POLITICS

Vindman, who provided key impeachment testimony, ‘escorted’ from White House, attorney says

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who testified during the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, was “escorted out of the White House” on Friday afternoon, his lawyer said.

“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” his attorney, David Pressman, said in a statement. “The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career and his privacy.”

Pressman added that “the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit” had “decided to exact revenge” on Vindman.

Vindman had, as part of his duties, listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy that was at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post first reported on efforts by the White House to push out Vindman, citing two people familiar with the move, as part of a broader targeting by Trump of perceived enemies in the wake of his acquittal in the Senate after a two-week trial. The Post reported that Vindman would be reassigned to a job at the Defense Department.

National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told NBC News that, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”

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Vindman, who testified before the House in November under subpoena, told members of Congress that he was “concerned” about what he’d heard on the call and that he felt it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.”

Vindman also testified that the summary of the July 25 call was transferred to a private, more secure server “to avoid leaks” and to help “preserve the integrity of the transcript,” although he added that he felt that the move was not intended as “nefarious.”

During his testimony, Vindman, an Army lieutenant colonel who received a Purple Heart after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004, faced repeated character attacks from several Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, including over his loyalty to the U.S.

Vindman was born in Kyiv, then part of the USSR, and fled with his family to the U.S. as a child.

Vindman is not the only administration official involved in Trump’s impeachment to have had his career trajectory altered.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a central figure in the impeachment investigation who was recalled from her post last year, retired from the State Department last month. And Bill Taylor, who had replaced Yovanovitch as the top U.S diplomat in Ukraine and who also testified during the impeachment inquiry, was recalled in December.

Vindman, in his opening remarks at the start of his public appearance before Congress, offered a stunningly personal message about how his family had come to America for a better life and how escaping an authoritarian regime instilled in him and his brothers a sense of duty to serve in the U.S. military.

He said that he never expected to testify about the president’s actions but he did so out of a “sense of duty” and said he recognized that his actions “would not be tolerated in many places around the world.”

“In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life,” he said.

Addressing his father, Vindman concluded his statement by saying 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,” Vindman said.

Hallie Jackson reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman from New York.

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