July 14, 2020
Duckworth will no longer block military promotions after Pentagon confirms Vindman's would-have-been promotion
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., announced Tuesday she is lifting her hold on senior military promotions after the Department of Defense confirmed the promotion Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment of President Donald Trump earlier this year, wasn't blocked.
Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq war veteran, had seen his promotion to colonel delayed this summer, a hold-up that some viewed as retaliation for his explosive impeachment testimony.
Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs after her helicopter was shot down in 2004, had said earlier she would block the Senate confirmation of 1,123 members of the armed forces unless Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed 'in writing that he did not, or will not block Vindman's "expected and deserved" promotion to colonel.
Vindman, a former National Security Council staffer, announced last week that he was retiring from the military, citing "bullying, intimidation and retaliation" from the White House. This came after Esper approved a list of officers for promotion to colonel that included Vindman.
The Illinois Democrat said Tuesday the Pentagon confirmed in writing that Vindman was slated for a promotion, and the "DoD signed off on and submitted the Army promotions packet without modification to the White House." So she is releasing her hold on the other promotions.
The Senate would normally pass the list of promotions with an unrecorded or unanimous vote, but Duckworth's objection to the promotions would have halted the process and would have forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to file a motion to overcome her objection.
"I’m glad the Department of Defense was finally able to set the record straight that Vindman had earned and was set to receive a promotion to Colonel. We must always protect the merit-based system that is the foundation of our Armed Forces from political corruption and unlawful retaliation,” Duckworth wrote in a statement.
Vindman testified last fall that he was alarmed by Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to open investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had business interests in the country. That conversation triggered Trump's impeachment, and Vindman became a key witness in the House Democrats' probe.