Politics

White House Twitter account attacks Army officer Vindman as he testifies in Trump impeachment hearing

Key Points
  • The official White House twitter account attacks Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman while he testifies before Congress in the impeachment hearings.
  • The public attack on Vindman from the White House account stands out from Trump's personal tweets because it comes from a social media account maintained at taxpayer expense, and not a personal one.
  • The tweet could constitute a violation of the federal government's own social media rules, and raises questions about official retaliation.
VIDEO9:0909:09
Watch Alexander Vindman's opening statement at impeachment hearing

The official Twitter account of the White House was used on Tuesday to distribute a personal attack on the credibility of decorated Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, while he was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.

"Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman's judgment," the White House pushed to its 19.3 million followers shortly before 1:00 p.m.

The tweet text, which omitted Vindman's military rank, featured a photo of one line from the testimony of former White House National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison, who resigned from his post last month, a day before he testified in the impeachment inquiry. Vindman, however, still worked in the White House as of Tuesday.

Vindman has drawn increasing ire from the president ever since it was revealed that he reported two events to an NSC lawyer earlier this year, most notably Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, because Vindman was concerned they could endanger national security.

In a deposition, Vindman stated, "I did not think it was proper [for Trump] 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." During the call, Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate Trump's political opponents.

Vindman received a Purple Heart after he was wounded in action during the Iraq War. Nonetheless, Republicans attacked Vindman's professional judgment on Tuesday, and even questioned his loyalty to the United States.

The White House tweet marked the second time in a week that the Trump administration has publicly attacked a government employee while that employee was sitting in the chair before the Intelligence Committee, giving sworn testimony. On Friday, Trump used his personal Twitter account to disparage the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, while she was testifying.

The public attack on Vindman stands out from Trump's typical stream of attacks on his perceived enemies precisely because it did not originate in Trump's personal account, but instead came from an official social media account.

The official White House account is overseen by the staff of the president, and passed on to each successive administration. Maintenance of the account falls to a government employee, whose salary is paid by taxpayers.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question from CNBC about why it decided to use the official government account, and not Trump's personal account, for the commentary on Vindman. The spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment on whether the tweet violated any social media usage guidelines, or the prohibition on retaliating against federal employees.

Morrison is scheduled to testify on Tuesday afternoon, where he is likely to face questions from committee members about the exact nature of his "concerns" about Vindman.