Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman lost his career for telling the truth to power. WBUR’s On Point’s interviewed him about his new tell-all book. He is the former director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Russia on the White House’s National Security Council under Trump, a Military fellow at the Lawfare Institute, and this is his message for all Americans.
His new book is Here, Right Matters: An American Story. In it, he described how he blew the whistle on Donald Trump for abusing his power in a call to the President of Ukraine.
‘When I reported my concerns, my only thought was to act properly and carry out my duty. I never thought that I would be sitting here testifying in front of this committee and the American public about my actions.’
Many saw Vindman as a hero. But he felt no fear about reporting the most powerful man in the world. His duty was clear:
‘That was the easiest part. That and frankly, in a lot of ways the testimony were the easiest part.’ It’s the dealing with the consequences that was by far the most challenging element.’
The national security team hoped Trump would talk about integrating Ukraine and helping them “achieve prosperity through anti-corruption,” but the phone call did not go as planned:
‘I learned it was as a result of Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, doing an end run. Which I’d seen before with Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief of staff. But that’s the proximate concerns.’
Then, he spoke about Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s eldest son, Don Jr.:
‘ the claims by Rudolph Giuliani, and Don Jr. and a bunch of other folks about Ukraine having some information on the Bidens, and there needing to be an investigation…where the president was asking for this. The president was apparently the driving force behind all of these.’
Vindman was the official responsible for the U.S. and Ukraine relationship:
‘So I knew immediately it was my responsibility to take whatever action I thought was appropriate. That’s always been the case. That’s always the case with regards to any policy.’
‘[T]o be, I guess, frank, but harsh, they (Trump administration) were not necessarily sophisticated actors that picked up on all the nuance…I frankly just knew that it was my responsibility to take action.’
‘And a weak Ukraine that could be subordinated and suborned…That becomes a much greater threat if Ukraine becomes part of Russia’s orbit. … All those calculations were going through my mind in those moments.’
The objective was to “exchange the announcement of an investigation for a White House visit:”
‘[B]asically a pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government, which was beleaguered and besieged by Russia. … Russia is still waging war on Ukraine. And the simple objective here was to exchange the announcement of an investigation for a White House visit and the ultimate release of 400 million dollars in security assistance that Ukraine desperately needed.’
How did the top military leaders respond:
‘it should be clear from the book how much I love it and how much I appreciate my military service and how much I honor those institutions. But…The senior leadership that occupies the leadership of those institutions doesn’t always reflect the institutional values. And in my case, failed to live up to those values where they left somebody that was in certain ways, not really, frankly, able to defend himself. Because I was in uniform and couldn’t speak out on my own behalf…and they did that for unclear reasons.’
Trump was off track:
‘To indicate that there was military support for suppressing peaceful protests. That’s the same thing he did when he propagated this lie of stolen elections, which doesn’t even make any intellectual sense. Because he was the party in power. … How truly incompetent do you need to be to have somebody else steal an election when you’re in power?’
The Lt. Col. believes in our democracy:
‘We are in the middle of a fight in kind of the fog of war right now. And it’s hard to tell where we’re going to end up…And if we’re complacent and think that this country is going to just advance on its own, that’s not going to help get us through these difficult times. We need to shake off complacency and make right matter.’
Excerpted page from Vindman’s new book, Here Right Matters.
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