A coalition of more than 1,100 veterans on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump for his continued attacks on an Army officer who testified against him in the impeachment inquiry, noting that military rules bar the service member from defending himself publicly.
“The president should know that, despite taking aim at one Army officer, he has targeted anyone who currently wears — or has worn — the uniform,” the group stated in an open letter. “Our service members and veterans deserve the confidence of knowing that our elected leaders will come to their defense, just as they remain vigilant for ours.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified before a House committee last fall against the wishes of the White House, was dismissed from his post on the National Security Council on Feb. 7. Administration officials initially called the move part of a routine downsizing of the office, but Trump later blasted Vindman as a sub-par worker who may have leaked government secrets.
Vindman’s attorney has publicly denied the charges and called the dismissal a personal attack by the president against a honorably serving military officer. Vindman testified before lawmakers that he had concerns Trump had used a phone call with the Ukrainian president to push for a foreign investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The dismissal of LTC Vindman … appears to be motivated by nothing more than political retribution and deprives the White House of expertise necessary to defend our collective national security,” the group stated in the new letter. “The manner of these dismissals suggests that the commander-in-chief has prioritized a personal vendetta over our national security.”
The effort, organized by the anti-Trump group National Security Action, includes signatures from prominent figures such as former U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall and former Connecticut Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Shepard Stone.
It also features a host of veterans activists connected to both the Truman National Security Project and Common Defense, whose leaders said their goal is to protect military members from harassment and abuse from the White House.
Just days after Vindman’s removal, in an event with multiple veterans advocates gathered around the Oval Office, Trump called for the Army to look into whether further punishment against Vindman was warranted. On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said there is no current investigation into the officer.
The new letter states that Trump’s attacks on the officer “take aim at the long-standing military code of conduct that demands that service members report wrongdoing and illegal acts through proper channels.”
Recently, former White House chief of staff and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly publicly defended Vindman, saying he was right to raise concerns about the phone call. Multiple members of Congress have also demanded that Trump retract his remarks about punishment or investigation of Vindman.
Trump has offered no such concession. The House voted to impeach the president late last year over the phone call issue, but earlier this month the Senate voted to leave him in office after failing to find enough evidence to warrant his dismissal.
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.