Watch CBSN Live

Impeachment witness Alexander Vindman ousted at White House

Vindman fired from National Security Council
Vindman fired from National Security Council 09:57

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, has been removed from the White House, according to a statement from his lawyer.

"Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He has spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress," said Vindman's attorney, David Pressman, in a statement. "There is no question in the mind of any American why this 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."

Vindman participated in the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the president asked Zelensky to investigate a political rival. Vindman flagged concerns about the call to the NSC counsel.

Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that Vindman was "very insubordinate."

Pressman said in a statement responding to Mr. Trump's tweets that the president's words "conflict with the clear personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the President is well aware."

"While the most powerful man in the world continues his campaign of intimidation, while too many entrusted with political office continue to remain silent, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military," Pressman said.

Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland is also out, CBS News confirmed on Friday. 

"I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union," Sondland said in a statement. Sondland's ouster was first reported by CNN.

In his testimony before Congress, Sondland implicated President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the effort to persuade Ukraine to announce supposed anti-corruption investigations in exchange for a coveted White House meeting.

Sondland also said he became "absolutely convinced" by the end of August that a weeks-long delay in hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine was tied to the announcement of investigations. He also said that key players in the administration were "in the loop" on Ukraine policy.

Vindman and Sondland's ouster comes two days after Mr. Trump was acquitted by the Senate on two articles of impeachment, and the day after the president obliquely referenced Vindman in his lengthy speech celebrating the acquittal. On Friday, Mr. Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn that he was "not happy" with Vindman.

In his public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in November, Vindman said he reported his concerns about the call to his superiors "out of a sense of duty." He also denied being a "Never Trumper," instead describing himself as "never partisan." Vindman also said of Mr. Trump's apparent suggestion to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden that "it was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request — to demand — an investigation into a political opponent."

Several Republicans criticized Vindman after his testimony, accusing him, without basis, of being a "Never Trumper." Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn called him "vindictive Vindman" multiple times on Twitter.

Vindman, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine when he was a young boy, served in Iraq and is the recipient of a Purple Heart. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Friday defended Vindman,  writing on Twitter, "Lt. Col. Vindman did his job. As a soldier in Iraq, he received a Purple Heart. Then he displayed another rare form of bravery - moral courage. He complied with a subpoena and told the truth. He upheld his oath when others would not." 

"President Trump is exacting his retribution, removing those who complied with subpoenas, came forward, and testified about his misconduct," Schiff added. "These are the actions of a man who believes he is above the law - Precisely the kind of conduct Congressional Republicans enabled." 

Vindman's twin brother, fellow NSC official Yevgeny, was also escorted from the White House on Friday. Yevgeny did not participate in the impeachment trial. CBS News' Paula Reid reports work at the Office of General Counsel for the Army at the Pentagon.

Vindman "couldn't believe" what he heard on c... 03:13

Vindman earned plaudits when he referenced his father in his opening statement, and thanked him for emigrating to the U.S.

"Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here," Vindman said. "Don't worry. I'll be fine for telling the truth."

Vindman was then asked by Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney how he could be certain that he would not face reprisals for his testimony.

"Because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters," Vindman replied.

Pressman, Vindman's attorney, indicated in his statement that he believed Vindman did eventually face a reprisal in his removal from the White House.

"The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy.  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. And for that, the most powerful man in the world - buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit -  has decided to exact revenge," Pressman said in his statement on Friday night.

"In this country right matters, and so does 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," Pressman continued.

A Pentagon official told CBS News that Vindman will now return to the Department of the Army for assignment until his Army War College class starts this summer.

Paula Reid contributed reporting.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.