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Impeachment witness Alexander Vindman calls Trump Putin's 'useful idiot'

Former National Security Council Ukraine expert Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanEsper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden Alexander Vindman congratulates Biden, Harris on election victory MORE called President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinScarborough says he'll never return to Republican Party after GOP supported Trump Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Russian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan MORE’s “useful idiot” in a new interview.

“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,” Vindman told The Atlantic's editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg.

“They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” he said when asked if the Kremlin has material to blackmail Trump­­. “They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”

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Vindman gained a national profile with his testimony against the president in the House’s impeachment inquiry last year. He retired from the military this July, saying a retaliatory campaign by the president had stalled his promotion to the rank of colonel. White House communications director Alyssa Farah, however, has called the allegation that Vindman was the victim of retaliation “ridiculous and false,” although Trump has tweeted that he was “very insubordinate.”

“The president destroyed my Army career,” Vindman told Goldberg in the interview published Monday. “I’m not crying over spilled milk. I have other things to do.”

The Atlantic interview marks Vindman’s first public remarks against Trump since the impeachment hearings.

“I was drawn into this by the president, who politicized me. I think it’s important for the American people to know that this could happen to any honorable service member, any government official,” he said. “I think it’s important for me to tell people that I think the president has made this country weaker.”

Goldberg was the first to report earlier this month that President Trump had called American troops buried in a French cemetery “losers.” The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The New York Times and Fox News have since backed up parts of the reporting. Trump has denied the allegations.