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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 John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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 VindmanJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Hayden endorses Biden, says Trump 'doesn't care about facts' Impeachment witness Alexander Vindman calls Trump Putin's 'useful idiot' 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 Bosher MaloneyTrump, House lawyers return to court in fight over subpoena for financial records Safeguarding US elections by sanctioning Russian sovereign debt Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas MORE (D-N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (D-Calif.) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Democratic House chairman trusts Pentagon won't follow 'unlawful orders' on election involvement Democratic chairman 'unconvinced' by arguments to slash defense budget, but open to debate MORE (D-Wash.), respectively the chairs of the House Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees, as well as Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Top general negative for coronavirus, Pentagon chief to get tested after Trump result l Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers 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'BrienOvernight Defense: More COVID-19 cases on USS Theodore Roosevelt | Trump adviser fires back at general over Afghanistan | US blasts Turkey's test of air defense system Trump adviser shoots back at top general: 'I wasn't speculating' on Afghanistan troop levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy 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.