Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified against President Trump in the impeachment inquiry, was escorted from the White House Friday afternoon, his lawyer said.
“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” his attorney, David Pressman said in a statement. “The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy.”
Mr. Pressman said the president “decided to exact revenge” on Lt. Col. Vindman, “buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit.”
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Lt. Col. Vindman hasn’t lost his career, and that he will return to a job at the Pentagon without retaliation.
“We protect all of our persons, service members, from retribution or anything like that,” Mr. Esper said.
Lt. Col. Vindman’s testimony supported Democrats’ accusations that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call last July to announce a corruption investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden.
Mr. Trump told reporters Friday that the decision is up to the NSC.
“Well, I’m not happy with him,” the president said of Lt. Col Vindman. “They’ll make that decision.”
The NSC had no immediate comment.
White House National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, who is leading a reform effort, told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview in December that 40 to 45 NSC staff officials were sent back in recent months to the agencies where they originally worked, with more likely to be moved out. He said it’s part of a plan to improve efficiency.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, called Lt. Col. Vindman’s ouster “shameful.”
“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman honored his oath and did his duty when he came forward about President Trump’s abuse of power,” Mr. Engel said. “He deserves the thanks and respect of the American people. But we know that this president believes the only loyalty that matters is loyalty to him personally, so today he had Colonel Vindman escorted out of the White House.”
He said it’s what America should now expect “from an impeached president whose party has decided he is above the law and accountable to no one.”
“Any senator who voted to keep Trump in office thinking he has learned his lesson must answer for this and for whatever parade of abuses we see in the future,” Mr. Engel said.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, New Jersey Democrat, said the Ukraine-born Lt. Col. Vindman “is everything Donald Trump is not.”
“Lt. Col. Vindman is a hero and a breathing realization of the American Dream,” Mr. Pascrell said. “Donald Trump is a coward and a fraud. This move by the White House is not simply spiteful, but un-American and in furtherance of the venal criminality of this impeached executive.”
The president referred to Lt. Col. Vindman on Thursday while taking a victory lap over his acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial.
“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother — right? — we had some people that — really amazing,” Mr. Trump said while discussing a transcription of his call. Lt. Col. Vindman was one of the staffers who listened in on the call.
His identical twin, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, is an ethics lawyer for the NSC. Yevgeny Vindman’s lawyer said Friday that he, too, was escorted off the White House grounds “suddenly and with no explanation,” and that he “deeply regrets” he will no longer be working at the White House.
Alexander Vindman was appointed to the NSC post in July 2018 and had been expected to stay for two years.
CNN reported that Lt. Col. Vindman has been telling colleagues that he expects to be leaving the NSC and return to work at the Pentagon.
His lawyer’s statement said Lt. Col. Vindman “dutifully served his country and his president.”
“He has spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress,” Mr. Pressman said. “There is no question in the mind of any American why this job man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
The lawyer said Lt. Col. Vindman “did what the law demanded.”
“The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career and his privacy,” Mr. Pressman said. “He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day. He followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril.”
His statement concluded, “LTC Alexander Vindman leaves the White House today. But we must not accept the departure of truth duty and loyalty that he represents. In this country right matters, and so does the truth. Truth is not partisan. If we allow truthful voices to be silenced, if we ignore their warnings, eventually there will be no one left to warn us.”