WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday he’s “not happy” with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council aide who provided critical testimony in the impeachment inquiry, and confirmed Vindman maybe removed from his job.
White House officials are considering eliminating Vindman’s job, two administration officials familiar with the decision told USA TODAY.
“I’m not happy with him,” Trump said on the South Lawn when asked about the reports that Vindman’s job could be at risk. The president said he was leaving it to his aides to decide if Vindman will be ousted. “They’ll make that decision.”
The White House is weighing Vindman’s removal two days after the Senate acquitted Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in an impeachment trial, which centered on allegations the president tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
During his public testimony, Vindman told House impeachment investigators that he viewed Trump’s request to Ukraine was “improper.”
Vindman, who worked in the NSC as an adviser on Ukraine, may return to the Defense Department, according to the administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They described it as part of an an effort to reduce the size of the NSC’s staff and said Trump could announce a decision as early as Friday. But critics said it smacked of retribution.
During a White House event on Thursday to celebrate his acquittal, Trump lashed out at “evil” people and “scum” he blamed for his impeachment. In a rambling speech, he made a vague reference to Vindman and his twin brother Yevgeny Vindman.
“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother – right? – we had some people that –really amazing,” Trump said, without elaborating further.
On Friday, the president re-tweeted comments from allies who said Vindman should not be working at the White House.
Vindman was among several aides who listened to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. He reported his concerns that Trump requested investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who had business interests in the country, and later became a key witness in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Newsabout Vindman’s imminent dismissal drew accusations of retaliation.
“All public servants of integrity at are risk with a vindictive president, enabling cabinet, and complicit Senate,” tweeted Barb McQuade, a former prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Michigan. “I hope they will do their duty anyway. Thanks for doing yours, Lt. Col. Vindman.”