Key impeachment inquiry witness says nation’s values threatened under Trump

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was fired from his post at the White House after he testified in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, wrote in an op-ed Saturday: “At no point in my career or life have I felt our nation’s values under greater threat and in more peril than at this moment.”

Vindman announced his retirement from the military last month, citing a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” led by the president.

In an essay for The Washington Post, Vindman compared the current government to that of the Soviet Union. Vindman and his family emigrated from Ukraine when he was a young boy.

“Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving,” he wrote.

“Our citizens are being subjected to the same kinds of attacks tyrants launch against their critics and political opponents. Those who choose loyalty to American values and allegiance to the Constitution over devotion to a mendacious president and his enablers are punished,” Vindman continued. 

He also said Mr. Trump “recklessly downplayed” the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vindman referenced his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in November, where he assured his father that he was not concerned about facing retaliation from the president.

“During my testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, I reassured my father, who experienced Soviet authoritarianism firsthand, saying, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” Despite Trump’s retaliation, I stand by that conviction,” Vindman wrote. “Despite some personal turmoil, I remain hopeful for the future for both my family and for our nation.”

Vindman said that while the impeachment process “exposed Trump’s corruption,” he believed “the confluence of a pandemic, a financial crisis and the stoking of societal divisions has roused the soul of the American people.” He indicated that he believed Mr. Trump would be defeated in November, and said he would continue to devote his life to public service.

“A groundswell is building that will issue a mandate to reject hate and bigotry and a return to the ideals that set the United States apart from the rest of the world. I look forward to contributing to that effort,” Vindman said. “In retirement from the Army, I will continue to defend my nation. I will demand accountability of our leadership and call for leaders of moral courage and public servants of integrity.”

Vindman participated in the July 25, 2019 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the president asked Zelensky to investigate a political rival. Vindman raised concerns about the call to the NSC counsel. Mr. Trump and his allies sought to cast Vindman as disloyal, even though Vindman insisted in his public testimony in November that he had acted “out of a sense of duty.”

Vindman was fired from his post as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council in February, and his twin brother, an NSC lawyer, was also ousted. Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman, said in a July statement that Vindman had decided to retire from the military rather than begin his next post at the National War College.

Vindman was expected to join a Washington think tank, the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, and also pursue a Ph.D. He served in Iraq and is the recipient of a Purple Heart.