Washington D.C. and Veteran circles are buzzing with the news that LTC Alexander Vindman has been reassigned from his position as the director of european affairs for the National Security Council (NSC).
Vindman, who is an Iraq War Veteran and current Army foreign area officer, accepted a position with the NSC in July 2018. Less than two years later, he was removed from his post and escorted from the White House. Although there are conflicting reports from officials, it’s clear that Vindman’s reassignment has something to do with his testimony during the House’s impeachment trial.
Now, a coalition of over 1,100 Veterans is fighting back. The coalition, in an open letter, claims that Vindman was wrongfully ousted due to personal vendetta rather than the “staff reduction” it was played off as.
So, let’s take a deeper look. Who exactly is LTC Alexander Vindman, and was his role in the president’s impeachment the reason he was fired?
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1975, Vindman — along with his father and two brothers — emigrated to America when he was just three years old. His father wanted to leave the Soviet Union and make a better life for their family in New York.
After graduating from high school, Vindman attended Binghamton University and joined the ROTC, receiving a commission as second lieutenant in the Army in 1999. He completed his training at Fort Benning before deploying to South Korea to command infantry and anti-armor platoons.
From September 2004 to September 2005, Vindman served in Iraq. During his year of service, he was injured when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb, and was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. Other career accolades include earning the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, four Army Commendation Medals, and two Defense Meritorious Service Medals.
During his House testimony, Vindman described his deep sense of duty and commitment, all tying back to his title of immigrant. Both of his brothers also serve in the military — with his twin brother Yevgeny also being dismissed from the White House’s National Security Council at the same time as Vindman.
“The Army is the only profession I have ever known,” Vindman stated. “As a young man I decided that I wanted to spend my life serving the nation that gave my family refuge from authoritarian oppression, and for the last 20 years it has been an honor to represent and protect this great country.”
In addition to his decades of service, Vindman has degrees from both Cornell and Harvard University.
What Did Vindman Do on the NSC?
Before he was appointed to the NSC, Vindman had years of experience in foreign affairs. He’d been deployed to South Korea, Germany, and Iraq, spoke fluent Russian and Ukranian, and possessed League degrees in Eurasian studies.
In 2008, Vindman became a foreign area officer, specializing in Eurasia — as was his area of expertise. He primarily served in the U.S. Embassies in Kiev, Ukraine, and Moscow, Russia. Afterward, Vindman returned to the Pentagon to serve the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff as a politico-military affairs officer.
When Vindman was brought onto the NSC, it was basically as a Ukranian specialist. He advised the national security advisor and the president, and was tasked with developing and implementing plans for the betterment of national security in regards to Ukraine and other Eurasian countries.
The reason that Vindman was called on to testify is that he was present for President Trump’s famed call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In October 2019, Vindman was subpoenaed to testify before congressional investigators. He was the first White House official to testify that had actually heard the phone call live, and his words corroborated those of his former manager and the ambassador of Ukraine. Later, he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
Vindman’s testimony focused solely on President Trump’s interactions with Ukraine and his July 25th call with the newly-elected President Zelensky of Ukraine, wherein Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden and his ex-military son.
Here’s a piece of the testimony:
“I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”
You can read the full testimony here.
As most people know, the result of the House’s impeachment hearings was Trump becoming the third-ever U.S. president to be impeached, found guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Removal From the NSC
On Feb. 7, 2020, approximately four months after Vindman’s testimony, he was removed from the White House and his advisory position on the NSC. He’s said to be returning to the Department of Defense, and has lined up a spot for himself at the United States Army War College.
On Feb. 11, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien denounced the claims that Vindman had been removed as retaliation for his testimony. Furthermore, he said that he himself — not Trump — had transferred Vindman, and it was wholly due to NSA staff reductions.
However, O’Brien’s words were undermined by President Trump, who tweeted attacks on Vindman’s character; saying that he was “very insubordinate” and leaked information. He also implied that the military should punish him further for his actions. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy later clarified that there were no plans to investigate or punish Vindman.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump said, “Vindman was the guy that, when we took him out of the building, the building applauded…. I don’t know if you heard that. The whole building, many of the people in the building started applauding.”
Did Trump Fire Vindman?
While it’s not entirely clear if Trump personally ordered Vindman to be fired, his tweets leave no question as to what he thinks of the Army officer. It’s also pretty suspicious that both Vindman and his brother would be removed from the White House for simple staff reductions after he’d just testified against the president.
U.S. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who also testified, was similarly removed.
A Trump-opposed group by the name of National Security Action has organized over 1,100 Veterans who are standing up for Vindman. Their open letter reads, “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 manner of these dismissals suggests that the commander-in-chief has prioritized a personal vendetta over our national security.”
Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly — who served as the White House chief of staff — also defended Vindman.
Although he’s come under heavy criticism from conservative media, Republican lawmakers, and the president himself, Vindman appears confident about his testimony. In fact, as he wrapped it up, he spoke directly to his father.
“In Russia, my act of … offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.
Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family.
Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
For more, read about the 7 biggest things Trump has done since assuming office.