Retired General John Kelly, President Trump’s former chief of staff, has commended Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council official who testified against President Trump during impeachment, for doing “exactly what we teach them.”
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the audience at Drew University on Wednesday night. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
Kelly added that Trump’s July call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, which sparked the whistleblower complaint and impeachment, was like an “illegal order,” and that Vindman did the right thing in speaking out about it.
During testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in November, Vindman said he felt it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent,” after Trump mentioned Hunter Biden on the call as an example of corruption, and added that the comments would “undermine U.S. national security.”
“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 Wednesday.
Vindman was escorted from the White House last week in what his lawyer called “revenge,” by Trump. He was not scheduled to leave the White House until July.
“The most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit” has “decided to exact revenge,” Vindman’s lawyer David Pressman said. The president admitted to reporters that he was “not happy” with the Army officer.
“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not. They’ll make that decision. You’ll be hearing,” Trump said. Defense Secretary Mark Esper added that the Pentagon does not allow retribution against service members, and signaled Vindman would be returning to the Pentagon.
Last month, Kelly said he believed former White House national security adviser John Bolton, who reportedly writes in his forthcoming book that Trump told him directly that a holdup in Ukrainian military aid was conditioned on the announcement of an Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens.
“John’s an honest guy. He’s a man of integrity and great character . . . he always gave the president the unvarnished truth,” Kelly said.