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Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Retires Because of 'Bullying' and 'Retaliation' by Trump

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Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Retires Because of 'Bullying' and 'Retaliation' by Trump

2020-07-09 13:13:00

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Alexander Vindman (Image source: Screenshot)

The impeachment trial is still having lasting effects. Sure, Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate after the House impeached him, but he's been clearing house since he was acquitted, focusing on that perhaps more than he should, considering the country is in the midst of a major health crisis.

The ripple effect is still being felt five months after he was acquitted, with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman retiring from the Army this week, complaining of "bullying" and "retaliation" by the president, after the Army officer, who served as a national security aide, testified against him last fall. He was up for promotion to colonel this week but concerned that Trump would strike his name from the possible promotions, he retired instead.

In July 2019, Trump participated in a call with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. He asked him to conduct investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, and Hunter Biden, his surviving son, who had business in Ukraine. He reportedly dangled aid over Zelensky's head, indicating his country would get the aid after he went public with investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 election.

There has been much speculation about what was said and not said in that conversation. Vindman, the National Security Council's Ukraine expert, was on the call and testified in the impeachment hearings under subpoena. He said Trump appeared to link the aid to the desire for the investigations.

"Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the president of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose between adhering to the law or pleasing a president. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers," said David Pressman, Vindman's attorney. "LTC Vindman's patriotism has cost him his career."

Vindman posted a message to Twitter that said he had requested retirement from the Army, "an organization I love." He added, "My family and I look forward to the next chapter of our lives."

Last month, The Washington Post reported that government officials have been concerned that the White House would try to prevent Vindman's promotion. He and hundreds of other officers were selected by the Army to be promoted. Officials have said Trump strongly disliked the Army officer and might move to prevent his promotion.

A senior defense official said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had signed off Monday on the recommendations for promotion to colonel, with Vindman's name still on the list. It was expected that the list would reach the White House by the end of the week. After review, the White House would be charged with transmitting it to the Senate for approval.

The top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), said he hadn't seen the list. The panel is in charge of approving promotions of senior officers.

"But we need answers directly from Secretary Esper about what role, if any, the Trump Administration played in this process," said Reed, himself a former Army officer, in a statement. "Because failing to protect the military promotion process from partisanship sends a terrible signal to all our troops."

After Trump was acquitted, Vindman was removed from his position. The president has repeatedly attacked the officer, who is also a Purple Heart recipient for his actions in Iraq, on Twitter.

Esper has been on the outs with Trump after disagreeing with his option to use the military as a government response to the racial unrest after George Floyd's death. Pentagon leaders, including Esper, pulled away to show they weren't aligned with his option.

This is especially true for Esper, who was seen posing for the photo op with Trump and other officials at the church near the White House after the National Guard used force on the peaceful protesters to clear them.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said last week she would block the promotion of more than 1,000 officers unless Esper assured her that there would be no retaliation for Vindman. On Wednesday, after his retirement was announced, she said she would continue to hold the promotions until Esper verified to her in writing that he did nothing to interfere with Vindman's promotion.

House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) said he believed Trump and his allies would "privately cheer" the retirement of Vindman because of the alleged retaliation against him. 

"That's how the president and his enablers regard public servants — in uniform or otherwise — who uphold their oaths to the Constitution, rather than giving into the cult of personal loyalty that has rotted our government from the inside for the last three and a half years," said Engel.

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