Biden faces calls to let Vindman twin retire as colonel

Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, left, the twin brother of National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, right, listens to testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Biden is facing calls to allow Col. Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who alongside his twin brother Alexander blew the whistle on former President Trump’s July 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to retire with the title of colonel. 

Vindman was promoted to colonel in March of last year by Biden after his career was sidetracked by a bad review — something the Defense Department’s inspector general later determined was likely a reprisal for his involvement in expressing concerns over Trump’s actions on the phone call.

But to officially retire as a colonel, one must hold the rank for three years. 

Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which wrote the letter to Biden, said the move would have significance beyond a formal title. 

“In granting this waiver, you will reinforce a critical message: those who stand up with courage for the constitution and the rule of law will be rewarded, and retaliation will not be tolerated,” they write. 

Two days after Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges over his dealings with Ukraine in the Senate, both Vindman brothers were escorted out of the White House. Their promotions to colonel were delayed. While Alexander Vindman retired, Eugene Vindman received a career-damaging negative performance review from a superior who, one year earlier, had praised him as one of the best military lawyers and officers he had ever worked with. 

Eugene Vindman is set to retire this coming Wednesday. 

“His one goal, as he faces a retirement he would not have chosen had his career not been thwarted, is to retire with the rank of Colonel. This would require, by statute, that you approve a waiver of the requirement that he serve three years in rank prior to retirement; he has served more than a year as Colonel. A waiver would not raise his pension, rather, it would provide him with only the honor and recognition due for his service to the country,” the letter adds. 

The group has gotten 5,000 signatures on its letter, which was sent to Biden late Thursday.

“There are military heroes. There are legal heroes. Then there are those like Colonel Vindman who are both. He deserves to retire with the rank that he has so well earned,” Norm Eisen, an attorney who served as co-counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment. 

Legal scholar Laurence Tribe is also backing the effort. 

“Eugene Vindman, like his brother, Alex, is a profile in courage. He blew the whistle on a president who tried to extort a foreign leader and got impeached for it. We should award Eugene his rank in retirement and honor ourselves by doing so. This is about who we are as a country. Do we honor heroes who stand up for the rule of law, or do we watch in silence while they walk away without our thanks?” he said in a statement to The Hill. 

Tags Biden Donald Trump Eugene Vindman Lawyers Defending American Democracy Volodymyr Zelensky

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