The White House’s top Ukraine expert, who is set to become the first person who listened to a now-infamous call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart to testify in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, has a lengthy military record and is a decorated veteran of the Iraq War.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman plans to tell lawmakers he was so troubled by the July phone call that he reported his concerns to a superior, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN.
Vindman, a decorated veteran who was born in Ukraine, is already facing attacks by Trump and Republicans, who are seeking to discredit the aide ahead of his potentially-damaging testimony.
According to his prepared remarks, Vindman — who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after being wounded in an IED attack and still carries shrapnel from the attack in his body, according to a source close to him — plans to tell the House committee members how his family fled to the US from the Soviet Union when he was a child.
“The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant,” he will say, according to his remarks. “My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country.”
Vindman served multiple overseas tours, including in South Korea and Germany in addition to his deployment to Iraq, according to his prepared remarks.
In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump alleged that Vindman and others who have testified about him as part of the impeachment inquiry are “Never Trumpers,” though there is little evidence Vindman is a political opponent of Trump’s.
Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who is a CNN contributor, argued during an appearance Tuesday on CNN that Vindman has an “affinity” toward Ukraine and that he is more concerned about its defense than US policy.
The White House aide plans to tell Congress that he has “served this country in a nonpartisan manner … with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations,” according to an advance copy of his statement. He notes that he has “never had direct contact or communications” with Trump.
Vindman says in his statement that he has been a Foreign Area Office specializing in Eurasia since 2008 and that he has worked the US’ embassies in Ukraine and Russia as part of that job. He also worked for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as a politico-military affairs officer for Russia.
CNN military analyst retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said Tuesday that Vindman’s career as a FAO is notable because of the position’s “really tough” requirements.
“It requires attendance at a graduate school to learn a nation or an area culture, expertise in a language, extensive training in ethics, tougher vetting than anyone else is getting for those applying for a security clearance. Their family members are vetted because they often serve in embassies, and all of this is so time-consuming and rigorous,” Hertling told CNN.
“They basically spend the rest of their careers doing stuff in connection with their nation of expertise or their area of expertise,” he said. “That’s what Vindman was doing — it’s tough, it’s really tough.”