Sen. Tammy Duckworth will keep her hold on more than 1,100 military promotions in place despite Wednesday's announcement of the retirement of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The Illinois Democrat announced the hold on Thursday amid concerns that Vindman would not receive a promotion to the rank of colonel in retaliation for his testimony before the House last year.
Vindman, a former Ukraine expert to the National Security Council, was ousted from his White House job following his November testimony in which he validated many of the concerns raised by the whistleblower whose report sparked the impeachment inquiry.
Reports have suggested that Trump, who has publicly attacked Vindman, pressured the Pentagon to block Vindman's promotion.
“Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the President attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Vindman’s patriotism has cost him his career,” Vindman’s attorney David Pressman said in a statement Wednesday.
The July 2 hold instituted by Duckworth, a retired Army officer who lost both legs while serving in the Iraq War, applies to 1,123 scheduled promotions of officers to the rank of “06” — colonel or Navy captain or above. Duckworth said last week she would lift the hold once Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper assured her, in writing, that Vindman would be shielded from retaliation.
Duckworth has still not received confirmation from Esper that the Army submitted a list of promotions to colonel that included Vindman, or that that list was sent to the White House for review, she said in a statement Wednesday.
The hold will remain in place “until the Secretary of Defense provides a transparent accounting of this disgraceful situation,” she said.
Exempted from the hold is Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's program to develop a coronavirus vaccine by early next year.