One of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's former commanding officers told Business Insider that President Donald Trump's dismissal of the former National Security Council staff member was "designed to humiliate" him — but added that Vindman was someone he would "trust with my life."
Trump, after dismissing Vindman on Friday, tweeted the next day:
"He was very insubordinate, reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgment, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information."
But retired Army Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack told Business Insider he wanted to "correct the record." He commanded then-Maj. Vindman from 2012 to 2014.
"We worked in a pressure-cooker environment in Moscow where you have to trust everybody," Zwack told the website. "You just have to trust each other; there's no in-between."
"I would trust Alex with my life," he said. "It was literally important — we were in a difficult operational environment as attachés representing the United States to the Russians. We really had to be reliable. We had to be accurate. We had to be diplomats. And Alex was good at all of it."
Zwack said he traveled with Vindman "deep into Russia" multiple times, and Vindman was "always smart, interesting, and had good judgment . . . I trusted him completely."
Vindman's testimony against Trump during House impeachment hearings made his ouster non-surprising, and it had even been reported to be imminent days before it happened. But typically, a person isn't escorted out his office with his belongings as Vindman was.
Zwack told Business Insider the move likely was "designed to humiliate" and "to send a message." The NSC likely was a "toxic environment for him" because of his testimony, he said.
Vindman's twin brother, Yevgeny, who also is an Army lieutenant colonel, was dismissed as ethics attorney on the NSC on Friday, even though he appears not to have been connected to the case.
The brothers are both expected to be transferred to prestigious assignments, The New York Times has reported.
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