Court Battles

Judge dismisses Vindman witness intimidation suit against Trump Jr., Giuliani

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman that accused former President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., Trump ally Rudy Giuliani and others of witness intimidation and retaliation related to Vindman’s congressional testimony against the former president.

The 29-page ruling was issued by Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. He said Vindman’s complaint failed to make an adequate showing that the defendants conspired against him.

“Plaintiff’s pled facts, taken as true, certainly suggest that Defendants leveled harsh, meanspirited, and at times misleading attacks against him,” Boasberg wrote. “But political hackery alone does not violate [the law at issue].”

Vindman gained national prominence in 2019 after he testified about a phone call in which Trump was alleged to have offered a quid pro quo to the president of Ukraine, a phone call which led to Trump’s first impeachment.

The alleged deal involved an exchange of U.S. military aid for an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his ties to Ukrainian businesses during the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Vindman was serving as director for European affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) at the time of Trump’s July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promptly raised concerns about the discussion with the NSC’s lead counsel, leading to his eventual subpoena by Congress.

His lawsuit alleged that, following his subpoena, Vindman became the target of “a dangerous campaign of witness intimidation by President Trump and a group of conspirators” in an effort to deter him from testifying.

Among the defendants listed in the federal suit are Trump Jr. and Giuliani, as well as Trump advisers Dan Scavino and Julia Hahn. 

In his Tuesday ruling, Boasberg dismissed the litigation against all the defendants.

“While it is a fairly close question,” he wrote, “Vindman’s facts do not plausibly suggest that Defendants agreed to intimidate him so as to prevent him from testifying or doing his job, or to unlawfully retaliate against him.”

Vindman’s suit claimed Trump’s allies retaliated against him by temporarily blocking his promotion in the Army and abruptly removing him and his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, from their White House posts. His complaint alleged two counts of violating federal law prohibiting conspiracy to intimidate and retaliate against a witness.

Vindman, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union as a child, had been a star impeachment witness against Trump, providing testimony before Congress that included a viral moment in which he described telling his father not to worry about the risks involved in his bearing witness against a sitting American president.

“He deeply worried about it because in his context, there was the ultimate risk,” Vindman said at the time. He later added, “This is America. This is the country I’ve served and defended. That all of my brothers have served. Here, right matters.”

Trump’s first impeachment, which centered on his dealings with Ukraine, ended in acquittal after a nearly party-line vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Harmeet Dhillon, who represented Trump Jr. and Scavino in the case, hailed the ruling.

“We’re gratified that the court accepted our arguments that even taken as pled, the allegations made by Alex Vindmann, do not violate his civil rights,” Dhillon said. “Harsh political criticism is still allowed in America.”

An attorney for Protect Democracy, which worked with Vindman on the case, expressed disappointment with the decision.

“While we are disappointed by the court’s decision and are considering next steps, we have no doubt that it was right for Lt. Col. Vindman to seek accountability in court for the coordinated campaign of intimidation and retaliation waged against him because he honored his oath as a public servant,” the counsel, Kristy Parker, said in a statement.

Updated at the 8:54 p.m.

Tags Alexander Vindman James Boasberg Joe Biden Rudy Giuliani
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