01:57 - Source: CNN
Vindman, key impeachment witness, to retire from military
Washington CNN  — 

House Democrats are renewing their push for the Defense Department inspector general to investigate whether the White House retaliated against impeachment witness Alexander Vindman and his brother Yevgeny.

Yevgeny Vindman filed a complaint last week alleging he was retaliated against after probing allegations involving national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

Yevgeny Vindman, who was a National Security Council lawyer and remains a lieutenant colonel in the Army, filed the complaint with the acting Defense Department inspector general Sean O’Donnell alleging that he faced retaliation after he investigated allegations involving O’Brien and his chief of staff Alex Gray, the Democrats wrote to the inspector general. Vindman wrote that the allegations included “sexism, violations of standards of ethical conduct for employees and violations” of a law involving congressional appropriations, according to the Democrats’ letter.

“While any of these infractions are serious, together they form a disturbing pattern of flagrant disregard for rules,” Yevgeny Vindman wrote in the complaint. “I fear that if this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed. I request you inquire into the facts and allegations herein and take appropriate action.”

The Vindman brothers were dismissed from the National Security Council and reassigned to the Army in February. Alexander Vindman, a key impeachment witness, since retired from the Army following a delay in his promotion to colonel.

House Democrats’ decision to release their letter to the inspector general – making Yevgeny Vindman’s complaint public – comes after they fiercely fought with the Trump administration last year over the anonymous Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which had initially been kept from Congress.

White House communications director Alyssa Farah said in a statement that Vindman’s allegations were “ridiculous and false.”

“These allegations are an example of precisely what’s wrong with Washington – a junior-level disgruntled former detailee, with whom Ambassador O’Brien had almost no interaction, can launch baseless attacks for partisan purposes,” Farah said. “Mr. Yevgeny Vindman is no longer at the NSC after his detail was ended following poor performance, as revealed in the House Democrats’ letter. He now attempts to retaliate against his former supervisors for providing an accurate assessment of his performance.”

In July, four House Democratic chairs had sought an inspector general investigation into the Vindmans’ firings, which were part of a round of dismissals President Donald Trump carried out against officials connected to the House’s impeachment proceedings. The Democrats said Wednesday that the new information made it “all the more urgent” that the inspector general investigate their dismissals.

“It raises disturbing new allegations which, if true, would further substantiate our concerns that he was retaliated against for making protected disclosures about potential legal and ethical violations committed by multiple White House officials, including President Trump,” wrote House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith and Oversight National Security Subcommittee Chairman Stephen Lynch.

Four attorneys representing Yevgeny Vindman – Mark Zaid, Andrew Bakaj, Brad Moss and Eugene Fidell – confirmed Wednesday that Vindman had filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint, which stated that “senior White House officials, to include the President, retaliated against him for performing his duty as an attorney and Soldier.”

Zaid and Bakaj were the attorneys representing the anonymous whistleblower who filed the complaint last year about Trump’s July 2019 Ukraine call that ultimately led to the President’s impeachment.

When the Vindmans were dismissed from the National Security Council in February by Trump, O’Brien argued that they weren’t fired. “The President is entitled to a staff that he has confidence in,” O’Brien said at an Atlantic Council event. “I can absolutely tell you they were not retaliated against.”

Yevgeny Vindman is still in the Army. Alexander Vindman retired from the military in July, blaming a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” his lawyer said limited his future in the Army.

A committee official said the inspector general responded to lawmakers in August saying an investigation had not yet been opened based on the Democrats’ July letter, and that the inspector general was waiting on a complaint being raised directly by the parties involved.

Dwrena Allen, a DODIG spokeswoman, said the inspector general had received the Democrats’ new letter and was “reviewing the request for an investigation.”

Yevgeny Vindman’s inspector general complaint was filed on August 18, and copied to congressional committees, according to a congressional source. In the complaint, Yevgeny Vindman said he raised concerns about O’Brien’s use of “official resources for personal activities” in fall 2019, and that future ethics reviews involving O’Brien’s personal engagements were removed from his portfolio, according to the Democrats’ letter.

Vindman wrote that he received allegations that O’Brien and Gray “would inappropriately comment on women’s looks, ‘talk down’ to women and exclude women from meetings.” He also raised concerns about meetings O’Brien arranged between SpaceX and the Pentagon could have qualified as an “improper endorsement” from the White House.

Vindman wrote that he raised concerns to his supervisors in the White House counsel’s office, John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis. The Democrats’ letter cites Vindman’s performance reviews from July 1, 2019, and April 6, 2020 from Eisenberg, which shifted from recommending a promotion and saying he had “absolutely unlimited potential” to suggesting he “would benefit from additional experience in a slower-paced work environment subject to less pressure and scrutiny.”

“The drastic change between these performance evaluations during the specific timeframe in which LTC Y. Vindman raised ethics and legal compliance concerns within his rating chain and with NSC leadership, coupled with other personnel actions taken against LTC Y. Vindman, provide evidence of the pattern of retaliatory actions taken against him,” the Democrats wrote.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.