of Vindman's concerns. What was really bothering him? "I'm trying to find out if you were reporting it because you thought there was something wrong with respect to policy or there was something wrong with respect to the law," Ratcliffe said to Vindman. "And what I understand you to say is that you weren't certain that there was anything improper with respect to the law, but you had concerns about U.S. policy. Is that a fair characterization?" "So I would recharacterize it as I thought it was wrong and I was sharing those views," Vindman answered. "And I was deeply concerned about the implications for bilateral relations, U.S. national security interests, in that if this was exposed, it would be seen as a partisan play by Ukraine. It loses the bipartisan support. And then for — " "I understand that," Ratcliffe said, "but that sounds like a policy reason, not a legal reason." Indeed it did. Elsewhere in Vindman's testimony, he repeated that his greatest worry was that if the Trump-Zelensky conversation were made public, then Ukraine might lose the bipartisan support it currently has in Congress. That, to Ratcliffe and other Republicans, did not seem a sufficient reason to report the call to the NSC's top lawyer, nor did it seem the basis to begin a process leading to impeachment and a charge of presidential high crimes or misdemeanors. At another point, Castor asked Vindman whether he was interpreting Trump's words in an overly alarmist way, especially when Vindman contended that Trump issued a "demand" to Zelensky. "The president in the transcript uses some, you know, words of hedging from time to time," Castor said. "You know, on page 3, he says 'whatever you can do.' He ends the first paragraph on page 3, 'if that's possible.' At the top of page 4, 'if you could speak to him, that would be great.' 'So whatever you can do.' Again, at the top of page 4, 'if you can look into it.' Is it reasonable to conclude that those words hedging for some might, you know, lead people to conclude that the president wasn't trying to be demanding here?" "I think people want to hear, you know, what they have as already preconceived notions," Vindman answered, in what may have been one of the more revealing moments of the deposition. "I'd also point your attention to 'whatever you can do, it's very important to do it if that's possible.'" "'If that's possible,'" Castor stressed. "Yeah," said Vindman. "So I guess you can interpret it in different ways."