- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House on Friday, nearly three months after he testified against President Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry.
- Vindman was a key witness who voiced his concerns about Trump’s contact with Ukraine while also addressing his worries about speaking out against the president.
- In comments to reporters at the time, Defense Secretary Mark Esper vowed that Vindman was protected by guidelines meant to shield whistleblowers from retaliation.
- Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, in what appeared to be a sweeping act of personal vengeance once the impeachment process wrapped up in the Senate.
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President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman appears to cross guarantees that Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously voiced, that vowed protections for whistleblowers.
In a Friday night segment, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed to a November 2019 tweet from Marcus Weisgerber, an editor at military and defense outlet Defense One, which contained a transcript of an exchange with Esper, where the secretary said there was “no retaliation” allowed under the law against whistleblowers.
“All I’m saying is that if you come forward with information that you feel is, that you feel you are a whistleblower, then you are protected,” Esper said, according to the transcript.
—Marcus Weisgerber (@MarcusReports) November 11, 2019
Maddow said Friday night that the comments deserved to be “re-upped in the public record,” hours after Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and his twin brother were fired from their posts in the White House.
Vindman openly voiced his concerns over retaliation
Vindman came into Trump’s crosshairs last fall, when he testified in the House impeachment inquiry on November 19 about his firsthand knowledge of Trump’s contact with Ukrainian authorities and his concerns over a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former President Joe Biden and his son.
During the opening statement in his testimony, Vindman compared the treatment of whistleblowers in America to how they might be treated in Russia before addressing his father, who came to America from the Soviet Union, and reiterating his commitment to “telling the truth.”
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” Vindman said. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Vindman’s lawyer said in a scathing statement released Friday that Vindman was fired for “telling the truth,” which stood in direct contrast to reports around the February 7 firing claiming the move was a “broader effort to shrink” the Trump administration’s foreign-policy bureaucracy. Comments from Trump and his closest allies quickly undercut that already-shaky defense.
Trump told reporters hours before Vindman’s departure that he was “not happy” with the official, who testified in compliance with a lawful congressional subpoena. Trump’s comment came days after White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president believes “people should pay for” the way Trump was treated.
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., offered up perhaps the most damning comment on the background of the decision, tweeting, “Allow me a moment to thank—and this may be a bit of a surprise—Adam Schiff,” referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman who managed witness testimony in the impeachment hearings.
“Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam! #FullOfSchiff,” Trump Jr. wrote.