Trump ousting impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman – Business Insider
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is set to be ousted from the White House after angering the president by testifying in the impeachment inquiry, the New York Times reported on Friday.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he’s “not happy” with Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.
This came after Bloomberg News on Thursday night reported that the White House was weighing a plan to dismiss Vindman.
Vindman catapulted into the national spotlight last year when he offered damning, firsthand testimony of President Donald Trump’s efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into delivering politically motivated investigations against his rivals.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who enraged President Donald Trump and his allies by testifying before House investigators in the impeachment inquiry, is set to be ousted from the White House, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Vindman will be moved out of his position on the National Security Council (NSC) and reassigned within the Department of Defense, though it remains unclear exactly where he’ll be placed, the Times said, per two senior administration officials.
Trump more or less confirmed Vindman’s departure in comments to reporters on Friday before departing for North Carolina.
“I’m not happy with him. You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,” Trump said of Vindman, adding that senior officials will inform him of his future soon. “They’ll make that decision.”
Sources told the outlet that Vindman’s ouster would be portrayed as part of a “broader effort to shrink” the Trump administration’s foreign-policy bureaucracy.
Vindman catapulted into the national spotlight last year when he was one of several witnesses who testified for the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the NSC. He works at the Defense Department but has been detailed to the White House since July 2018. Vindman always planned to return to work at the Pentagon, but his departing ahead of schedule would raise questions about whether the move were politically motivated.
Some officials may be removed from the NSC because they’ve been perceived as having been disloyal to Trump, Bloomberg reported, citing three people familiar with the matter. But the White House plans to characterize Vindman’s ouster, which could come as soon as Friday, as part of a wider effort to clean house rather than a personal vendetta against the decorated veteran.
At the center of the impeachment inquiry was a July 25 phone call in which Trump repeatedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden — a 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner — and the Democratic Party as a whole.
Trump made those demands while withholding vital military aid (which was eventually released) and a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately wanted (and still hasn’t gotten).
Vindman directly listened in on the phone call and testified that he was “concerned” by what he heard.
“It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request — to demand — an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there’s at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation,” he said.
He added: “This would have significant implications if it became public knowledge, and it would be perceived as a partisan play that would undermine our Ukraine policy, and it would undermine our national security.”
Vindman testified that immediately after the call ended, he reported his concerns to John Eisenberg, the NSC’s top lawyer.
“When I reported my concerns, I did so out of a sense of duty,” Vindman said. “My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for this country.”
He added that after he conveyed his concerns to Eisenberg, the lawyer told him not to talk to anyone else about what he had heard. And Vindman said Eisenberg then moved a transcript of the phone call to a top-secret code-word level NSC server typically used to store sensitive information pertaining to national security.
Vindman was also a witness to other episodes that were part of the impeachment inquiry, including a July 10 White House meeting during which Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, explicitly told Ukrainian officials that Zelensky would get a White House meeting if he launched the investigations Trump wanted. Vindman reported details of that meeting to Eisenberg as well.
Vindman faced harsh blowback from the president and his allies in Congress after he testified against Trump behind closed doors and later in public. Among other things, he was accused of being anti-Trump and faced racist allegations of dual loyalty to Ukraine because of his and his family’s status as refugees who fled the Soviet Union four decades ago before coming to the US.
After arriving in the US and completing his education, Vindman joined the Army and received a Purple Heart after being wounded in the Iraq War.
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United State of America in search of a better life for our family,” Vindman testified. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Vindman also expressed gratitude in his belief that he would not face political retaliation for his testimony.
In Russia, he said, “My act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life.”
“I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety,” he said.