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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

Refusing to move on, Trump targets Lt. Col. Vindman (again)

The more Republicans say Donald Trump will move on, the more the president remains focused on his enemies list.


Two days after being acquitted by Senate Republicans in his impeachment trial, Donald Trump started crossing names off his enemies list. On Friday afternoon, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was removed from his White House job, as was Vindman's brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an Army officer who also worked on the National Security Council staff.

A day later, Trump publicly questioned Alexander Vindman's military service -- notwithstanding the fact that the president dodged the draft and Vindman is a decorated war hero.

And yesterday, Trump went so far as to suggest the military should consider disciplinary action against Vindman.

"We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday. [...] Asked by reporters whether Vindman should face disciplinary action, Trump said: "That's going to be up to the military. We'll have to see. But if you look at what happened, they're going to certainly -- I would imagine -- take a look at that."

In case this isn't already painfully obvious, Vindman did nothing wrong. He acted honorably, told the truth, and followed the rules. There's nothing for military leaders to "handle," the president's vitriol notwithstanding.

At a certain level, it's likely that all of this seems quite predictable. Trump is whom he appears to be: a small, vindictive man, too weak to tolerate anything but sycophantic loyalty from those around him.

What surprises me, however, is the extent to which the president's Republican allies keep suggesting otherwise. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told Politico, "Things have a short shelf life around here. I think the president, like all of us, is going to be ready to move on."

In theory, this sounded great. In practice, it was hard not to wonder whether Thune has ever actually met Donald Trump.

He's not ready to move on, because he's never ready to move on. The president doesn't just remain preoccupied with Vindman, he also spent some time yesterday whining about what a "disgrace" Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is.

Those waiting for Trump to shift his focus to his governing responsibilities will be waiting for a very long time.