The Department of Defense inspector general found that Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, the twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, “more likely than not” faced retaliation for raising concerns about former President Donald Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to a report published Wednesday.
“Based on a preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that it is more likely than not that the Complainant was the subject of unfavorable personnel actions and that these were in reprisal for his protected communications,” the inspector general wrote.
Despite the findings, the report includes no recommendations, adding the former White House officials involved in actions against Vindman are no longer in their positions. The report also noted that Vindman has since been promoted to colonel and that his performance record was purged of an unfavorable review.
Vindman reacted to the report with this comment to The Washington Post: “What happened to me and my brother is an outrage — one of many committed by the former president and his staff.”
The report reviewed three protected communications by Vindman, including two instances in which Vindman raised concerns about Trump’s call to Zelenskyy, asking the Ukrainian leader to dig up dirt on now-President Joe Biden.
Vindman, along with his brother, flagged Trump’s demand as a potential violation to Michael Ellis, former National Security Council deputy legal adviser, and John Eisenberg, deputy White House counsel and NSC legal adviser, on July 25, 2019.
In a second conversation with Eisenberg on Aug. 5, 2019, Vindman reiterated his concerns about what he described as impeachable offenses committed by Trump.
Neither Ellis nor Eisenberg cooperated with the investigation.
Vindman said he faced a reduction in responsibilities immediately after the first discussion with Ellis and Eisenberg. The report found his “duties were reduced to the extent he no longer had ethics work to perform, no longer met weekly with the Deputy National Security Advisor” and was excluded from other National Security Council and NATO-related meetings, among others.
“Such a complete removal of the Complainant’s responsibilities reflects a reduction in duties that resulted in his marginalization and isolation,” the inspector general said.
“Based on the evidence available to us, we conclude that it is more likely than not that Mr. Ellis significantly changed [Vindman’s] duties and responsibilities to a degree inconsistent with his grade,” the report continues.
Vindman suffered another setback in February 2020, a few days after Trump’s impeachment trial resulted in acquittal, when Robert O’Brien removed both him and his twin brother from their roles at the National Security Council. Alexander Vindman testified before Congress on Nov. 19, 2019, providing details on Trump’s call with Zelenskyy, and Yevgeny Vindman attended in support of his brother.
A few months later, in April, Ellis rated Yevgeny Vindman’s performance as “unsatisfactory.” In a previous evaluation, Ellis had given Vindman “the highest possible rating,” according to the inspector general. The report concludes the unfavorable rating was “in reprisal for his protected communications.”
The report also includes a section on what could have established a motive for retaliation against Vindman.
“President Trump specifically identified the Complainant with ire as he defended his telephone call to President Zelenskyy, and considering the Complainant’s close association with his twin brother and that both reported President Trump’s alleged misconduct, the Complainant’s communications could well have motivated any administration official to take action against him,” the report reads.