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Reports: Impeachment witness Lt. Col. Vindman leaving NSC; possible removal by Trump

Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at a closed session before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees on October 29, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
February 07, 2020

The White House National Security Council (NSC) could remove U.S. Army Lt. Col Alexander Vindman from his position after he testified against President Donald Trump during impeachment inquiries in November.

Two unnamed senior administration officials who spoke to the New York Times said the NSC could remove Vindman as early as Friday.

“I’m not happy with him, do you think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,” Trump suggested support for Vindman’s removal during comments to reporters on Friday. Trump went on to say he would leave the decision to NSC officials.

In November, Vindman testified that he was concerned by a controversial July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Allegations first circulated that Trump had pressured Zelensky to take up an illicit investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden during the call, following allegations Biden extorted the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor. Vindman’s testimony helped further allegations about the Ukraine phone call, which became the subject of an impeachment effort in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

As a child, Vindman immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine. During his testimony, Vindman invoked his father’s decision to leave Ukraine when it was under Soviet control. In his remarks, he said the testimony he planned to provide would get him killed in Russia, but that he felt a “sense of duty” to testify.

“This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters,” Vindman said in his testimony. “I knew I was assuming a lot of risks. [My father] deeply worried about [my testimony]. Because in his context, it was the ultimate risk.”

The House voted to impeach Trump in December on a charge of “abuse of power” and another charge of “obstruction of Congress” for not conceding to House demands for witnesses and documents and for seeking the opinion of the judiciary.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to acquit Trump on the impeachment charges. Vindman’s apparent departure from the White House follows just two days after the Senate’s acquittal vote.

According to Bloomberg, the Trump White House officials indicated plans to remove Vindman stem from plans to shrink the overall foreign policy bureaucracy. That pretext may come as an effort to suggest Vindman’s ouster as a larger NSC staff downsizing, rather than specific retaliation for Vindman’s testimony.

Unnamed officials who spoke to CNN said Vindman himself had made indications he expected to leave his White House position following Trump’s acquittal.

It is not yet clear where Vindman may be transferred, though he remains an active duty member of the U.S. Army.

Vindman’s Army service includes combat service in Iraq. In 2004, Vindman was injured as the result of an IED blast, for which he received the Purple Heart.

In his November testimony, Vindman wore his service uniform and insisted on being referred to by his rank. He suggested those decisions were fueled by efforts by some to diminish his military service.

During the Senate’s impeachment trials, Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn tweeted criticism for Vindman, including claims that Vindman had a history of political partisanship.

Blackburn also tweeted that Vindman of breaching the chain of command to further his complaints against Trump.