Feb 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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

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."

Go deeper: Alexander Vindman "escorted" from White House, lawyer says

Go deeper

Army secretary: "There's no investigation" into Alexander Vindman

Alexander Vindman before testifying during Trump's impeachment inquiry on Nov. 19, 2019. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Army is not investigating Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key national security official who was fired and escorted from the White House last week, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at the National Press Club on Friday.

Why it matters: Firing Vindman was one of Trump's first acts of retribution against officials who testified at his House impeachment hearings. After Vindman's ouster, Trump made it clear that what happens next in Vindman’s career is "up to the military."

Alexander Vindman "escorted" from White House, lawyer says

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Photo: Barcroft Media / Contributor

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key national security official who testified during the House impeachment inquiry, has been "escorted" from the White House, according to a statement from his lawyer.

Why it matters: Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee that President Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — which he listened in on — was "improper."

Trump justifies firing Alexander Vindman for being "insubordinate"

President Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning to explain why he fired national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the president's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "improper."

"I don't know [Vindman], never spoke to him or met him (I don't believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly.......and was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, 'OUT.'"