Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who served as a key witness in President Trump’s impeachment inquiry, told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that he believes Trump is a “useful idiot” and “unwitting agent” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Context: This was Vindman’s first public interview since he was fired from his position as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council and retired from the military earlier this year. He claims that he was retaliated against for testifying that Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was “improper.”
What he’s saying: “I just had a visceral reaction to what I was hearing,” he told The Atlantic, referencing what Trump has described as a “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I suspected it was criminal, but I knew it was wrong.”
On whether Putin has some kind of leverage over Trump, which former director of national intelligence Dan Coats reportedly believes, Vindman said: “They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it. They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him.”
- “He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him,” Vindman continued. “He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”
- “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”