When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman appeared before members of Congress on Tuesday to discuss what he knew about President Trump’s conversations with Ukraine’s president, he was violating an order from his commander in chief not to cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry.
He is likely protected from legal ramifications from showing up to testify, a former Army judge advocate told Military Times on Thursday. But it remains to be seen whether what he told legislators could get him charged with a crime ― and, of course, how his choice to rebel against his White House chain-of-command will affect his career.
A court martial is possible, but it depends on whether the Commander-in-Chief’s order was lawful. If it’s determined that Trump was trying to prevent the release of sensitive information, it’s possible. If it’s determined Trump was simply trying to prevent testimony, it’s not.
There is a Military Whistleblower Protection Act that prohibits government agents preventing a military member from communicating with Congress or an inspector general. However, the Commander-in-Chief can determine what is classified and what is not.
“Lt. Col. Vindman, who has served this country honorably for 20-plus years, is fully supported by the Army like every soldier, having earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq in 2004,” Army spokesman Matt Leonard told Military Times on Thursday. “As his career assignments reflect, Lt. Col. Vindman has a long history of selfless service to his country, including combat. Lt. Col. Vindman is afforded all protections anyone would be provided in his circumstances.”
It’s complicated though. If Vindman had received a subpoena and refused to testify, he could face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In reality, his career faces uphill scrutiny. Whistleblowers often face retaliation in the form of stalled careers. He could be sacrificing his military career and retirement by doing the right thing.
For more details, read this story at Military Times.