An Army officer who played a key role in the House’s impeachment inquiry against President Trump was escorted out of the White House on Friday, according to his attorney.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had been scheduled to rotate out of the White House this summer, CNN reported Friday, but speculation swirled Friday morning that he would be leaving as soon as this month.
“Today, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President,” David Pressman said in a statement.
Vindman’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, was also ousted from his role as a judge advocate assigned to the NSC.
“We can confirm that both Lt. Cols. Vindman have been reassigned to the Department of the Army," Col. Kathleen Turner told Military Times in a statement. “Out of respect for their privacy, we will not be providing any further information at this time.”
His move from the NSC was expected, given that he testified in defiance of Trump’s wishes.
“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump told reporters as he spoke to the press outside the White House Friday morning. “I’m not.”
The Ukraine-born infantry officer made headlines last year after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July.
“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” Pressman said. “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.”
In a statement, Rick Manning, president of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government, praised both the move to cut back National Security Council staff and reassign Vindman.
“The simple fact is that the NSC is not a lifetime assignment, and actors like Vindman no longer have any use, as no one in their right mind would include him in any meeting of consequence due to his role leaking confidential presidential conversations,” he said.
Though his compliance with the House investigation went directly against orders from the White House not to cooperate, whistleblower protection law covered him in terms of facing Uniform Code of Military Justice action for disobeying an order.
“If the president were to order the lieutenant colonel not to testify, that would not be a lawful order,” Sean Timmons. a former Army judge advocate and current defense attorney, told Military Times in November.
However, Timmons added, Vindman could face retribution in terms of his career. As part of his detailing to the NSC, his senior rater ― the person who writes his evaluations and recommends him for promotion or future assignments ― could be a high-level White House civilian, who could take action that would leave a mark on his record.
Indeed, leaving his two-year assignment early, as has been reported, would leave a black mark on his record.
"Whistleblowers often sacrifice their careers because they face retaliatory acts from those superiors they reported against,” Timmons said.
Spokespeople for the White House and Army did not immediately return Military Times requests for comment, including whether he had been selected for a follow-on assignment or submitted retirement paperwork. The Army has so far backed Vindman.
“Lt. Col. Vindman, who has served this country honorably for 20-plus years, is fully supported by the Army like every soldier, having earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq in 2004,” Army spokesman Matt Leonard told Military Times in October. “As his career assignments reflect, Lt. Col. Vindman has a long history of selfless service to his country, including combat. Lt. Col. Vindman is afforded all protections anyone would be provided in his circumstances.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.