Schumer requests details on how Pentagon is protecting impeachment witnesses

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell launches ad touting role in passing coronavirus relief Joe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.Y.) is pushing the Pentagon for details on how it is protecting officials from retaliation when they testify as part of the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE.

Schumer sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday asking for details on how the department is protecting two officials set to testify this week, as well as requesting the Pentagon formally notify personnel about their ability to share information with Congress.

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"I believe the Department of Defense must do more to formally ensure that all Department military and civilian personnel understand that they may make protected disclosures to Congress free from retaliation," Schumer wrote in the letter.  

Schumer, in his letter to Esper, also asks the Defense Department to "immediately cease any efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with Congress" and hand over requested documents related to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the program at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.  

He also wants a briefing on "what actions are being taken to ensure that [Lieutenant Colonel] Vindman, Ms. Cooper, and other whistleblowers like them are afforded appropriate protections — both from workplace reprisals and for their personal safety and that of their families." 

Both Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanAmerica's diplomats deserve our respect White House withdraws nomination for Pentagon budget chief who questioned Ukraine aid hold Juan Williams: Will the GOP ever curb Trump? MORE, the leading Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, are expected to testify publicly this week as part of the second round of impeachment inquiry hearings. 

The House is weeks into its investigation into whether Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country opening up an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE and his son Hunter Biden. The House Intelligence Committee is set to have three days of public hearings this week, with a total of eight individuals testifying.  

Trump has lashed out at Vindman, describing him as a "Never Trumper" — comments that sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

Schumer, in his letter to Esper, praised Vindman, Cooper and whistleblowers more broadly.

"They are patriots for being willing to do what we hope and expect all civilian and military officials will do when asked: tell the truth. It is incumbent on you to ensure that they and others who come forward are afforded the same protections as whistleblowers and are protected from retaliation," he added.