A Pentagon watchdog reported Wednesday that administration officials unlawfully retaliated against Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman — brother of a key witness in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial — when he was demoted from his post at the National Security Council.
The findings do not recommend any punishment for military officials, but do back up Vindman’s assertions that he was unfairly disciplined for what should have been protected whistleblower statements about violations by senior White House staff in their dealings with Ukrainian officials and allegations of sexism and poor management at the NSC.
“Based on a preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that it is more likely than not that the complainant was the subject of unfavorable personnel actions and that these were in reprisal for his protected communications,” a newly released report from the Defense Department Inspector General states.
Yevgeny’s brother, Alexander, was the NSC Director for European Affairs in 2019 when he testified before House lawmakers that Trump improperly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden, a political rival of Trump.
Trump was eventually impeached by the House but later acquitted by the Senate, allowing him to remain in the commander-in-chief role.
Both brothers were reassigned from their National Security Council spots a few months later, with Trump labeling the two as “insubordinate.”
According to the inspector general report, Yevgeny Vindman filed protected whistleblower complaints on both the problematic presidential phone calls and concerns that NSC leaders “engaged in sexist behavior, misused their positions, and misused NSC staff by asking them to perform personal errands.”
The inspector general did not confirm the veracity of the complaints, but said he should not have been punished for filing those reports.
Along with his reassignment from the NSC, Yevgeny Vindman received a poor evaluation from superiors related to his time at the agency and was not recommended for a customary end-of-tour award.
The inspector general noted that in early 2021, Yevgeny Vindman was promoted to colonel and since then has “achieved correction of his performance record.” The White House officials involved in the reprisals against him declined to speak to investigators and have since departed from their positions.
In a book released earlier this month, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that Trump directed reprisals against the brothers for their role in the impeachment saga.
Alexander Vindman retired from the Army in August 2020, citing harassment from administration officials.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.