Former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was fired by President Trump, spoke at a public event and gave a spiritied defense of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman raising concerns about President Trump’s July call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said of Vindman. “We teach them, Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.”
Per the Guardian, Vindman, a Ukraine policy specialist, complied with a congressional subpoena in the impeachment hearings, and spoke out about hearing Trump tie US military aid for Ukraine to an agreement by Zelinskliy to investigate Joe Biden, Kelly said.
Kelly said on Wednesday: “Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the US was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians. And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”
Politico reports former White House chief of staff John Kelly said Wednesday that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was following his military training when he chose to report President Donald Trump’s now infamous July phone call with the president of Ukraine.
That decision last summer ultimately led to the army officer’s ouster from a position with the National Security Council earlier this week, which in turn has stoked fears of a post-impeachment retribution campaign by the president.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said at an event at Drew University in New Jersey, according to The Atlantic. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
The remarks from Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, come after Vindman was removed Friday from his role as the top Ukraine specialist on the NSC and escorted from the White House grounds. Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny, who served as a senior lawyer on the NSC, was also forced from his post.
Their dismissals were widely viewed among Democratic lawmakers and administration critics as an act of political retaliation after Vindman informed White House attorney John Eisenberg of Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and proceeded to cooperate with the House impeachment investigation.
Kelly, who served as Trump’s most senior aide from July 2017 until early last year, said Vindman’s decision to escalate his concerns about the call were in line with the protocol of the armed forces.
“We teach them, Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,” Kelly said Wednesday of Vindman’s flagging of the call, during which Trump pressured Zelensky to open foreign probes into his domestic political rivals.
Kelly also appeared to affirm that he believed Trump did indeed condition hundreds of millions of dollars in vital military aid to Ukraine on Zelensky’s agreement to assist in the investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.