Trump adviser denies Vindman ouster was retaliation: ‘We are not a banana republic’
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien is denying that the dismissal of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council (NSC) was retribution for the testimony he provided in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
Commenting on the ouster of Vindman and his brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, O’Brien insisted during remarks at the Atlantic Council think tank on Tuesday that the two were “not retaliated against.”
Instead, O’Brien said that “their services were no longer needed” and that he ultimately made the decision to recall both of the officials.
“The president is entitled to staffers that want to execute his policy, that he has confidence in,” O’Brien said. “We’re not a country where a bunch of lieutenant colonels can get together and decide what the policy is of the United States. We are not a banana republic.”
Asked if that happened the Vindmans’ case, O’Brien said, “No, I’m just saying we’re not that country — the president is entitled to a staff he has confidence in.”
Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House on Friday and told to leave the NSC shortly after Trump told reporters that he was “not happy” with the official. David Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, said that Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC ethics lawyer, was escorted out of the White House and removed from his position on the same day. O’Brien said the two have since returned to their posts in the Army.
The moves followed the Senate vote to acquit Trump of two impeachment articles approved in the House. While O’Brien stated that the dismissals were not retaliation, Trump tweeted Saturday that Alexander Vindman was “very insubordinate.” He also claimed that the NSC official relayed information about his talks with Ukraine “incorrectly” and that he had “problems with judgement.”
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Trump also suggested that the military should consider further disciplinary action against Vindman.
“We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want. Gen. Milley has him now. I congratulate Gen. Milley. He can have him,” Trump said, referring to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
O’Brien pushed back against describing the Vindmans’ recalls as firings, stating that “none of the detailees that leave NSC are fired.”
“It’s a privilege to work at the White House, it’s not a right. … The Vindmans had served there for over a year. Their services were no longer needed,” he said. “The president has to have confidence in his NSC staff to ensure that they’re going to execute the agenda he was elected to deliver.”
Alexander Vindman, who had been slated to work with the NSC until July, became a central figure in the House impeachment proceedings into Trump’s alleged dealings with Ukraine. Among other things, he testified that he found Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with the Ukrainian president inappropriate and that he had reported it to White House lawyers.
Updated at 9:37 a.m.
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