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Duckworth releases hold on military confirmations, citing proof Vindman earned promotion

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit US, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says MORE (D-Ill.) lifted her hold on some military confirmations after she said Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Navy denies NFL rookie Cameron Kinley's request to delay commission to play for Tampa Bay Overnight Defense: Pentagon keeps Trump-era ban on flying LGBT flags | NATO chief urges 'consequences' for Belarus MORE confirmed to her that he did not block the promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanVindman says he doesn't regret testimony against Trump Esper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden MORE to colonel.

Duckworth, a combat veteran who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had said earlier this month that she intended to block the Senate confirmation of 1,123 senior U.S. armed forces promotions until Esper confirmed Vindman did not face any obstacles in his promotion after appearing as a prominent witness in the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE

“Donald Trump’s unprecedented efforts to further politicize our military by retaliating against Lt. Col. Vindman—for doing his patriotic duty of telling the truth under oath—are unconscionable. I’m glad the Department of Defense was finally able to set the record straight that Vindman had earned and was set to receive a promotion to Colonel,” Duckworth said in a statement. “We must always protect the merit-based system that is the foundation of our Armed Forces from political corruption and unlawful retaliation.”

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Democrats have accused the Trump administration of trying to politicize the military after Vindman was ousted from his role on the National Security Council and escorted out of the White House following his testimony. 

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

“Our military is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy,” Duckworth said when she first announced she would block the military confirmations. “It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any Commander in Chief to meddle in routine military matters at all, whether or not he has a personal vendetta against a Soldier who did his patriotic duty and told the truth—a Soldier who has been recommended for promotion by his superiors because of his performance.”

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 National Security Council, was dismissed from his position the same day as his brother.  

Vindman ultimately announced last week that he was retiring from the Army after serving in the branch for over two decades. Ambassador David Pressman, Vindman’s attorney, said in a statement that his client was retiring “after it has been made clear that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”