Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) will block more than 1,000 military promotions from going through until the Defense Department confirms that a key impeachment witness will not suffer from retaliation for speaking out last year.
Duckworth, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that she would block 1,123 senior armed forces promotions until Defense Secretary Mark Esper writes a statement confirming that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s “expected and deserved” promotion will not be blocked.
Vindman’s promotion to colonel is reportedly in jeopardy as Trump has raged at him for testifying in last year’s House impeachment inquiry. Vindman played a key role in testimony showing that the President used military aid to pressure the Ukrainian government to manufacture dirt against Joe Biden last year. A specialist on the former Soviet Union, Vindman sat in on the infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked the foreign leader to do him “a favor.”
Vindman was marched out of the White House in February, after which Trump told reporters, “I’m not happy with him.”
“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,” President Trump added at the time.
Duckworth, herself a veteran, said in a statement that the “military is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy.”
“It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any Commander in Chief to meddle in routine military matters at all, whether or not he has a personal vendetta against a Soldier who did his patriotic duty and told the truth—a Soldier who has been recommended for promotion by his superiors because of his performance,” she added.
Duckworth demanded that Esper confirm in writing that the Army is considering Vindman for a promotion to colonel, whether Vindman’s promotion has been sent to the Pentagon, and that he won’t attempt to block any promotion given to Vindman.
The move comes as Trump has moved to politicize the military, most dramatically during Black Lives Matter protests outside the White House last month. There, President Trump threatened to use active-duty soldiers to quash peaceful protests, as military helicopters from the D.C. National Guard flew low over protestors in a bid to use the force of the choppers’ rotors to disperse them.
“This goes far beyond any single military officer, it is about protecting a merit-based system from political corruption and unlawful retaliation,” Duckworth said.