WASHINGTON (AP) — The decorated soldier and national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case against President Donald Trump was escorted out of the White House complex on Friday, according to his lawyer, who said he was asked to leave for “telling the truth.”
“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,” said David Pressman, partner at a New York legal firm that represented Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. “Lt. Col. Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
Vindman status at the National Security Council, the foreign policy arm of the White House, had been uncertain since he testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine. Vindman’s ouster seemed even more certain after Trump mocked him Thursday during his post-acquittal celebration with Republican supporters in the East Room and said Friday that he was not happy with him.
“I’m not happy with him,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House to head to North Carolina. “You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not. … They are going to be making that decision.”
Vindman, a 20-year Army veteran, wore his uniform full of medals, including a purple heart, when he appeared late last year for what turned out to be a testy televised impeachment hearing. Trump supporters raised questions about the Soviet Jewish immigrant’s allegiance to the United States and noted that he had received offers to work for the government of Ukraine — offers Vindman said he swiftly dismissed.
“I am an American,” he stated emphatically.
When the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, addressed him as “Mr. Vindman,” the Iraq War veteran replied: “Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman please.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked what the Pentagon would do to ensure that Vindman faces no retribution when he is reassigned to the Pentagon from the White House. He referred the question to the Army, in terms of Vindman’s next assignment, but on the retribution aspect, he said, “We protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that. We’ve already addressed that in policy and other means.”
AP Writers Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker and Bob Burns contributed to this report.