WASHINGTON — Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided lawmakers with some of the most damaging testimony during President Donald Trump's impeachment proceedings, submitted his retirement paperwork Wednesday.
The 45-year-old Vindman, who served 21 years in the military and was up for a promotion, was thrust into the spotlight when he was called before the House to testify about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
"Today I officially requested retirement from the US Army, an organization I love. My family and I look forward to the next chapter of our lives," Vindman wrote on Twitter.
Vindman's lawyer alleges that since testifying in the impeachment saga late last year, the lieutenant colonel was bullied by Trump and his proxies and that "his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited."
"Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President," Vindman's lawyer David Pressman said in a statement.
"LTC Vindman's patriotism has cost him his career. Today our country loses a devoted soldier, but it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure it does not lose the values he represents," wrote Pressman, a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Security Council.
The White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said she would put a hold on the more than 1,000 military promotions until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper provided assurances that Vindman's promotion was not being blocked.
"Lt. Col. Vindman's decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's failure to protect a decorated combat Veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief," Duckworth said in a statement Wednesday.
"Secretary Esper's failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service."
Trump was impeached by the House in December in connection with his request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a Democratic presidential contender, and his son Hunter. 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.
In his testimony during impeachment hearings, Vindman said he was "concerned" about the nature of the call.
Vindman, who was the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, said 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."
Trump was acquitted by the GOP-led Senate in February. That same month, Vindman was escorted out of his third-floor office across from the White House and reassigned to the Department of the Army. Vindman's twin brother was also escorted from his post at the White House.
Hours before Alexander Vindman was escorted from his office, Trump had said of the Purple Heart recipient: "I'm not happy with him."
"Do you think I'm supposed to be happy with him?" Trump asked reporters. "I'm not."
The president then suggested that the Pentagon should consider disciplinary action against Vindman.
"He is over with the military," Trump said after Vindman's removal from the White House. "We sent him on his way to a much different location and the military can handle him any way they want."
When pressed if the Defense Department would seek to punish Vindman, Esper told reporters that the agency would "welcome back all of our service members, wherever they serve, to the assignment they're given."
"We protect all of our persons, service members from retribution or anything, anything like that," Esper said, adding that he had just issued a memo to all Department of Defense employees and military personnel to "uphold DoD's longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical."