Allies of U.S. President Donald Trump sparked an instant backlash after attacking a National Security Council military officer who testified Tuesday that he twice raised concerns over the White House’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a 20-year Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, testified Tuesday that he twice raised concerns that President Donald Trump and his European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, inappropriately pushed Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden.
“I sit here, as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant,” Vindman, the NSC director on European affairs, told House investigators in written testimony. “I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics.”
The Army officer was a specialist in the White House on Ukraine and Russia. His backstory — he’s a Jewish immigrant who fled the Soviet Union with his family to become a decorated soldier and White House adviser— has the makings of an only-in-America movie.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General John Yoo used Vindman’s heritage to question his loyalty ahead of his testimony.
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Ingraham argued: “Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest, and usually, they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?!”
Yoo replied that it was “astounding,” adding: “You know, some people might call that espionage.”
MSNBC’s Brian Williams covered the Fox News exchange and asked his guest, “What are they getting at?” Jeremy Bash, a top Pentagon and CIA official in the Obama administration, responded, “I think they’re alleging that a U.S. Army colonel is a traitor.”
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney defended Vindman saying, "I also want to say a word about something else that's been going on over the course of the last several hours and last night, which I think is also shameful, and that is questioning the patriotism, questioning the dedication to country of people like Mr. Vindman."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, when asked about the issues, said, “I’m not going to question the patriotism of any of the people who are coming forward."
Former GOP congressman and MTV reality TV star Sean Duffy made a similar argument on CNN, saying, “It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy. ... We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from ... he has an affinity for the Ukraine.”
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said, “We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, emigrated with his family. Young. He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine.”
Vox political reporter Aaron Rupar pointed out the irony of Fox’s morning programing. “‘Fox & Friends’ is doing a segment on an Army veteran and the ‘TRUE MEANING OF SACRIFICE’ about an hour after smearing a Purple Heart recipient who expressed concerns about Trump.”
The criticism of Vindman and accusation of dual loyalty quickly sparked online criticism as critics saw echoes of the infamous Dreyfus affair, when a French army officer was wrongly accused of treason because of his Jewish identity.
The Financial Times’ U.S. editor, Edward Luce, tweeted, “Today we take the measure of what’s happened to the Republican Party. An immigrant wounded serving his country, risking his career to uphold US law, is being accused of being a spy. Courage & duty are un-American say Republicans. The only virtue is blind loyalty to the leader.”
The New Republic writer Matt Ford added:
“ME: I’m still hesitant to compare the Trump era’s social and political fissures to the Dreyfus affair’s impact on the Third Republic.”
FOX NEWS: “Check out the dual loyalty of this Jewish veteran.”