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Star witness from 2019 impeachment sues Trump Jr., Giuliani

The now-retired National Security Council director who testified about President Trump’s quid pro quo offer to the president of Ukraine says he received death threats because of a political conspiracy.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Seeking “long-overdue accountability for unlawful actions,” a retired Army lieutenant colonel details a plot by several allies of former President Donald Trump to silence his testimony about Trump's abuse of his office ahead of the 2020 election.  

The allegations are laid out in a 73-page federal complaint filed Wednesday in Washington by Alexander Vindman, the Purple Heart recipient who was in the White House Situation Room on July 25, 2019, when then-President Trump got on the phone with Ukrainian Presidennt Volodomyr Zelenksy in a call that would lead to Trump's first impeachment.

Vindman, who came to the U.S. from the Soviet Union as a child, delivered key testimony at Trump’s 2019 impeachment trial, recounting how Trump offered U.S. military aid and a visit to the White House in exchange for Zelensky launching an investigation into the Ukrainian business ties of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump's expected election opponent, Joe Biden. 

“It was improper for the president to request, to demand an investigation into a political opponent — especially a foreign power where there's at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation," Vindman had testified of the president’s call.

So alarmed by the impropriety of Trump’s request to Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden — and the potential threat to national security such conditions imposed — Vindman immediately raised the alarm with John Eisenberg, senior counsel on the National Security Council.

In the Wednesday suit, Vindman is represented by the Protect Democracy Project and attorneys at Altshuler Berzon. He says his eventual subpoena to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial spurred intimidation tactics from members of the president's inner circle. After Vindman testified, he says he faced retaliation from the same. 

Vindman does not name the former president himself as a defendant to the suit but does name Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who served as the former president's personal attorney. Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino and Trump’s deputy communications director Julia Hahn are also named as defendants.

Among alleged misconduct carried out by these officials, Vindman says they began to circulate coordinated and false narratives about his loyalty to the United States, repeated false claims that he was a spy for Ukraine, and attempted to derail his promotion to full colonel. After the impeachment testimony, both the lieutenant colonel and his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, were removed from their White House posts.

“Defendants’ attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman were specifically tailored to falsely paint him as disloyal to the United States, engaged in ‘espionage,’ and a politically motivated ‘leftist’ within the military who was insubordinate and even broke the law,” Vindman says.

Seeking unspecified damages, Valdman accuses the defendants of two counts of conspiracy.

“Sharp-elbowed politics is not against the law, nor should it be. It has always been fair game to criticize public figures. But what happened to me was something different,” Vindman said in a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday announcing his lawsuit. “I was attacked in a way calculated to inflict maximum personal and professional damage likely in order to prevent me from testifying or to punish me for doing so. In this country, that violates the law.”

On the stand in 2019, one of Vindman’s most powerful moments was a description of his interaction with his concerned Ukrainian immigrant father, who was worried about his son testifying against a sitting president. 

Toward the end of his opening statement, Vindman reflected upon his family’s escape from the former Soviet Union when he was just 3 years old to the United States, where he could “live free” and testify today.

“Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol,” Vindman concluded his remarks, “Talking to elected professionals is proof you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and seek a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

When lawmakers asked Vindman why he felt he could rest in that belief, he said: “Because this is America. This is a country I have served and defended. Here, rights matters.”

Vindman retired in 2020 from the Army after more than two decades of military service, a move he linked to retaliation and bullying from the White House for his testimony. At the time, Vindman said the decision became clear after he realized “that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”

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Categories / Civil Rights, Government, National, Politics

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