Note: this article, featuring our Deputy Director of Legislation and National Security Advisor Irvin McCullough, was originally published here.
The White House Has Dismissed Lt. Col. Vindman After His Testimony in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the witnesses that testified during President Donald Trump’s impeachment, was reportedly fired from his role on the National Security Council on Friday afternoon, according to CNN. Vindman’s twin brother, who also serves on the NSC, was also fired and escorted from the White House.
A statement from his attorney, David Pressman, says that Vindman was “escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President.”
“We can confirm that both Lt. Cols. Vindman have been reassigned to the Department of the Army,” an Army spokesperson told Task & Purpose. “Out of respect for their privacy, we will not be providing any further information at this time.”
“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country has one less soldier serving it at the White House,” Pressman said in the statement. “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
The Washington Post reported on Thursday night that Trump was “preparing” to push Vindman out.
Vindman was already planning on leaving his position on the NSC by the end of this month, per the Post, but Trump was reportedly “eager to make a symbol of the Army officer.”
Trump hasn’t been secretive about his dislike for Vindman. After Vindman’s testimony in October, Trump maintained that the officer was a “Never Trumper.”
When asked on Friday about the reports that Vindman would soon be shown the door, Trump told reporters that he was “not happy” with him.
“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump asked. “They’re going to be making that decision.”
Earlier on Friday, Trump retweeted a November tweet from the president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, which said Vindman’s “behavior is a scandal,” and that he should be “removed from the…White House ASAP.”
Trump also shared a tweet from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who said he’d “fire” Vindman.
Vindman — who emigrated with his family to the U.S. from Ukraine, while it was still part of the Soviet Union, as a child — is a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
He deployed to Iraq in September 2004 and was wounded by an improvised explosive device a month into his tour. He finished his deployment and returned to the U.S. in September 2005.
During his testimony, Vindman discussed the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
Vindman was on the call, and said there was “no ambiguity” that Trump was “calling for an investigation that didn’t exist” into the the relationship between Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Ukrainian company Burisma.
Despite past criticism from his commander-in-chief, Army spokesman Matt Leonard said in October that Vindman, “who has served his country honorably for 20+ years, is fully supported by the Army like every soldier.”
In November, Army spokeswoman Col. Kathy Turner said that the Army was working with authorities “to ensure that [VIndman[ and his family are properly protected.”
That same month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that Vindman “shouldn’t have any fear of retaliation.”
On Friday, Esper reiterated that service members would be protected from retaliation.
“As I said, we protect all of our persons, service members, from retribution or anything like that,” he said. “We’ve already addressed that in policy and other means.”
Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst at the Government Accountability Project, emphasized what kind of precedent Vindman’s reassignment could have on future officials who speak out.
“Reorganizations are hotbeds for disguised retaliation,” McCullough said. “Bad actors use massive organizational shifts to strike back against truth-tellers that may be otherwise untouchable. … If the President overrules his Secretary, and uses this shift as cover for reprisal, he demonstrates that no whistleblower is out of his reach.”