House Democrats Urge Watchdog to Probe ‘Retaliation’ Against Trump Impeachment Witness Vindman

July 21, 2020 Updated: July 21, 2020

Three Democrat committee and sub-committee chairs have called on the Defense Department inspector general to probe claims of retaliation against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against President Donald Trump during his impeachment.

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on National Security, wrote a letter (pdf) to Pentagon acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell on Tuesday, calling on him to investigate alleged actions by administration officials “to create a retaliatory work environment” for the now-retired Vindman.

The Democrats also want the Pentagon watchdog to probe their claims of “retributive actions” taken against Vindman’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, and to consider recommending “any systemic improvements that could be made to protect DOD whistleblowers from similar retaliation in the future.”

Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a former military officer at the National Security Council who testified during the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, lower right, walks down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

Alexander Vindman announced in early July that he was retiring from the Army. His lawyer, David Pressman, said that Vindman was leaving “after it has been made clear that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”

Pressman claimed in a statement cited by The Hill that Vindman faced “a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” for responding to a Congressional subpoena to testify about Trump’s July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers. These are choices that no one in the United States should confront, especially one who has dedicated his life to serving it,” Pressman said, according to statement.

On the call, Trump asked Zelensky to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for allegedly interfering in a Ukranian investigation and stopping a prosecution.

Vindman, who was one of several officials to listened in on the call, testified that it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.”

Some of Vindman’s testimony was disputed by his superior, Tim Morrison, in the course of the impeachment inquiry. Morrison also told the House Intelligence Committee that some staffers considered Vindman to be unreliable and prone to leaking information.

Trump was eventually acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate after the House voted to impeach him along partisan lines. Vindman was later fired from his post at the National Security Council (NSC).

The Department of Defense and White House did not respond to earlier requests for comment on the controversy surrounding Vindman’s retirement or his dismissal from the NSC.

The Democrat committee and sub-committee chairs, in their July 21 letter, suggested there was a “concerted effort” by the Trump administration to retaliate against Vindman for testifying against Trump.

“Retaliation against a talented and dedicated war veteran is completely unacceptable and sends the wrong message to our fellow Americans in uniform about the oaths they take to defend and protect the Constitution,” they wrote. “It is critical that your office act now to investigate these allegations to ensure that our military system remains impervious to political vendettas.”

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