An army officer who played a high-profile role in US President Donald Trump's impeachment proceedings is retiring from the military over alleged "bullying" and "retaliation" by the president, his lawyer said yesterday.
Lt Col Alexander Vindman, who served as a national security aide at the White House until earlier this year and was up for promotion to colonel, will leave the military instead, his attorney, David Pressman, said in a statement.
"Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the president of the United States attempted to force Lt Col Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honouring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers," Mr Pressman said. "Lt Col Vindman's patriotism has cost him his career."
Lt Col Vindman, who was the National Security Council's Ukraine expert, testified under subpoena last autumn about his concerns surrounding a call between Mr Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Lt Col Vindman told House investigators, the president appeared to link military aid to Ukrainian moves to open an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the White House.
The 'Washington Post' last month reported that government officials have been concerned that the White House would try to prevent the promotion of Lt Col Vindman, who along with hundreds of other officers had been selected by the Army to be elevated to become a full colonel.
While the White House had not taken any action to strike his name, officials have said that Mr Trump strongly disliked Vindman and might move to block him.
A senior defence official said that Defence Secretary Mark Esper had officially signed off on the list of officers slated to be promoted to colonel, with Lt Col Vindman's name on it, on Monday, and that it was expected to be relayed to the White House by the end of the week. The White House would then be responsible for reviewing the list and transmitting it to the Senate for approval.
The official declined to say if the White House communicated its intentions for Lt Col Vindman's promotion.
His fate has presented a potential dilemma for Mr Esper, who recently clashed with the president over the possible use of the military in the government response to civil unrest related to racism and police brutality.
The episode generated a crisis for Pentagon leaders, who scrambled to distance themselves from the president and the perception they were allowing the military to be employed against protesters.