A retired Army general has condemned GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham’s support for President Donald Trump’s dismissal of National Security Council staffer Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
Retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack was responding to Graham’s appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation show Sunday, in which the South Carolina senator said Vindman’s removal was “justified” and suggested the NSC staffer could no longer “be effective” in his role. Vindman was a key witness in Trump’s impeachment and detailed alleged wrongdoing by the president.
Zwack told CNN on Monday that Graham’s argument was “ridiculous” and described Vindman—who he once supervised—and other NSC staff who testified as “great Americans.” As a “proud” retired member of the intelligence community, Zwack joked that he is “a card-carrying member of the deep state.”
“Senator Graham, I’ve always had a lot of respect for you,” Zwack continued. “I met you when you were in Afghanistan in 2008, when you arrived with Senator McCain and Joe Lieberman as part of the three amigos. We thought you guys were rock stars. Where are you now, sir?”
The retired general said that “very high level” figures should “not dump that way—publicly by statement or by the God gun of a tweet—in demeaning his personality,” Zwack said. “And the other thing that offends me greatly is that so many other people have piled in that don’t even know him.”
Zwack explained that he was Vindman’s boss for two “difficult” years when they worked together in Russia, and that he had spoken to Vindman three times over the last three months, usually after “a major, if you will, assault on his character.” Zwack described the conversations as “morale support calls.”
Zwack said that Vindman was “hurt and insulted” by his removal from the NSC and is now “uncertain about his future,” though he still wears his military uniform “proudly.”
Vindman’s lawyer has described his ouster as a “campaign of intimidation” by the president.
Trump claimed Vindman was removed from his NSC position and escorted from the White House for being “very insubordinate” and reporting “contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly,” referring to his conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump was accused of attempting to extort Zelenskiy’s government into announcing a corruption investigation into possible 2020 rival Joe Biden in exchange for the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.
Vindman’s lawyer has rejected Trump’s account as “obviously false” and said the accusations “conflict with the clear personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the president is well aware.”