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

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Duckworth: Republican coronavirus package would 'gut' Americans With Disabilities Act MORE (D-Ill.) lifted her hold on some military confirmations after she said Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon sends 3 cargo planes to Lebanon filled with aid as questions on blast remain Overnight Defense: Esper says 'most believe' Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says 'nobody knows yet' what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID'd as fourth military COVID-19 death Trump tempers his description of Beirut explosion as an attack: 'Nobody knows yet' MORE confirmed to her that he did not block the promotion of 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 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 John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test 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.”