Impeachment witness Alexander Vindman escorted from White House
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House on Friday and told to leave his position at the National Security Council (NSC), according to a statement released by his attorney.
Vindman was one of the key witnesses who testified in connection with the House impeachment inquiry about President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president during which Trump raised investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.
“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,” David Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, said in a statement. “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
When asked for comment Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said the NSC does not comment on personnel matters.
Reports began to surface on Thursday that Vindman, a career official and the top Ukraine expert on the NSC, was expected to be ousted from his position. Trump was acquitted in an impeachment trial by the GOP-controlled Senate on Wednesday.
Trump, who called Vindman a “never Trumper” during the impeachment proceedings, told reporters earlier Friday that he was “not happy” with Vindman but did not respond directly to a question of whether he wanted him to leave the White House.
“Well, I’m not happy with him. You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not. They’ll make that decision. You’ll be hearing. They’ll make a decision,” Trump, apparently referring to the NSC, told reporters Friday morning before departing for a speech in North Carolina.
Trump later shared tweets calling for Vindman’s dismissal over his participation in the impeachment inquiry.
Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, accused Trump of exacting “revenge” on his client for testifying pursuant to a subpoena in connection with the impeachment inquiry.
“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,” Pressman said. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”
Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother who also works at the NSC, was also escorted from the White House and removed from his position “with no explanation” on Friday, according to Pressman.
Alexander Vindman, who listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, testified publicly and in private about his concerns regarding the phone call. He described it as inappropriate and recounted how he reported it to White House lawyers.
Trump has insisted that the phone call was “perfect,” denying any wrongdoing and describing himself as the victim of a partisan impeachment effort orchestrated by House Democrats to damage him ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump celebrated his impeachment acquittal in remarks at the White House on Thursday, expressing no remorse for his actions and criticizing his political opponents.
“We went through hell, unfairly,” Trump told a crowd of supportive members of Congress, media figures and administration officials in the East Room on Thursday, adding that he “did nothing wrong.”
Trump also briefly mentioned Vindman and his brother at the event, but didn’t comment on them extensively.
Vindman was on detail to the White House and was dismissed early. He is expected to assume a position at the Pentagon before going to the National War College in July, according to The New York Times.
Asked whether Vindman would be welcomed back to the Pentagon earlier Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters: “We welcome back all of our service members wherever they served, to any assignment they are given.”
Trump was charged by the Democratic-controlled House with abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to pursue investigations into his political rivals and with obstructing the impeachment inquiry.
While a handful of Republican senators described his conduct as inappropriate, only one — Utah’s Mitt Romney — crossed party lines to vote with Senate Democrats to remove Trump from office for abusing his power.
Trump’s lawyers say that he did not use a White House meeting nor security funding to Ukraine to push for the investigations — a charge leveled by Democrats — and that the alleged offenses did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Vindman’s ouster from the White House follows the departures of other key impeachment witnesses, including former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and William Taylor, the U.S. diplomat who replaced her in Kyiv after she was subjected to a smear campaign from Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Updated at 5:37 p.m.