Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman is set to be promoted to full colonel, despite attempts by loyalists to former President Donald Trump to derail his career following his bit role in the president’s first impeachment, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Vindman’s twin brother, Alex Vindman, was a star witness in Trump’s impeachment trial and accused the president of pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden. Alex Vindman chose to retire from the military last July as a lieutenant colonel after what he called “a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” and is now writing a memoir and getting a doctorate.
But Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who was the senior ethics official at the National Security Council and its deputy legal adviser from July 2018 to February 2020, has stayed in the military. Both brothers were fired from the NSC a year ago by Trump, escorted out of the White House and sent back to the Pentagon.
Yevgeny Vindman is now on a list of colonel promotions that has been approved by the White House and is going to the Senate for formal confirmation, according to the two people familiar with the matter. The list has recently circulated through senior leadership in the Army and is expected to be publicly released on Tuesday.
Asked for comment, Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez, an Army spokesperson, said in a statement: “It is Army policy not to discuss board results which have not been released.” Vindman declined to comment. A White House spokesperson had no comment.
Vindman filed a complaint last August with the Pentagon inspector general alleging he was retaliated against by his former White House counsel’s office bosses, John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, for reporting misconduct by Trump. He also lodged allegations of ethics violations by former national security adviser Robert O’Brien for allegedly using NSC staff’s official time for personal errands and “demeaning and demoralizing sexist behavior against … female NSC professionals.” A Trump White House spokesperson denied the allegations at the time, calling Vindman “a junior-level disgruntled former detailee.” That investigation is ongoing.
Eisenberg and Ellis filed what could have been a career-ending evaluation of Vindman last year, saying he lacked judgment and had lost the trust of senior NSC leadership, according to the complaint Vindman filed. The promotions board first met roughly two months after the negative evaluations, according to the two people familiar with the matter.
But Maj. Gen. Michel Russell, an assistant deputy chief of staff in the Army, conducted an investigation and found the evaluations to not be objective, according to the people. In mid-January, his findings were approved by Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, chief of personnel for the Army, leading to the evaluations being deleted and never making it into the official records for the promotions board to consider, according to the two people.
Eisenberg disputed that he submitted the negative evaluation in a way timed to hurt Vindman’s career, saying that there are strict deadlines for reviews. He declined to comment further other than saying the Army “ran their process.” Ellis didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The year prior to the harsh review, Eisenberg in July 2019 wrote that Vindman was “a top 1% military attorney and officer” and “he can do any job in the legal field under unusual and constant pressure and scrutiny. Select now for SSC [Senior Service College] and promote immediately to COL. Absolutely unlimited potential!”
But after the Vindman brothers raised concerns with Eisenberg about Trump’s conduct on the Ukraine call, which occurred later that July, both were sidelined from their jobs and Yevgeny Vindman was rated “Unsatisfactory” and “Unqualified” in his performance evaluation last April, months after he had left the NSC, according to the complaint.
In that April 2020 evaluation, Ellis wrote that Vindman was “a hardworking officer, but he frequently lacks judgment and has difficulty understanding the appropriate role of a lawyer in an organization. … On multiple occasions, his unprofessional demeanor made NSC staff feel uncomfortable.” Eisenberg wrote that Vindman “would benefit from additional experience in a slower-paced work environment subject to less pressure and scrutiny.” He noted that “in time, he may become a better attorney.”
But former Trump national security adviser John Bolton and deputy national security adviser Charlie Kupperman said the opposite, and Bolton even praised Vindman’s work on cable news.
Vindman, who joined the military in 1997 in the infantry and served in Iraq as a legal adviser, is currently staff judge advocate and deputy chief counsel at the Army’s top research, development and tech engineering command in Aberdeen, Md.
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