The US army officer who told impeachment investigators that Donald Trump made “inappropriate” demands of his Ukrainian counterpart has been sacked from his post at the National Security Council and escorted out of the White House, his lawyer said.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert, earned Mr Trump’s ire after testifying about the president’s phone call with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, where Mr Trump attempted to coerce the Ukrainian leader into opening an investigation into his Democratic rivals.
Lt Col Vindman, who was listening in on the call, was “asked to leave for telling the truth”, his lawyer David Pressman said in a statement. “There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House.”
Mr Trump had earlier in the day told reporters he was “not happy with him” and retweeted messages calling for him to be dismissed. John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council, declined to comment, saying the NSC would not discuss personnel matters.
Lt Col Vindman’s twin brother, NSC lawyer and fellow army Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, was also removed from his post and escorted from the White House “with no explanation”, Mr Pressman said. Yevgeny Vindman was not involved in the impeachment proceedings.
The Vindmans’ removal comes two days after Mr Trump was acquitted of two impeachment charges by the US Senate. Both former NSC staffers remain serving army officers.
Alexander Vindman, who earned a Purple Heart after he was wounded by a roadside bomb serving in Iraq, had testified to the House intelligence committee that Mr Trump’s call was “improper” because it sought Kyiv’s investigation of former US vice-president Joe Biden’s son Hunter. He was one of the first officials with first-hand knowledge of a July 25 phone call between the two leaders to testify in public.
During the call, Mr Trump asked Mr Zelensky to look into debunked claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election and find dirt on the Bidens; Joe Biden was a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the time. A whistleblower complaint about Mr Trump’s conduct on the call triggered the impeachment proceedings which ultimately led to the president’s acquittal on two charges.
Mr Pressman said Lt Col Vindman was “escorted out of the White House” on Friday. “The truth has cost Lt Col Alexander Vindman his job, his career and his privacy,” the lawyer 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,” added Mr Pressman of Boies Schiller Flexner. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, issued a statement praising Lt Col Vindman for testifying about Mr Trump’s actions.
“As usual, the White House runs away from the truth,” Mr Schumer said. “This action is not a sign of strength. It only shows President Trump’s weakness.”
During his House testimony, Lt Col Vindman also described how Gordon Sondland, Mr Trump’s ambassador to the EU, brought two Ukrainian officials to a July 10 meeting with John Bolton, which the then-national security adviser cut short after Mr Sondland pressed the Ukrainians on the Biden investigation.