Schumer requests details on how Pentagon is protecting impeachment witnesses

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it 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 TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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 VindmanPresident Trump's intelligence community security blanket Whistleblower's lawyer questions GOP senator's whistleblower protection caucus membership White House limits number of officials allowed to listen to Trump calls with foreign leaders: report 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 BidenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' 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.