Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman announced his premature retirement from the U.S. Army after facing repercussions for testifying against President Trump in last year’s impeachment hearings. Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman, told CNN that President Trump levied a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” against Vindman.
"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," Pressman told CNN.
Former Ambassador John Bolton said Vindman’s retirement was a “loss for our country.”
Although Vindman was slated for promotion, sources familiar with Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s plans found that the White House attempted to interfere in Vindman’s professional career and assign him to a “rehabilitative” duty, according to CNN. Military officials reportedly prohibited Vindman from deploying in his area of interest and expertise, including Ukraine, whose president engaged in the contested phone call with Trump.
Another official assured CNN that the Pentagon had effected no changes in the White House’s promotion plans, and that Vindman had already been approved. “This was all handled in a normal process,” the official said.
Reuters corroborated the claim that Vindman would have been promoted.
“He shouldn’t have any fear of retaliation,” Sec. Esper said.
Nevertheless, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) created a blanket motion to block over 1,000 military promotions, that could only be broken if Esper “confirms in writing that he did not, or will not, block the expected and deserved promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to Colonel.”
“It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any Commander in Chief to meddle in routine military matters at all, whether or not he has a personal vendetta against a Soldier who did his patriotic duty and told the truth,” Duckworth said in a statement. “This goes far beyond any single military officer, it is about protecting a merit-based system from political corruption and unlawful retaliation.”
In a letter to Vindman following his announcement, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote:
“Right matters. Right does not matter to Donald Trump. But it matters to you...You should not have been subjected to bullying and retaliation from this president. You should not have had to choose between your oath of office and your career.”
After hearing of President Trump’s conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he evidently asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and intimated he would withhold aid from Ukraine if Zelensky refused, Vindman reported the conversation to a White House lawyer.
In February, President Trump removed both Vindman and his brother, Lt. Col Yevgeny Vindman, from their postings in the White House.
It is beyond unacceptable that an officer will lose his career, and that America will lose the services of a capable and courageous officer, because of political interference.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) July 8, 2020
Donald Trump's disrespect for the military has no bounds.https://t.co/ktvKgABUh7
I hope ever Republican who voted against conviction in Trump’s impeachment trial will have the decency to read LTC Vindman’s statement and answer questions about how THIS is acceptable in the United States of America. https://t.co/Pc9uvn3Xqy— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) July 8, 2020
Vindman is trying to declare himself a martyr. Couple issues: (1) He declared “his patriotism cost him his career”, but he was just selected for PROMOTION. He chose to end his own career. (2) He perjured himself under oath about his role sourcing the whistleblower. That’s a crime https://t.co/sCCSDnVF9S— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) July 8, 2020
President Trump accused Vindman of having a tendency to disclose classified information and rebel against authority, but Fiona Hill and Timothy Morrison, former National Security Council officials who worked with Vindman, did not explicitly confirm Trump’s allegations. Morrison did say that Vindman broke protocol by bypassing chain of command to report Trump’s phone call.