Feb 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Robert O'Brien says decision to remove Vindman was his, not Trump's

National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

National security adviser Robert O'Brien said Tuesday that President Trump did not ask him to remove Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman nor his brother Yevgeny from the National Security Council, insisting the brothers were “absolutely not retaliated against.”

Why it matters: Vindman was a key witness during House impeachment hearings, and Trump justified his ouster by calling him "insubordinate."

What they're saying: O'Brien said of the Vindmans, "It was just time for them to go back, their service was no longer needed."

  • He noted that they were not fired, but rotated out of the White House ahead of schedule. He confirmed they would be replaced.
  • Speaking at the Atlantic Council think tank, O'Brien said the president was entitled to a team he has confidence in and that wants to execute his policies.
  • He added that the decision to remove the Vindmans was his: "Those were my decisions, and I stand by them."

Speaking to a group of reporters in the White House on Tuesday, Trump said on Alexander Vindman: "We sent him on his way to a much different location. And the military can handle him any way they want."

  • The president added that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley "can have him and his brother also."
  • When pressed on how the military would handle Vindman's reassignment, 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 imagine, take a look at that."

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