A key witness in the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump is retiring from the US army after 21 years of service, citing a “campaign of bullying” from the White House.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman earned the ire of his former boss after he testified about a phone call between the president and his Ukrainian counterpart, during which Mr Trump pushed the country to investigate his political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.
Mr Trump later fired Lt Col Vindman, a top expert on Ukraine, from his position on the National Security Council. His twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, was also fired from his position at the NSC.
"Today I officially requested retirement from the US Army, an organization I love. My family and I look forward to the next chapter of our lives," the former advisor wrote on Twitter.
A statement from his attorney, David Pressman, said Lt Col Vindman had been the victim of a "campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation" following his impeachment testimony, led by Mr Trump.
"The President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers," Mr Pressman said in a statement to CNN.
It added that the former White House adviser "did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies".
Lt Col Vindman's testimony to the US House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry was among the most damning. In November last year, he explained that he believed Mr Trump's request for an investigation into Mr Biden and his son Hunter during a July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was improper.
“It was inappropriate for the president to request – to demand – an investigation into a political opponent, especially [from] a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation and that this would have significant implications if it became public knowledge,” he said in his testimony.
Lt Col Vindman was escorted from the White House in February after Mr Trump ordered his sacking. Explaining his motivation for the firing on Twitter, Mr Trump wrote: “Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about ‘Lt. Col.’ Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was."
“Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT’."
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House but acquitted by Republican allies in the Senate, even though some admitted they did not dispute the allegations against him.
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