Schumer Asks Inspectors General to Investigate Trump Retaliation Against Whistleblower, Witnesses

In the wake of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s ouster from his position on the National Security Council, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday sent a letter to Acting Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) requesting he open investigations into any additional instances of retaliation against the whistleblower and witnesses who testified against the president.

Vindman and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, both of whom provided damaging testimony against the President Donald Trump, were removed from their White House roles on Friday, just two days after Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges by the GOP-led Senate.

In a letter to Acting DoD IG Glenn Fine, Schumer said Vindman was terminated for doing exactly what was asked of him: telling the truth.

“Although LTC Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution by bravely stepping forward to tell the truth, he has been viciously attacked by the President and forced to endure threats to his and his family’s safety,” Schumer wrote. “These attacks are part of a dangerous and growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness. They also include attempts to publicly identify the anonymous whistleblower who used the proper legal channels to initially report the President’s attempts to compromise our national security for his personal benefit.”

In closing, Schumer said that allowing the retaliation against Vindman to go unchallenged would have a “chilling effect” and make it more difficult for witnesses to come forward in the future.

“If this chilling effect persists, it will inhibit our ability to hold public officials and institutions accountable and it will irreparably harm the ability of Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight responsibilities,” the letter said.

The Senate Minority Leader sent similar letters to all 74 federal inspectors general, according to a Politico report on Monday.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, Schumer’s request should resonate with IG Fine, who just last month told Congress about the “disturbing trend” of retaliation against Department of Defense whistleblowers going largely unpunished.

“Recently, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of the DOD disagreeing with the results of our investigation or not taking disciplinary action in whistleblower reprisal cases without adequate or persuasive explanations,” Fine told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Jan. 28. “Failure to take action sends a message to agency managers that reprisal will be tolerated and also to potential whistleblowers [that they] will not be protected.”

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.

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