July 08, 2020

Duckworth Statement in Response to Lt. Col. Vindman’s Retirement due to Intimidation and Retaliation from White House


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years, released the following statement after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman resigned from the military due to the White House’s campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation against him.

“On November 19, 2019, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman complied with a lawfully issued subpoena and testified to Congress in the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. He ended his opening with a poignant note:

‘When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s story in America.

‘I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.

‘Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family.

‘Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.’

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat Veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief.

“Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s father fled Russia because he believed the United States of America represented a meritocracy where truth matters. Where right matters. Today is a chilling reminder though, that nothing is guaranteed. It is a Republic, if we can keep it.” 

Last week, Senator Duckworth blocked Senate confirmation of 1,123 senior U.S. Armed Forces promotions until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirms in writing that he did not, or will not, block the expected and deserved promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to Colonel. Duckworth has still not received confirmation from the Secretary of Defense that the U.S. Department of the Army submitted a list of promotions to be Colonel that included Lt. Col. Vindman, nor has the Secretary confirmed whether he sent that list to the White House for review.

As Senator Duckworth noted when she first placed this partial hold, this incident went “far beyond any single military officer, it is about protecting a merit-based system from political corruption and unlawful retaliation.” Accordingly, Senator Duckworth will keep her partial hold in place until the Secretary of Defense provides a transparent accounting of this disgraceful situation.