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GOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying'

Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOn The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the panel, are vowing to protect whistleblowers in the intelligence community from retaliation.

The senators issued their statement on Friday, a day after the lawyer for 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 said his client would retire after 21 years of service in the Army because of “bullying, intimidation and retaliation." Vindman's congressional testimony last year contributed to the impeachment of President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE.

The statement also follows a Politico story on Thursday saying Russell Travers, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired without explanation in March after reporting concerns to the intelligence community’s inspector general that intelligence agencies were falling behind in handling intelligence related to terrorist threats.

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Rubio and Warner on Friday said the Senate Intelligence Committee would continue to uphold the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits reprisals against employees who make lawful disclosures of fraud, waste or abuse.

“Consistent with its mandate to oversee the activities and programs of the Intelligence Community, the Committee takes seriously all complaints it receives pursuant to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA),” the senators said in a joint statement.

They also praised the whistleblower protection law as “an essential channel for ensuring evidence of wrongdoing rising to the level of an urgent concern is brought” to Congress’s attention.

“Without commenting on the specifics of any single instance, the American public can be assured that this Committee’s approach to ICWPA complaints is, and will remain, one defined by vigorous oversight, adherence to the law, and recognition of Congress’ Constitutional obligations,” the senators added.

Their statement came after Vindman announced his retirement and cited concern that his career in the military would “forever be limited” because of retaliation from Trump or his allies in the administration.

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As a career official and the National Security Council's top expert on Ukraine, Vindman 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.

The president fired Vindman from the National Security Council in February, months before he was scheduled to leave. That same month Trump also fired U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Biden to mark Tuesday anniversary of George Floyd's death Trump impeachment witness suing Pompeo, State over legal fees America's practice of 'pay-to-play' ambassadors is no joke MORE, another key impeachment witness.

At the same time, Trump fired Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, from the National Security Council.

Updated at 12:56 p.m.