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Senator blocks military promotions to shield Vindman from Trump



  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth is threatening to block 1,123 senior military promotions until the secretary of defense agrees in writing not to block the promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
  • Vindman, an Iraq War veteran who served on the White House National Security Council, testified in House impeachment hearings that Trump’s actions on a call with Ukraine’s president was “improper.”
  • In the wake of his testimony, Trump fired Vindman, and now there are reports that the president could nix Vindman’s expected promotion to full colonel.
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A US senator and Army veteran is threatening to block more than 1,000 senior military promotions to protect an important impeachment witness from President Trump.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, announced Thursday that she intends to block 1,123 promotions until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper agrees in writing that he did not and will not block “the expected and deserved promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.”

“Our military is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy,” Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs due to injuries sustained during the Iraq War, said in a statement. “It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any Commander in Chief to meddle in routine military matters at all … I won’t just sit by and let it happen.”

“This goes far beyond any single military officer, it is about protecting a merit-based system from political corruption and unlawful retaliation.”

Esper has previously stated that the Department of Defense protects its service members from retribution, but there continue to be questions about Vindman’s future in the military.

Alexander Vindman

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC’s top expert on Ukraine, has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A number of US military officials and lawmakers have expressed concerns in recent weeks that the promotion to full colonel for Vindman could be in jeopardy due to the president’s disdain for him.

A senior White House official told The Washington Post that they could not imagine that Trump would support Vindman’s promotion given his role in the president’s impeachment.

Vindman, an Iraq war veteran who was wounded in combat and who served on the White House National Security Council as a Ukraine expert, testified in House impeachment hearings earlier this year.

Vindman, who was on Trump’s July 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president, told House lawmakers that it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent.”

Trump was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, and in the aftermath, the president swiftly fired Vindman before moving on to target other senior US government officials considered disloyal. Trump also removed his twin brother Yevgeny, an Army lieutenant colonel, from the National Security Council despite the fact he did not testify against Trump.

Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient like Vindman and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was one of a number of Democrats in Congress who spoke out against Vindman’s firing.

“Vindman is a patriot and Purple Heart recipient who was willing to testify, under oath, and fight for both our nation as well as our Constitution,” she said in a statement at the time. “Donald Trump is a coward who has never served anything but his own interests.”

“We’re now living with the consequences as an emboldened Trump feels free to punish anyone who would stand up to his illegal actions by doing the most American thing anyone can do: speaking out for what is right.”

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