When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing, he reassured his Soviet-born father that he would be fine. “Dad, I’m sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals,” said Vindman. “It’s proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” As it turns out, his father was right to worry. Alexander Vindman left the military in July after expertise in Eastern Europe was discarded and his career was crushed in an act of petty revenge by Donald Trump.
And now it seems that Trump’s revenge wasn’t limited to Alexander Vindman, because his twin brother is the subject of a letter between four House committee chairs and the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense. Yevgeny Vindman is also a Lt. Colonel. He also worked in the Trump White House. And it seems that, during the course of the last two years, he has also voiced concerns—though he did so quietly, through channels, dealing with the attorneys at the National Security Council and Department of Defense (DOD). Even so, the Trump White House appears to have come down on Yevgeny Vindman hard. Hard in the sense of writing a demeaning evaluation designed to destroy his career.
What’s particularly interesting about the letter is not just how much Trump continues to be driven by revenge. The letter from the House also reveals part of the complaint that Yevgeny Vindman filed earlier with the DOD Office of General Counsel. Because that complaint goes beyond just Trump and anything he said in a phone call. Both Vindman brothers provided information in what were supposed to be protected environments—but there is no real protection from corruption.
Chair of the House Oversight Committee Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, Chair of the Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, and Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security Stephen Lynch all signed onto the letter formally asking the DOD acting inspector general to open an investigation into whether one or both Vindman brothers had been persecuted for disclosing information through protected channels.
In the case of the new information on the complaint filed by Yevgeny Vindman, these were serious violations of rules that he was required to report. In fact, failure to report these violations would have made Vindman subject to punishment. His concerns included passing along what he called “reasonable and in good faith concerns” about the phone call that Donald Trump placed to the president of Ukraine on July 25, 2019. But much of what he sent to the DOD was not directly connected to Trump’s phone call, or even to the broader attempt to suborn false allegations against Joe Biden.
Several complaints concerned Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert O’Brien. Specifically, Vindman raised concerns that:
- O’Brien, along with National Security Counsel (NSC) Chief of Staff Alex Gray, “engaged in demeaning and demoralizing sexist behavior against … female NSC professionals” including comments on their appearance and excluding women from meetings.
- O’Brien was using government resources for his personal business, traveled for personal business on the government dime, used government staff to perform personal errands, and became “agitated and angry” when informed that he shouldn’t be accepting gifts from private entities related to his role in government.
Yevgeny Vindman’s complaint details violations committed by White House officials that he personally witnessed, as well as events that he was informed about as a legal advisor to the NSC. As a result of what he was seeing, Vindman wrote a note to the DOD saying: “I remain gravely concerned that the climate in the NSC is toxic and that leadership does not have regard for rules and standards. If this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed.”
In short, Yevgeny Vindman appeared to understand the importance of allowing laws and regulations to govern the behavior of those working for the government. O’Brien and others at the Trump White House did not.
The result of Vindman providing what was supposed to be protected information following the actual law had a definite result—but not on the people violating the law. Here’s Yevgeny Vindman’s review from just before Trump’s phone call to Ukraine.
Yevgeny is the epitome of an Army officer and lawyer. He is a hardworking, disciplined, tough-minded team player who manifests the Army Values. He is unremittingly honest in delivering legal advice, without concern of repercussions. Yev does the right thing and is approachable and personable. … Yev is a top 1% military attorney and officer and the best LTC with whom I have ever worked. Functioning at the executive level, he advises White House senior staff with skill, tact, and judgment on matters of geostrategic importance. Sought by White House staff regularly, he can do any job in the legal field under unusual and constant pressure and scrutiny. Select now for Senior Service College and promote immediately to Colonel. Absolutely unlimited potential!
Here is the evaluation that Yevgeny Vindman received just eight months later.
During the prior reporting period and early portions of the reporting period, LTC Vindman performed his duties satisfactorily. Over time, LTC Vindman displayed increasingly poor judgment and failed to learn from his mistakes. On multiple occasions,his unprofessional demeanor made NSC staff feel uncomfortable. Despite express guidance from his supervisor, he continued to add himself to meetings with senior NSC staff where he did not add value. LTC Vindman’s substandard performance—his lack of judgment, failure to communicate well with his superiors, and inability to differentiate between legal and policy decisions—caused him to lose the trust of NSC senior leadership. … With additional counseling and experience, LTC Vindman’s performance may improve. He would benefit from additional experience in a slower paced work environment subject to less pressure and scrutiny. In time, he may become a better attorney
It shouldn’t be surprising that everyone who had already ignored all the other rules also ignored the rules about retaliating against information that was relayed in what was supposed to be a protected space, by someone who was trying to explain the importance of being consistent and honest.
The two evaluations actually say the same thing: Vindman is “unremittingly honest in delivering legal advice, without concern of repercussions.” The only thing that changed was the people getting the advice.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.