Trump slams ex-ad­viser for de­fend­ing wit­ness Vind­man

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Aamer Mad­hani

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day lashed out against for­mer White House chief of staff John Kelly for be­ing dis­loyal af­ter the ex-ad­viser came to the de­fense of a for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity aide who of­fered key tes­ti­mony in the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments targeting Kelly came af­ter Kelly de­fended Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vind­man, who was among ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who raised con­cerns about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s pres­i­dent. That call spurred the pres­i­dent’s im­peach­ment trial, which ended in ac­quit­tal last week.

“Like so many X’s, he misses the ac­tion & just can’t keep his mouth shut,. which he ac­tu­ally has a mil­i­tary and le­gal obli­ga­tion to do,” Trump tweeted about Kelly. “His in­cred­i­ble wife, Karen, who I have a lot of re­spect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that ‘John re­spects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.’ Wrong!”

Kelly, speak­ing at a pub­lic fo­rum Wednesday in Mor­ris­town, New Jersey, said that Vind­man did exactly as he was trained in rais­ing con­cerns to his su­pe­ri­ors af­ter hear­ing “ques­tion­able” com­ments from Trump, ac­cord­ing to a report by The At­lantic magazine. Vind­man was ousted last week from his po­si­tion as a Ukraine spe­cial­ist de­tailed to the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Council.

“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cra­dle to grave,” said Kelly, a re­tired Ma­rine gen­eral who served as Trump’s chief of staff from the sum­mer of 2017 un­til early last year. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”

Vind­man was a key wit­ness in Democrats’ im­peach­ment in­quiry of Trump.

The Army of­fi­cer was ousted from his job on the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Council last Fri­day, two days af­ter the Se­nate ac­quit­ted Trump on abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charges. He is to be re­as­signed by the Pen­tagon. His twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vind­man, who worked as an ethics lawyer at the NSC, also was ousted from his job and was re­as­signed to the Army Gen­eral Coun­sel’s Of­fice.

Kelly came to Vind­man’s de­fense af­ter Trump sug­gested this week that the Pen­tagon should review Vind­man’s con­duct in the Ukraine episode and po­ten­tially con­sider dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against him.

Trump has in­sisted that his call to Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy was “per­fect.”

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Trump asked Ze­len­skiy to do him “a fa­vor” and look into for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his son’s business deal­ings in Ukraine.

Vind­man tes­ti­fied that he raised his con­cerns in­side the White House af­ter con­clud­ing that Trump was in­ap­pro­pri­ately con­di­tion­ing nearly $400 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid to the coun­try on get­ting Ze­len­skiy’s help dig­ging up dirt on the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

Kelly said at the fo­rum that Vind­man’s de­ci­sion to raise his con­cerns was valid.

“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 said. “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.”

Trump ini­tially tapped Kelly af­ter the 2016 elec­tion to serve as his sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity, be­fore Trump asked him to be­come his chief of staff. Kelly sug­gested at the fo­rum he had some hes­i­ta­tion about join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion but ul­ti­mately de­cided to at the urg­ing of his wife.

“I frankly think he needs you and people like you,” Kelly re­called his wife telling him.

White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Gr­isham said she was “dis­ap­pointed” by Kelly’s com­ments.


Pres­i­dent Trump talks to John Kelly, a re­tired gen­eral who served as chief of staff from July 2017 to early last year.

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