Who is Alexander Vindman?

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, departs a closed door meeting after testifying as part of the House impeachment inquiry. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, departs a closed door meeting after testifying as part of the House impeachment inquiry. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Donald Trump has dismissed the testimony of a decorated Army officer in the impeachment inquiry.

In an Oct. 30 tweet, Trump described the officer as a "Never Trumper," repeating the label he had used the day before.

The witness is Army Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman. Vindman listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Commentators, primarily on Fox News, have questioned Vindman’s motives. One Fox News guest said the word "espionage" might apply. Donald Trump, Jr. cast him as "a leftist."

In a text of his prepared remarks to the House Intelligence Committee, Vindman wrote that he found Trump’s and Zelensky’s conversation concerning.

"I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine," Vindman wrote. 

He wrote that he thought that Trump’s request would politicize aid to Ukraine and "undermine U.S. national security." Vindman wrote that he reported his concern to the top lawyer for the National Security Council.

Here’s what we know about Vindman, his connection to the Ukraine investigation, and the criticisms about his motives.

Why was Vindman listening to the call?

Vindman joined the National Security Council in July 2018 to implement the administration’s policy on Ukraine. He reported to Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to John Bolton, Trump’s then-National Security Adviser. A Ukrainian speaker, Vindman listened to the call from the White House Situation Room, along with other security officials and members of the vice president’s staff.

Is there any evidence that Vindman opposes Trump?

None has emerged. The White House has provided none, and several top Republicans have defended his integrity. The third ranking House Repulican Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., decried attacks on Vindman’s motives.

"We're talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation, who have put their lives on the line," Cheney said Oct. 29. "It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in that process." 

What are Vindman’s Ukrainian roots?

Vindman speaks Ukrainian because he was born there. After his mother died, his father left Kiev with him, his twin brother and an older brother. In 1979, they arrived in New York. Vindman was 4 years old. He and his twin went to college through the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Vindman and his brother are career Army officers, and both rose to become lieutenant colonels.

What is Vindman’s military record?

Vindman served in South Korea, Germany and Iraq. In 2004, he was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb.

According to the U.S. Army, he has served for over 20 years. In addition to the Purple Heart, his medals include two Defense Meritorious Service awards, and an Army Commendation Medal — more than 10 in total.

"Since 2008, I have been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia," Vindman said in his committee statement. "In this role, I have served in the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs where I authored the principle strategy for managing competition with Russia."

He said he has served both Democrats and Republicans in a "nonpartisan manner."

How have Trump supporters tried to undermine Vindman?

The strongest criticism came on Fox News Oct. 28. Host Laura Ingraham used conversations between Vindman and Ukrainian officials to say he was "advising Ukraine, apparently against the president’s interests."

Ingraham’s guest, John Yoo, the former White House lawyer who in 2003 gave the legal justification for torture during the Iraq War, said "some people might call that espionage."

On "Fox and Friends," host Brian Kilmeade said Oct. 29 "he tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine."

Former Republican congressman Sean Duffy said Oct. 29 on CNN, "It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don't know that he's concerned about American policy."

In short, Vindman’s critics suggest that he is more interested in helping Ukraine than advancing American interests. But these arguments are speculative, and we found no objective evidence to support them.