Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Thursday she was prepared to put a hold on more than 1,100 normally routine military promotions unless Trump impeachment witness Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman gets fair consideration.
In a statement, Duckworth, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who lost both legs in Iraq, said she would block a promotions list with 1,123 names on it until she had confirmation from Defense Secretary Mark Esper that he would not scuttle "the expected and deserved promotion" of Vindman to colonel.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, has the authority to put a hold on nominations without stating a reason, but her statement made clear that she feared President Donald Trump would attempt to use his influence to block Vindman's promotion.
Vindman, a former Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who received a Purple Heart for service in Iraq, testified last November at the House impeachment hearings that he had knowledge of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
During the call, Trump allegedly warned that military aid to Ukraine would be held up unless Zelensky agreed to launch an investigation of the dealings in Ukraine of Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden.
Vindman testified that he came forward "out of a sense of duty" and the belief that it was "improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent."
Shortly after Trump was acquitted by the Senate of impeachment charges in February, Vindman was fired at the National Security Council and escorted from the White House.
His twin brother, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a lawyer on the National Security Council staff, was also escorted from the White House.
In a series of tweets on Feb. 8, Trump said he didn't know Vindman but "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 judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, 'OUT.'"
In her statement, Duckworth said it would be "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 said her hold on the promotions would not include Army Gen. Gus Perna, commander of U.S. Army Materiel Command, who has been nominated by Trump to help lead the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.