Blackburn is not the only Trump ally to attack Vindman, who has a Purple Heart medal for his service in Iraq. Trump himself has described the lieutenant colonel as a “Never Trumper” and he faced vicious opposition from Trump allies in the lead-up to his testimony. Former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham have questioned Vindman’s credibility. But GOP leaders from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) have defended Vindman from the attacks and praised his service to the country.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said there are questions remaining about Vindman’s testimony including his alleged interactions with the whistleblower, but sees no reason to disparage him.
“I’m not going to attack him,” Lankford said. “I don’t think there’s a reason for a personal attack. I don’t think there’s any reasons to check his motives or anything.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Friday that he was aware of the story that Vindman “was friends of the alleged whistleblower,” but added he did not know if it was true or not. Graham, however did not view attacks on Vindman necessarily as an affront.
“I don’t think that’s an attack, I think that’s a question,” Graham said.
James Carafano, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, defended Blackburn in a statement.
“Neither wearing a uniform or receiving a medal makes you immune from criticism or questioning your character and integrity-wearing a uniform is a privilege-wearing a uniform doesn’t give you privilege,” he said.
Vindman told House impeachment investigators in October that Trump undermined national security when he asked Zelensky to investigate his political rivals. He’s been a key figure during the impeachment trial, frequently cited in the Democratic House impeachment managers’ presentations.
Even while Senate Republicans are eager to attack the case — and even House impeachment managers — they have stayed away from criticizing the lieutenant colonel. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), among the most loquacious GOP senators, declined to comment on Blackburn’s remarks, while Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the GOP leadership, didn’t address them directly.
But despite her attacks, the Tennessee Republican has continued to air her views on the Trump impeachment trial in multiple TV appearances this week. She did a Fox News hit Tuesday while the Senate impeachment trial was in session, went on Ingraham’s show Thursday and spoke with Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth Saturday. Blackburn told Hegseth that she respects the uniform, but once again reiterated her criticism of Vindman.
“I’m not new to political battles,” she said Friday. “And this is something that is important to raise as a portion of the conversation as we look at the impeachment articles — to look at the credibility of the witnesses is an important piece of that.”
John Bresnahan contributed to this report.