Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a letter on Monday to 74 federal inspectors general asking them to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s firing of National Security Council (NSC) officials would be considered unlawful “retaliation” against impeachment trial witnesses.
In a tweet, Schumer criticized Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and shared a copy of his letter in which he called for the investigations. Schumer said Trump “viciously attacked” Vindman for the NSC staffer’s decision to testify against Trump.
Not only is retaliation against LTC Vindman, the anonymous whistleblower, and others like them shameful—it is also illegal.
I’m calling on every single federal Inspector General to investigate any and all retaliation against whistleblowers who disclose presidential misconduct. pic.twitter.com/k4yzSpp9Ov
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 10, 2020
“These attacks are part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subjected to his wrath and vindictiveness,” Schumer wrote in his letter Monday.
Schumer addressed his letter specifically to Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Glenn Fine, though he called on all 74 federal inspectors general, according to CNN.
Vindman testified in November that he felt a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been inappropriate. Vindman’s testimony helped advance Democrat-led efforts to impeach Trump over allegations he pressured Ukraine to take up investigations against former Vice President Joe Biden.
Though Trump was acquitted of the impeachment charges last week, Schumer’s letter suggests Democrats still see avenues to punish Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.
On Friday, the Trump administration removed Vindman from his White House position. At the time, Trump indicated he was “not happy” with Vindman’s job performance.
In his Monday letter, Schumer called for “immediate action” by the inspectors general.
“I request that your office take immediate action to investigate any and all instances of retaliation against anyone who has made, on in the future makes, protected disclosures of presidential misconduct to Congress or Inspectors General,” Schumer wrote.
Ahead of Vindman’s dismissal, officials in the Trump White House indicated a broader effort to downsize the NSC staff.
Trump tweeted claims Vindman had particular issues in terms of his job performance, including that Vindman “had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information.”
….was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, “OUT”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2020
On Monday, national security adviser Robert O’Brien approved the firing of 70 NSC staff members, Washington Examiner reported. Many of those staffers were holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration.