Following Trump attacks, veterans rally behind Lt. Col. Vindman

As an active-duty officer, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman can't defend himself from Trump's attacks, but some veterans are stepping up to have his back.
Image: Alexander Vindman
Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives to testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 19, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
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By Steve Benen

In the wake of his impeachment acquittal, Donald Trump hasn't been shy about targeting members of his enemies list, though the president has been especially aggressive in going after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. The offensive included ousting the decorated war hero (and his brother) from the White House National Security Council, but Trump has also lashed out at Vindman in public, even suggesting he should face disciplinary action from the military.

As an active-duty officer, Vindman isn't in a position to defend himself from the president's repeated attacks, but as the Military Times reported yesterday, there are some who still have the Army lieutenant colonel's back.

A coalition of more than 1,100 veterans on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump for his continued attacks on an Army officer who testified against him in the impeachment inquiry, noting that military rules bar the service member from defending himself publicly.

"The president should know that, despite taking aim at one Army officer, he has targeted anyone who currently wears -- or has worn -- the uniform," the group stated in an open letter. "Our service members and veterans deserve the confidence of knowing that our elected leaders will come to their defense, just as they remain vigilant for ours."

Retired Army Col. R.D. Hooker Jr. -- who served in the White House during four administrations, including under three Republican presidents -- also wrote a Washington Post op-ed in defense of Vindman, describing him as "among the finest officers I have ever known."

If the president's partisans are to be believed, Alex Vindman is a traitor, a treasonous officer whose origins are suspect and whose past service and sterling record mean nothing.... What exactly is he accused of having done? In the course of his duties, Alex became aware of actions he concluded might be illegal but were almost certainly unethical. He was not alone in those judgments. His response was to alert his superiors and report his observations to the National Security Council legal office. Later, he complied with a legal subpoena, was questioned by members of Congress and truthfully answered every question. He did not leak to the media, shop for an inspector general or reach out to Democratic Party officials. In short, he did exactly what he had been taught and trained to do throughout his professional life. His reward has been vilification in the right-wing media, professional humiliation, scorn and abuse by senior government officials, and death threats. Surely, his service deserves better than that. Surely, this country is better than that.

The voices of support for the war hero who acted honorably are, to be sure, encouraging. What's discouraging is the fact that Vindman has received far less support from the Pentagon -- including Defense Secretary Mark Esper -- which committed to defending Vindman from political retribution.

That hasn't happened. There's been no explanation as to why it hasn't happened.

For what it's worth, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters late last week that there's "no investigation into" Vindman, Trump's suggestions notwithstanding, which was a modest step in the right direction. It'd be even better if the Army made clear that there won't be an investigation at any point in the future, either.