Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, was pushed out of his role Friday months earlier than expected, according to a statement from his attorney. Vindman was not slated to leave until July, but had been telling colleagues in recent weeks he would likely leave soon.
Vindman, a decorated veteran who was born in Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed, according to Vindman’s lawyer, David Pressman.
His twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council attorney, was also fired and walked off the White House grounds alongside him.
National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said: “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
President Donald Trump has continued to fume privately about Vindman’s testimony during the impeachment inquiry, and some Democrats say the move is clearly retribution for it.
Trump foreshadowed Vindman’s dismissal earlier Friday.
“Well, I’m not happy with him,” Trump said. “You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”
Vindman is expected to return to the Pentagon, though it’s still unclear what his assignment will be until he’s expected to attend war college this summer.
“We welcome back all of our service members, wherever they serve, to any assignment they are given,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday when asked about Vindman’s expected ouster.
Vindman told lawmakers during his November congressional testimony that he reported concerns about Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine to the top National Security Council lawyer within hours of the call, and said some of the changes he tried to make to the since-published transcript were left out, though he didn’t say why.
Vindman also told lawmakers that later, he was told not to discuss the call with anyone else.
Vindman — who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after being wounded in an IED attack and still carries shrapnel from the attack in his body, according to a source close to him — also told lawmakers how his family fled to the US from the Soviet Union when he was a child.
“The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant,” he said. “My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three-and-a-half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country.”
Vindman served multiple overseas tours, including in South Korea and Germany in addition to his deployment to Iraq, according to his prepared remarks.
By Kaitlan Collins, CNN