One of the key witnesses in former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial is suing Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and several other White House officials over what he alleges was an intimidation campaign meant to smear him as "disloyal to the United States" and a "spy for a foreign country."
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman became a star of the so-called "resistance" movement after reporting to House investigators that he thought a 2019 phone call between then-President Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was "improper" and "inappropriate." On the call in question, Trump pushed Zelenskyy to investigate the Biden family's involvement in Ukraine, particularly his son Hunter Biden's seat on the board of Ukranian energy company Burisma.
As a result of his testimony, Vindman alleges that Trump allies in and outside the White House designed an intimidation campaign "to inflict maximum damage by creating and spreading disinformation" that would spread via Fox News and other right-wing publications. Vindman also claims this campaign irreparably hurt his career, ultimately leading to his departure from the U.S. military.
He was immediately fired from his White House post after Trump was acquitted in a Senate trial — and soon after the Trump administration sought to block a routine military promotion for Vindman. He eventually retired after enduring the continuing "bullying" of Trump and his allies, the suit says.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Also included as defendants are White House social media director Dan Scavino and deputy White House communications director Julia Hahn. And while the suit does not name the former president as a defendant, his name is mentioned multiple times — claiming Trump was nonetheless part of a "coordinated campaign" to target Vindman.
Notably absent from the suit, NBC News reports, are any examples of meetings that took place or specific examples of coordination between the defendants — though the suit does claim "it is implausible that there would not be a high degree of coordination by the White House and close allies responding to a presidential impeachment."
Vindman also argues in the suit that his treatment had larger repercussions for other witnesses who may wish to speak up against the former president.
"The actions taken by Defendants against Lt. Col. Vindman sent a message to other potential witnesses as well: cooperate and tell the truth at your own peril. The message reverberates to this day, as witnesses subpoenaed by Congress in connection with its investigation into the events of January 6, 2021, continue to heed former President Trump's instructions to defy those subpoenas," the suit reads.