Soldier who testified at Trump impeachment loses White House job

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 08 2020 10:39 AM

National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman takes a break as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, in Washington, US, November 19, 2019. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool, File Photo via Reuters

WASHINGTON, United States - A US Army officer who testified in President Donald Trump's impeachment probe was pushed out of his White House job on Friday, his lawyer said.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he worked on the National Security Council, with his lawyer calling the move an act of revenge by the president.

"Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," lawyer David Pressman said.

Hours earlier, Trump had said he wanted Vindman gone.

"I'm not happy with him," Trump, who was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, told reporters.

"You think I'm supposed to be happy with him?" Trump said. "I'm not."

Vindman, who served as director of European affairs on the National Security Council (NSC), was present during the July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden.

House Democrats who impeached Trump on allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress argued that the call was part of a plot to coerce a foreign ally into helping him cheat in November's presidential election.

Subpoenaed by Congress to testify at the House impeachment hearings, the Ukrainian-born Vindman, who received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Iraq, said Trump's actions were "improper."

"It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and a political opponent," Vindman said.

That testimony helped build the case leading to Trump becoming only the third president ever impeached by Congress.

Pressman said the army officer was "escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his president."

US media reports said that Vindman's twin brother Yevgeny, also a lieutenant colonel who worked as a lawyer in the National Security Council, was fired at the same time.

NSC spokesman John Ullyot said "we do not comment on personnel matters."

The Pentagon also did not confirm Vindman's firing from the prestigious NSC, but he was expected to return to army duties.

Earlier, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told journalists "we welcome back all of our service members wherever they serve to any assignment they're given."

Esper added that "we protect all of our persons, service members from retribution or anything like that."

But Vindman's lawyer, Pressman, said "there is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over."

"The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy," he said. "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."