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Will Lt. Col. Vindman be punished? Here’s what Trump said

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 12, 2020

United States Army Lt. Col Alexander Vindman’s fallout with the Trump administration may not have ended with his removal last week from the White House National Security Council (NSC).

President Donald Trump suggested on Tuesday that the Pentagon may consider further disciplinary action against Vindman, after Vindman testified for Democratic lawmakers working to impeach Trump, Fox News reported. Trump removed Vindman from the NSC on Friday and the officer is expected to be reassigned back to the Pentagon.

Asked by reporters if he favored disciplinary actions against Vindman, Trump said he would allow the military to “handle him any way they want” before adding that he expected commanders would provide some form of review of Vindman’s conduct.

“That’s going to be up the military,” Trump said. “We’ll have to see. They are certainly, I imagine, going to take a look at that.”

In a Saturday tweet, Trump claimed Vindman’s conduct within the NSC had concerned his direct superior, and Trump alleged Vindman had “problems with judgement [sic], adhering to the chain of command and leaking information.”

In November, Vindman testified that he felt Trump had acted “inappropriately” in a July phone call with the Ukrainian president. Vindman’s testimony helped advance Democratic allegations Trump pressured Ukraine to take up politically motivated investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump was acquitted of the impeachment charges by the Senate. Vindman’s removal from the White House came just days later. Critics of the decision quickly characterized Vindman’s removal as an act of retaliation by Trump.

On Monday, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for 74 federal investigators general to investigate Vindman’s removal.

Schumer said the firing was part of a “growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subjected to his wrath and vindictiveness.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Vindman’s removal was not retaliation, though Vindman’s twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who was also on the NSC, was also removed.

O’Brien’s characterized the firings as part of a broader effort to shrink the NSC, and on Monday O’Brien approved the firing of some 70 more NSC staffers, according to the Washington Examiner.

Ahead of Vindman’s removal from the White House, Defense Secretary Mark Esper also laid out assurances that the Pentagon would protect its service members from retaliation.

“We welcome back all of our service members wherever they served, to any assignment they are given,” Esper said.