Then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who has since retired from the military, was a key witness during the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Vindman himself, who worked on the National Security Council (NSC) at the time, was among those listening in to the call when Trump demanded a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone conversation. The effort by Trump and his allies to bribe Ukraine into investigating the Bidens is what sparked Trump’s impeachment. In a new interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, Vindman insists that Trump is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiot.” That phrase, Goldberg notes, is “commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes.”
Vindman explained the following to Goldberg, who asked whether or not the now ex-NSC official thinks that Trump is an “asset” of Russian intelligence agencies:
‘President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin… [Russia] may or may not have dirt on [Trump], but they don’t have to use it. They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.’
Vindman had another memorable way to describe the president’s relationship to Putin — “free chicken” for Russia. Vindman explained:
‘In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.’
According to the new book Rage from longtime journalist Bob Woodward, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump.” The idea that Russia “has something” on Trump has arisen before — that “something” could be financial, or it could be of a more salacious nature.
What is clear is that, right now, the Trump White House continues to operate with “no… boundaries,” as Goldberg summarized Vindman’s observations. The president’s outlandish whims lead the way. Vindman explained to Goldberg that his “goal now is to remind people” that the “ultimate goal of this president is to get you to disbelieve what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard.”