- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House on Friday, his lawyer told Insider in a statement. Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny, who also worked on the National Security Council, was fired as well.
- President Donald Trump said earlier on Friday that he was “not happy” with Vindman. And White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said this week that the president believes “people should pay for” the way he was treated.
- Vindman was a key witness in the impeachment inquiry into Trump and directly listened in on the July 25 phone call at the centre of the investigation.
- “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” his lawyer said. “His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Lt. Col Alexander Vindman was ousted from his role on the National Security Council and escorted out of the White House on Friday, his lawyer told Insider.
Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the council, was a key witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, infuriating the president.
“Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress,” David Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, said in a statement to Insider.
“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” Pressman said. “His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, was also fired, Pressman said.
“Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, a senior lawyer and ethics official at the National Security Council, and a decorated Iraq war veteran, was escorted off of the grounds of the White House, suddenly and with no explanation, despite over two decades of loyal service to this country,” Pressman said in a separate statement to Insider. “He is deeply disappointed that he will not be able to continue his service at the White House.”
Here’s the full statement on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his lawyer:
“Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress.
“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.
“During his decades of service to this country, LTC Alexander Vindman has served quietly but dutifully, and he has served with honour. He came into the public eye only when subpoenaed to testify before Congress, and he did what the law demanded.
“In recent months, many entrusted with power in our political system have cowered out of fear. And, yet, a handful of men and women, not endowed with prestige or power, but equipped only with a sense of right borne out of years of quiet service to their country made different choices. They courageously chose to honour their duty with integrity, to trust the truth, and to put their faith in country ahead of fear. And they have paid a price.
“The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril. And for that, the most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit – has decided to exact revenge.
“LTC Alexander Vindman leaves the White House today. But we must not accept the departure of truth, duty, and loyalty that he represents. In this country right matters, and so does truth. Truth is not partisan. If we allow truthful voices to be silenced, if we ignore their warnings, eventually there will be no one left to warn us.”
When reached for comment about Vindman’s dismissal, an NSC representative told Insider, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
There were reports on Thursday and Friday that the White House was considering ousting Vindman. As he was departing for North Carolina earlier on Friday, Trump told reporters he was unhappy with Vindman and signalled that he was on his way out.
“I’m not happy with him. You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,” Trump said.
Now that he’s no longer in the White House, Vindman is set to work at the Pentagon until he heads to War College in July. His brother is going to work in the Office of General Counsel of the Army at the Pentagon.
‘This is shameful’
Democrats excoriated the White House for dismissing Vindman.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who was the lead House impeachment manager, tweeted, “Lt. Col. Vindman did his job. As a soldier in Iraq, he received a Purple Heart. Then he displayed another rare form of bravery – moral courage. He complied with a subpoena and told the truth. He upheld his oath when others would not. Right matters to him. And to us.”
Lt. Col. Vindman did his job. As a soldier in Iraq, he received a Purple Heart.
Then he displayed another rare form of bravery — moral courage.
He complied with a subpoena and told the truth.
He upheld his oath when others would not.
Right matters to him.
And to us. https://t.co/sxcjQMWBE2
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 7, 2020
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement said, “As usual, the White House runs away from the truth. Lt. Col. Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution,” Schumer
Schumer said the move was “not a sign of strength” and only showed Trump’s “weakness.”
“This is shameful of course. But this is also what we should now expect from an impeached president whose party has decided he is above the law and accountable to no one,” Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“Any senator who voted to keep Trump in office thinking he has learned his lesson must answer for this and for whatever parade of abuses we see in the future,” Engel added.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated that he viewed Vindman’s ouster as a sign Trump has been emboldened after being acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday.
“Surviving impeachment, after openly selling out the nation’s security to destroy his political opponents, has made him bulletproof. Firing anyone who told the truth is just the beginning, folks,” Murphy tweeted.
Walter Shaub, the former director of the US Office of Government Ethics, in a tweet described Vindman’s ouster as “reprehensible.”
“There was no need to humiliate Vindman this way, nor was it appropriate to retaliate against him for testifying before Congress,” Shaub added.
Vindman, an Iraq War veteran, was attacked by Trump and the president’s allies over his impeachment testimony
Vindman catapulted into the national spotlight last year when he became one of several witnesses to testify in the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.
At the centre of the impeachment inquiry was a July 25 phone call in which Trump repeatedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner, and the Democratic Party as a whole.
Trump made those demands while withholding vital military aid (which was eventually released) and a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately wanted (and still hasn’t gotten).
Vindman directly listened in on the phone call and testified that he was “concerned” by what he heard.
“It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request – to demand – an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there’s at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation,” he said.
He added: “This would have significant implications if it became public knowledge, and it would be perceived as a partisan play that would undermine our Ukraine policy, and it would undermine our national security.”
Vindman testified that immediately after the call ended, he reported his concerns to John Eisenberg, the NSC’s top lawyer.
“When I reported my concerns, I did so out of a sense of duty,” Vindman said. “My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for this country.”
He added that after he conveyed his concerns to Eisenberg, the lawyer told him not to talk to anyone else about what he had heard. And Vindman said Eisenberg then moved a transcript of the phone call to a top-secret code-word-level NSC server typically used to store sensitive information pertaining to national security.
Vindman was also a witness to other episodes that were part of the impeachment inquiry, including a July 10 White House meeting during which Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, explicitly told Ukrainian officials that Zelensky would get a White House meeting if he launched the investigations Trump wanted. Vindman reported details of that meeting to Eisenberg as well.
Vindman faced harsh blowback from the president and his allies in Congress after he testified against Trump behind closed doors and later in public. Among other things, he was accused of being anti-Trump and faced racist allegations of dual loyalty to Ukraine because of his and his family’s status as refugees who fled the Soviet Union four decades ago before coming to the US.
After arriving in the US and completing his education, Vindman joined the Army and received a Purple Heart after being wounded in the Iraq War.
He discussed his background when testifying before the House Intelligence Committee last year.
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol, talking to our elected professionals, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” Vindman testified. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Vindman also expressed gratitude in his belief that he would not face political retaliation for his testimony.
In Russia, he said, “my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life.”
“I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety,” he said.
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