Legal Experts Say Trump’s Firing of Vindman Is a Federal Crime
The White House on Friday escorted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother from the premises, and later recalled EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Vindman and Sondland each provided testimony against President Trump to House lawmakers during the impeachment inquiry last fall.
Several legal experts have called Vindman’s removal a violation of federal law prohibiting retaliatory acts against witnesses:
It seems trivial to mention it at this point, but retaliation against a witness is a federal crime.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) February 7, 2020
Witness retaliation. https://t.co/dJNioIZqrj
— Jennifer Rodgers (@JenGRodgers) February 7, 2020
Trump and his family don’t even pretend that this is about anything other than witness intimidation. Republicans have made clear that Trump has a green light to do whatever he wants. https://t.co/5tUpBTMz3H
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) February 8, 2020
What normally happens when a public official retaliates against a witness who testified about the public official’s criminal conduct is that the public official goes to prison.
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 7, 2020
It is disgraceful that Trump demoted Lt. Col. Vindman – a decorated war hero – solely because Vindman stepped up and testified under oath (unlike Trump’s minions who hid). This act is criminal, vindictive, and petty – and nobody in Trump’s orbit will do a damn thing about it.
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) February 7, 2020
According to 18 U.S. Code § 1513, “Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”
An adviser to Trump told CNN that the firings of Vindman and Sondland was a “necessary” part of “flushing out the pipes.” Vindman was not expected to leave his role until July, according to a statement from his attorney, David Pressman.
“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House,” Pressman said. “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
The Vindman brothers will now work out of the Pentagon, an Army spokesperson said.