Vindman's brother files whistleblower complaint alleging White House retaliation

Yevgeny Vindman did not publicly testify in the impeachment trial, but he served on the National Security Council as a lawyer and ethics official.
Lt Colonel Vindman testifies at House Intelligence Committee hearing on Trump impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill in Washington
With his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, left, looking on, then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

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By Julia Ainsley, Carol E. Lee and Haley Talbot

Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, whose twin brother Alexander Vindman served as a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, has filed a complaint with the Pentagon's Inspector General alleging he was retaliated against by the president and senior White House officials for his role as a whistleblower.

The complaint alleges that the White House sought to punish Vindman in retaliation for raising concerns about Trump's July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his allegations of sexism and ethical misconduct by two senior national security officials, according to a statement from his lawyer and a letter to the Inspector General by four Democratic chairs of House committees.

"Actions were improperly taken against him in retaliation for his protected disclosures involving matters that ultimately led to the President's impeachment as well as disclosures of misconduct by other current senior members of the President's national security team," said the statement by Vindman's lawyer, Mark Zaid.

Though Yevgeny Vindman did not publicly testify like his brother did, he served on the National Security Council as a lawyer and ethics official. According to the complaint, Yevgeny Vindman raised concerns about the Zelensky call, which became the basis of the impeachment inquiry in late 2019 and early 2020.

The Vindman brothers were both fired from their jobs with the National Security Council in February.

According to a letter sent Wednesday by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Adam Schiff, Adam Smith and Stephen Lynch, all Democrats, Yevgeny Vindman was retaliated against for raising concerns about Trump's phone call with Zelensky and alleged sexist and unethical behavior by national security adviser Robert O'Brien, as well as O'Brien's senior adviser Alex Gray.

The Democrats also wrote that according to the complaint Vindman filed to the Pentagon’s inspector general, he had raised his concerns with two of the NSC’s top lawyers, John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, but no action was taken.

White House communications director Alyssa Farah called Vindman's allegations "ridiculous and false."

"Ambassador Robert O’Brien and these other senior staff are highly valued members of the president’s national security team with impeccable reputations during their years in public service," Farah said.

"Under Ambassador O’Brien and his team, the National Security Council staff has the largest number of female senior leaders ever. These allegations are an example of precisely what’s wrong with Washington – a junior-level disgruntled former detailee, with whom Ambassador O’Brien had almost no interaction, can launch baseless attacks for partisan purposes."

Farah also said Yevgeny Vindman's detail was ended "following poor performance."

Yevgeny Vindman reported multiple allegations, including that O'Brien and Gray "committed several ethics and legal compliance violations, misused government resources, excluded women from meetings, and made sexist and demeaning remarks to female NSC staffers, including inappropriately commenting on women’s looks and 'talk[ing] down' to women," says the letter from the Democrats.

"As a Deputy Legal Advisor and a senior ethics official on the NSC staff, LTC Y. Vindman had a duty to report such concerns and allegations through his chain of command and would have been derelict had he refrained from doing so."

The letter also suggests retaliation against Yevgeny Vindman by noting a positive review Eisenberg gave him in July 2019, before impeachment, followed by a negative one after impeachment, in April.

Alexander Vindman announced his retirement from the Army in July, with his lawyer alleging a "campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation" by the president as the reason.