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Democrats press Pentagon watchdog to probe allegations of retaliation against Vindman brothers

Democrats press Pentagon watchdog to probe allegations of retaliation against Vindman brothers
© Greg Nash

Four top Democrats are urging the Pentagon's watchdog to launch an investigation into whether there was a concerted effort to retaliate against two Defense Department officials tied to President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE's impeachment inquiry.

In a Wednesday letter, the House Democrats asked acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell to examine reports of retaliation against Lt. Colonel 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, a key impeachment witness, and his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, who served as deputy legal adviser on the National Security Council (NSC).

The Democrats highlighted a "disturbing" complaint from Yevgeny Vindman filed earlier this month with the watchdog's office that detailed allegations of whistleblower reprisal against military personnel by White House officials. Yevgeny Vindman's attorneys on Wednesday confirmed that their client filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint.

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"It raises disturbing new allegations which, if true, would further substantiate our concerns that he was retaliated against for making protected disclosures about potential legal and ethical violations committed by multiple White House officials, including President Trump," the Democrats wrote to the Department of Defense (DOD) inspector general (IG).

"Based on this new information, it is all the more urgent that the DOD IG immediately investigate whether adverse personnel actions taken against LTC Alexander Vindman and LTC Y. Vindman were carried out in retaliation for their protected disclosures, and that your investigation include a close examination of actions taken by White House officials," they added.

The letter was led by Reps. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyDOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Government watchdog finds federal cybersecurity has 'regressed' in recent years Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation MORE (D-N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHigh alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting MORE (D-Wash.), respectively the chairs of the House Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees, as well as Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchUS wasted billions of dollars in Afghanistan: watchdog House Oversight requests Secret Service briefing on threats of extremist violence in wake of Capitol riot The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Republicans squeeze Biden with 0 billion COVID-19 relief alternative MORE (Mass.), who heads the Oversight and Reform panel's Subcommittee on National Security.

Democrats say the new allegations suggest Yevgeny Vindman was punished not only for raising concerns about Trump's July 2019 call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he pressed the foreign leader to investigate his political foes, but also for reporting ethics and legal compliance concerns about top officials at the NSC related to misused government resources and treatment of women in the office.

Those allegations pertained to Robert O'BrienRobert O'BrienWhite House aides head for exits after chaos at Capitol Top Melania Trump aide Stephanie Grisham resigns Trump national security adviser defends Pence MORE, White House national security adviser, and NSC chief of staff Alex Gray. Yevgeny Vindman laid out the concerns in a memorandum to the DOD Office of General Counsel a few weeks after being removed from the NSC staff earlier this year. He remains on active duty with the U.S. military.

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"There were allegations of sexism, violations of standards of ethical conduct for employees and violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act ... I notified my supervisors on the NSC staff and White House Counsel’s Office about each of these concerns," he wrote, noting that these concerns fell within his purview.

"To my knowledge no action was taken ... While any of these infractions are serious, together they form a disturbing pattern of flagrant disregard for rules. I fear that if this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed," he added.

Alexander Vindman said his retirement in July was due to “a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies” that hampered the progression of his military career.

 “This experience has been painful, but I am not alone in this ignominious fate,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

Updated at 1:54 p.m.