President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that it would be up to the military to decide on further action on Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was removed from the White House on Friday.
When asked whether Vindman should face further action, he said, “Number one, it’s up to the military.”
He added: “That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see. But if you look at what happened, I mean, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that. But what I think he did was just reported a false call. If you look at what he said.”
Vindman testified in the House impeachment inquiry that he was so alarmed by the president’s July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he went to the NSC’s general counsel along with his twin brother, a lawyer at the NSC, to report his concerns instead of going to his direct superior.
Vindman also possibly spoke to the “whistleblower,” whose complaint launched House Democrats’ impeachment effort. When asked who he spoke to in the intelligence community about the president’s call, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) refused to let him answer out of concern of outing the “whistleblower’s” identity.
When Vindman testified, he wore his military dress uniform despite wearing a business suit to work at the NSC every day, and despite only having to abide by the NSC dress code, which is civilian attire.
The president removed Vindman from his assignment at the NSC several months early and returned him to the Pentagon, where he will serve until going to his next assignment at the Army War College. His twin brother, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, was also removed and will return to the Department of the Army.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Tuesday at the Atlantic Council that Vindman and his brother were not retaliated against.
“At the end of the day, the president is entitled to staffers that want to execute his policy, that he has confidence in, and I think every president is entitled to that,” he said. “But there is absolutely no retaliation with respect to the Vindmans as far as impeachment goes.”
O’Brien also said that the reassignments were his decision, part of a downsizing of the NSC, and said it is standard procedure to escort staffers ending their assignment out of the White House.
But he added: “We’re not some banana republic where lieutenant colonels get together and decide what the policy is or should be… It’s really a privilege to work at the White House, it’s not a right.”
Since his testimony, Democrats have held Vindman up as a hero for reporting his concerns and testifying against Trump. On Monday, they trended on Twitter “#LtColVindmanDay” to “honor and defend” him.
Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry defended the firing of Vindman.
“I respect Donald Trump’s actions on escorting [Vindman] out of the White House because he, as a team player, he should have brought it up through the chain of command, and then blown the whistle if it didn’t get approved,” he said.
“And so exactly my insight is, I would’ve fired him too and said, ‘I can’t trust you on my team if you can’t bring me things that you don’t agree with.’ And for Nancy Pelosi also calling him a hero, I think is a word that gets thrown around way too much,” he added.
“I respect his service, and I understand he’s a Purple Heart recipient, but being a Purple Heart recipient doesn’t make somebody a hero.”