Vindman, key impeachment witness, to retire from Army

Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanVindman describes 'campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation' by Trump, allies in op-ed Vindman marks 1 year since call that led to Trump's impeachment White House officials alleged Vindman created hostile work environment after impeachment testimony: report MORE, who testified in the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE, is retiring from the Army after serving for more than two decades.

Amb. David Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, said in a statement that Vindman is retiring Wednesday “after it has been made clear that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”

Shortly after the statement, Vindman tweeted the announcement. 

A former White House national security official, Vindman was escorted out of the White House and told to leave his position in February after providing damaging testimony about Trump’s July 25, 2019, phone conversation with Ukraine’s president, which was at the center of his impeachment. Vindman’s dismissal followed Trump’s acquittal by the GOP-controlled Senate.

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The Washington Post reported last month that government officials expressed concern that Trump would block Vindman’s promotion to full colonel because of his actions during the impeachment inquiry.

Pressman did not explicitly accuse the White House of intervening in the promotion process but accused the president of executing “a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation.”

“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. These are choices that no one in the United States should confront, especially one who has dedicated his life to serving it,” Pressman said.

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The White House's National Security Council (NSC) declined to comment on Vindman's retirement or his lawyer's statement. Cynthia O. Smith, an Army spokeswoman, said in an email that the service does not comment on personnel matters.

Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient, had been expected to attend the National War College before Wednesday’s announcement.

A career official and the NSC's top expert on Ukraine, he testified last year that he was so concerned about Trump’s 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he reported it to the White House lawyer.

Trump asked Zelensky on the call to investigate a debunked theory about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016 election interference as well as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine. Vindman, among a handful of officials who listened in on the call, testified that it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.”

Vindman, who was on detail from the Defense Department, returned to a position there following his ouster from the White House. His twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who also worked at the NSC, was dismissed from his position the same day as his brother.  

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Trump, who denied any wrongdoing during his impeachment and called the Zelensky call “perfect,” had made clear that he was unhappy with Vindman for testifying, at one point dismissing him as a “Never Trumper” during the impeachment proceedings.

Following his reassignment in February, Trump suggested the military should consider additional disciplinary action against Vindman. Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark Esper400 'hard-core' Taliban prisoners to be released ahead of Afghan peace talks Esper says officials still don't know source of Beirut blast Esper says US troop presence in Afghanistan will be 'less than 5,000' by November MORE separately signaled there would be no punishment for Vindman and noted the Pentagon protects its service members from retribution. 

Meanwhile, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien denied that the Vindmans had been retaliated against.

Recent questions about Vindman’s promotion caused Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report Biden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip MORE (D-Ill.) last week to threaten to block more than 1,000 military promotions unless Esper confirmed Vindman’s promotion would not be blocked. 

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat Veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief,” Duckworth said in a statement Wednesday.

Duckworth never received any confirmation from Esper and plans to continue her hold on the nominees until he explains the situation, her office said.

Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley are due to testify before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday on the military’s role in responding to protests, but they could also face questions about the circumstances leading up to Vindman’s retirement.

—Updated at 3:22 p.m.