Hey, remember the first impeachment? The Ukraine one, after Donald Trump withheld military aid to blackmail Volodymyr Zelenskyy into announcing a fake investigation into Joe Biden? Wasn't that fun? Wouldn't it be delightful to revisit that again?
Well, too bad, because today we're having a very special episode called Department of Defense Inspector General's Whistleblower Reprisal Investigation, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman US Army, Complainant. The DOD IG investigated the allegation that political appointees in the White House retaliated against Vindman, twin brother of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the impeachment witness who testified about Trump's not-so-perfect phone call with the Ukrainian president. And it turns out that things were exactly as disgraceful as they looked at the time.
As if it were possible to interpret frog marching both brothers out of the White House less than 48 hours after Trump was acquitted by the Senate as anything other than a gross and deliberate act of public reprisal.
Okay, to recap for those of you who don't still burn with white hot rage two years later:
Alex and Yevgeny Vindman were decorated military officers who spent their careers in government service, culminating in stints serving at the National Security Council (NSC). After Alex, the Eastern European expert, heard Trump try to extort a foreign leader by withholding congressionally appropriated defense aid in the infamous July 25, 2019, phone call, he went to his brother Yevgeny, the ethics lawyer, to talk about President Crime Time and what their obligations were vis a vis the blatantly illegal shit that had just gone down.
The brothers brought the matter to the attention of Yevgeny's supervisors, attorneys John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis. Remember those assholes?
Eisenberg is the guy who parked the transcript of that phone call on the "Bin Laden server" after about five people came to him and said HOLY SHIT this is a massive abuse of office for personal gain by the president of the United States. (Remember the secret server that's supposed to be America's deepest secrets, but in the Trump administration was used to hide God knows what embarrassing crimes Trump was committing?) Eisenberg is the reason the original whistleblower filed a formal complaint, after he/she went informally to the CIA general counsel and said HOLY SHIT look at this crime thing. Because when the CIA lawyer called him up, Eisenberg's plan was to bring the matter to Attorney General Bill Barr, despite the fact that Trump had promised to "have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it" right after warning that Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was "going to go through some things."
Then after the whistleblower made a formal complaint, Eisenberg helped Bill Barr bury it at the Justice Department, despite the fact that in the first 100 words of the thing it says "the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election" and "Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well." Which is a wee smidge of a massive fucking conflict.
The statute unambiguously says Congress gets to see intelligence community whistleblower complaints that have been investigated and sustained by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), as this one was. But instead Eisenberg and Barr routed it through the Justice Department's Criminal Division, which found that there were SURPRISE! NO CRIMES! and no need to mention the thing to congress. Which would have been the end of the matter if the ICIG hadn't turned whistleblower himself and told Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, Eisenberg had suddenly decided that Yevgeny Windman was a terrible lawyer who was bad at his job. On July 1, 2019, he'd called Windman “MOST QUALIFIED,” the highest rating possible, and described him as "a top 1% military attorney and officer and the best LTC with whom I have ever worked.” On April 7, 2020, three months after the impeachment, Eisenberg rated Windman “NOT QUALIFIED” and claimed that he "did not grow professionally; that with additional counseling and experience, his performance might improve; and that the Complainant would benefit from additional experience in a slower-paced work environment subject to less pressure and scrutiny." It wasn't exactly subtle.
As for Michael Ellis, he's the former Devin Nunes staffer who got put on the NSC and was Yevgeny Vindman's direct supervisor. Later he did a speed-read of classification law so he could ratfuck John Bolton's book, before waging an unsuccessful battle to get himself burrowed into the NSA as a career employee, rather than a political appointee.
Ellis tapped out on that about five seconds after he realized he'd have to cooperate with the inspector general if he remained in government service:
Mr. Ellis, through his counsel, raised various concerns regarding our request to interview him, including concerns about executive privilege. We contacted the White House Counsel’s Office (WHCO) on March 2, 2021, regarding our efforts to schedule an interview with Mr. Ellis, and officials from the WHCO did not object to our interest in the matter. On April 15, 2021, through Mr. Ellis’s attorney, we asked to schedule an interview with Mr. Ellis; on April 16, 2021, Mr. Ellis resigned from his position as the NSA General Counsel. We contacted his attorney on April 19, 2021, and July 21, 2021, to reiterate our interview request. Mr. Ellis did not cooperate with this investigation.
Ellis also underwent a drastic change in his appraisal of Yevgeny Vindman's performance right around the time of the impeachment.
The orange line is Ellis's first assessment; the first blue line is the second evaluation; and the second blue line is the amendment after the Army reevaluated Vindman's performance review and said to the White House, "DUDE, WTF?" (More or less.)
Again, they weren't subtle.
After the Vindman brothers complained about the phone call, and Yevgeny brought up some other issues involving National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien's inappropriate behavior toward female subordinates — which was his job as the NSC's ethics lawyer— Yevgeny got frozen out of all meetings and his duties were reassigned to other attorneys.
And here's what the DOD IG said about that!
The Complainant experienced unfavorable and withheld favorable personnel actions under DoD Directive 7050.06 when he received an unfavorable 2020 OER, had his duties and responsibilities significantly changed to a degree inconsistent with his grade, was removed from the NSC, and when a recommendation for an end of tour award was not submitted. While the Complainant’s career may not appear to have been adversely affected as he has since been promoted to the rank of Colonel, his career is not over. The retaliatory actions taken by Mr. Ellis and Mr. Eisenberg could prove to be detrimental to the Complainant for the remainder of his career.
Which is a long way of saying they took revenge on him for telling the truth about Trump's effort to extort a foreign leader, and for his support of his brother in the face of a massive smear campaign. But we already knew that because we saw the two of them get booted out of the White House that Friday morning after the impeachment.
And in case that wasn't clear, Trump himself said that he'd fired the brothers to retaliate for the impeachment:
"Yeah, I obviously wasn’t happy with the job [Alex Vindman] did. First of all, he reported a false call. That wasn’t what was said on the call. What was said on the call was totally appropriate. And I call it a 'perfect call.' … There was no setup. There was no anything. And he reported it totally differently. And then they all went wild when I said that we have transcripts of the calls. And they turned out to be totally accurate transcripts. And if anybody felt there was any changes, we let them make it because it didn’t matter. So we had accurate—totally accurate transcripts. And it turned out that what he reported was very different. And also, when you look at Vindman’s—the person he reports to—said horrible things: avoided the chain of command, leaked, did a lot of bad things. And so we sent him on his way to a much different location and the military can handle him any way they want. General Milley has him now. I congratulate General Milley. He can have him, but—and the brother also.
Eisenberg, Ellis, and O'Brien all refused to cooperate with the IG for this report.
Ellis's attorney David W. Butler whined to the Washington Post that the report was “based on a biased and incomplete investigation.” And Eisenberg's lawyer William A. Burck complained that his client would have helped, except the IG wouldn't give him the questions in advance.
“Mr. Eisenberg acted professionally and lawfully and the defamatory allegations by the IG are politically motivated fiction,” Burck said. “It’s a sad and dangerous day when government investigators pursue politics instead of facts.”
Which is HAHA FUCK YOU, because, again, we were all there.
Let's give the last word to Yevgeny Windman, who remains an active military officer held in high regard by his peers.
“What happened to me and my brother is an outrage — one of many committed by the former president and his staff,” Windman told the Post.
Amen to that, sir.
[IG Report / WaPo]
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