Politics

Trump's 'revenge' — Impeachment witness Alexander Vindman escorted from White House, lawyer says

Key Points
  • Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer whose testimony about President Donald Trump at House impeachment hearings angered the president, was escorted out of the White House, his lawyer said.
  • Trump, "the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge," said Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman.
  • Vindman's ejection from the White House came two days after the Senate acquitted Trump of two impeachment articles.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, (C), director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at the U.S. Capitol on October 29, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer whose testimony about President Donald Trump at House impeachment hearings angered the president, was escorted out of the White House on Friday afternoon, his lawyer said.

Trump, "the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge," said Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman.

Hours earlier, Trump had said of the Purple Heart recipient Vindman, "I'm not happy with him."

"Do you think I'm supposed to be happy with him?" Trump asked reporters. "I'm not."

NBC News, citing a source familiar with the situation, reported later Friday that Yevgeny Vindman, Alexander's twin brother who like him worked at the NSC as an attorney, was also escorted out of the White House. Yevgeny was not a witness at the House impeachment hearings.

Following Vindman's ejection from the White House, Pressman said, "There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House."

"Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," the attorney said. "His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful."

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

"He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril."

VIDEO0:5100:51
Vindman: Trump did not bring up 'corruption' in his call with Zelenskiy

Asked about Vindman, National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told CNBC in an email, "We do not comment on personnel matters."

Vindman's departure came two days after the Senate acquitted Trump of two impeachment articles, and after reports that the removal of Vindman, the NSC's top Ukraine expert, was under consideration.

Trump was impeached by the House last fall in connection with his request to Ukraine's new president Volodomyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a Democratic presidential contender, and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump's request, made during a July 25 phone call, came as he was withholding military aid to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress.

Vindman, as part of his job, listened in on that phone call between the two presidents.

In his testimony during impeachment hearings, Vindman said he was "concerned" about the nature of the call.

Vindman also said he felt it was "improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement: "As usual, the White House runs away from the truth. Lt. Col. Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution. This action is not a sign of strength. It only shows President Trump's weakness."

Vindman had emigrated as a child from Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union.

Earlier Friday, Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper was asked by a reporter about Vindman's status, whether he would be welcomed back to the department if he left the NSC, and what the Pentagon would do to ensure that he is "not retributed against by the president or others?"

Esper said, "We welcome back all of our service members, wherever they serve, to the assignment they're given."

"I would refer you to the Army for any more detail on that. And as I said,we protect all of our persons, service members from retribution or anything, anything like that, so," Esper said. "We've already addressed that in policy and other means.

Full statement from Alexander Vindman's lawyer David Pressman:

Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress.

There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.

During his decades of service to this country, LTC Alexander Vindman has served quietly but dutifully, and he has served with honor. He came into the public eye only when subpoenaed to testify before Congress, and he did what the law demanded.

In recent months, many entrusted with power in our political system have cowered out of fear. And, yet, a handful of men and women, not endowed with prestige or power, but equipped only with a sense of right borne out of years of quiet service to their country made different choices. They courageously chose to honor their duty with integrity, to trust the truth, and to put their faith in country ahead of fear. And they have paid a price.

The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and 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.

LTC Alexander Vindman leaves the White House today. But we must not accept the departure of truth, duty, and loyalty that he represents.

In this country right matters, and so does truth. Truth is not partisan. If we allow truthful voices to be silenced, if we ignore their warnings, eventually there will be no one left to warn us.

- Additional reporting by Amanda Macias