President Donald Trump on Saturday blasted an Army officer who played a key role in the impeachment inquiry against him as “insubordinate” and accused him of leaking information to the press, problems that warranted his firing on Friday.
Administration officials have not issued a formal statement on the dismissal of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his National Security Council. On Friday, military officials confirmed he had been reassigned to a new Army position.
Just hours before the move, Trump told reporters that he was “not happy” with Vindman but would leave the decision on his job up to NSC staffers. Vindman had been scheduled to rotate out of his White House post this summer.
But a day after the soldier’s dismissal, Trump took to social media to blast Vindman as an untrustworthy employee.
“He was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, and was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “In other words, ‘OUT.’”
Trump also put Vindman’s military ranks in quotation marks in the tweet, apparently questioning his military credentials.
Army officials confirmed that Vindman’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, was also ousted from his role as a judge advocate assigned to the NSC.
The Ukraine-born infantry officer made headlines in October after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, expressing concerns that Trump attempted to use the call to start a foreign investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Friday night, during the Democratic presidential primary debate in New Hampshire, Biden asked the crowd for a standing ovation to recognize Vindman’s courage.
“That is who we are,” he said as the crowd applauded. “We are not what Trump is.”
Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman, told reporters on Friday that testifying against Trump “has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril.
“And for that, the most powerful man in the world ― buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit ― has decided to exact revenge.”
Saturday afternoon, Pressman disputed the facts of the president’s statements in the tweet.
“The President this morning made a series of obviously false statements concerning Lieutenant Colonel Vindman,” he said in an emailed statement. “They conflict with the clear personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the President is well aware. While the most powerful man in the world continues his campaign of intimidation, while too many entrusted with political office continue to remain silent, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military.”
Trump was acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power on Wednesday in a largely party-line vote. Since then, Trump has repeatedly vowed to go after the “evil” individuals he believes have persecuted his administration and family.
The president spent Saturday morning on Twitter alternating between attacking the impeachment inquiry and ridiculing the candidates who participated in the Democratic debate.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.