Democratic lawmakers are asking for a full investigation into claims of retaliation and unethical behavior towards the Army lieutenant colonel who testified in impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump last summer and his brother, a fellow soldier.
The move came as attorneys confirmed that the brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, recently filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Defense Department’s Inspector General, alleging both men were harassed and forced out of their roles on the National Security Council.
“Senior White House officials, to include the president, retaliated against him for performing his duty as an attorney and a soldier,” attorney Mark Zaid said in a statement.
“Actions were improperly taken against him in retaliation for his protected disclosures involving matters that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment, as well as disclosures of misconduct by other current members of the president’s national security team.”
More than 1,100 Army lieutenant colonels have seen their promotions held up by a battle between Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and the Trump administration.
On Wednesday, the chairs of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked acting Defense Department Inspector General Sean O’Donnell to take up the complaint and provide a full examination of the allegations.
“(The complaint) raises disturbing new allegations which, if true, would further substantiate our concerns that (Vindman) was retaliated against for making potential legal and ethical violations committed by multiple White House officials, including President Trump,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to O’Donnell.
The controversy centers around Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified before House lawmakers last summer that he had concerns about a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky where the American leaders pushed for a foreign investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
That testimony was a key part in the impeachment case against Trump, who was later acquitted of the charges by the Senate.
Earlier this year, both of the Vindman brothers were dismissed from their roles on the National Security Council. White House officials called it part of normal rotations out of that office, but the argument was undercut by Trump’s public attacks on Alexander Vindman and his requests for an Army investigation into the soldier’s behavior.
Alexander Vindman left the Army earlier this summer after he was denied a promotion, a move which his supporters allege was a directive from Trump.
The complaint from Yevgeny Vindman says he was not only targeted by senior officials for his brother’s actions but also because he raised concerns about multiple problems within the NSA, including officials misusing staff for personal tasks, demonstrating sexist behavior against women in the office, and using their roles to assist friends outside the agency.
More than 1,100 signers called the soldier an honorable public servant who deserves protection from the commander in chief.
Lawmakers said they need answers to all the allegations, in order to ensure that military members can report wrongdoing without fear of reprisal from superiors.
“It is imperative that (Yevgeny) Vindman, who dedicated his career to serving his country, be given the opportunity to have the allegations he has raised be reviewed appropriately and independently, without political interference from the White House,” they said.
Yevgeny Vindman is still serving in the Army, though not in his previous White House role. In a Washington Post essay released earlier this month, Alexander Vidnman wrote that he decided to retire “because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career.”
O’Donnell has served in the Defense Department Inspector General’s office since April.