President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, voiced his support for Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman on Wednesday night and praised him for doing his duty by telling Congress about Trump’s “illegal” phone call to Ukraine.
Trump removed Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq war hero, from his post on the National Security Council last Friday in retaliation against him for testifying during the House impeachment hearings last year. Vindman’s testimony helped make it clear that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine in an effort to extort the country into targeting his political rivals in exchange for military aid appropriated by Congress.
Unsatisfied with that act of retribution, Trump has been pressuring the Pentagon to punish Vindman as well and has been accusing him of ignoring the chain of command.
But Vindman received support from a new ally this week when Kelly, a highly decorated soldier himself who worked as Trump’s White House chief of staff, came to his defense while speaking to students at Drew University in New Jersey.
Kelly told the audience that Vindman did his duty as he was trained to do upon hearing the suspicious July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
“Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against the Russians,” Kelly continued. “And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”
Kelly went on to compare Trump’s demand for a “favor” and the freezing of military aide to “an illegal order,” and stressed that Vindman did the right thing by shining a light on it.
“We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,’” Kelly said.
In this case, Vindman told his superiors and then complied with a congressional subpoena and testified about the call.
Suffice it to say, Kelly’s support for Vindman will mean a lot to the veteran officer, and makes it clear that Trump abused his power during his inappropriate call to Ukraine and is still abusing it now. Trump is persecuting an honorable soldier for doing his duty to the country and the rule of law. Republicans should be ashamed for enabling Trump’s behavior. If they truly respect our men and women in uniform, they will defend Vindman and stand up to Trump.
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