Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman followed protocol when he raised concerns about President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to former White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Vindman, who was removed from his position on the National Security Council last week, was present during the phone call where Trump suggested Ukraine launch an investigation into former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. Vindman then voiced concerns about the nature of the call to the NSC’s lead counsel.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said during an event at Drew University on Feb. 12, according to The Atlantic. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
"We teach them, 'Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,'" said Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general.
Trump on Thursday took to his favorite social media to hit back against Kelly.
Hours after The Atlantic story was published, Trump attacked Kelly and said that he ‘misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut." Trump also claimed Kelly wasn’t cut out to serve as chief of staff.
The phone call served as the cornerstone of the House’s impeachment inquiry against Trump, and Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee he raised concerns about the call because it is “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.”
Before his dismissal, Vindman was the NSC’s top Ukraine expert. He was not slated to leave his NSC post until the summer.
Although White House officials initially said his departure was due to a restructuring of the office, Trump later described Vindman as ‘very insubordinate,’ and had challenges following instructions from superiors.
“He was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & 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, who has denied any wrongdoing regarding Ukraine, tweeted Saturday.
Trump also said Tuesday that Vindman was removed from his post for inaccurately portraying the call in his testimony, noting that he “wasn’t happy with the job he did.” The president also signaled that the Army could consider taking disciplinary action against Vindman.
In response, Vindman’s lawyer rejected claims that his client leaked sensitive information and said Trump’s accusations were “obviously false.”
“While the most powerful man in the world continues his campaign of intimidation, while too many entrusted with political office continue to remain silent, Lt. Col. Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military,” David Pressman said.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump on Feb. 5, clearing him from charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Vindman was dismissed from his post days later on Feb. 7, as was his twin brother who also served on the NSC, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman.