Vindman came forward in a pair of interviews Monday for the first time since serving as a star impeachment witness in the House impeachment inquiry.
He said he was a non-partisan public official before – but said when asked he is a ‘never-Trumper now,’ using the phrase first-adopted by Republicans who firmly resisted Trump’s ultimate takeover of the party.
‘In taking a very sober view of where this president is taking this country, the divisions, the catering to our adversaries, the undermining of national security interests, that I am absolutely a never-Trumper,’ Vindman told NBC News.
Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, said in an interview President Trump ‘should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler’ for Russia’s Vladimir Putin
Vindman, who has now retired from the Army after serving on the White House National Security Council, said he was ‘was not a never-Trumper before – I was nonpartisan’ but said that changed ‘as the president’s attacked and politicized me directly.’
‘I joined the president’s team, I joined this administration … with the hopes of being able to do my job, with the hopes of being able to advance U.S. national security interests. I could say that I am now a never-Trumper. I was not a never-Trumper before. I was non-partisan,’ Vindman said.
In another interview, Vindman, who testified in Congress about Trump’s infamous call with the president of Ukraine, spoke about his time on the Trump National Security Council as a Ukraine expert.
‘President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,’ Vindman told the Atlantic.
He describes Trump as an ‘admirer’ of the Russian strongman – and says Putin is able to have a hold over Trump even without the presence of any ‘dirt’ as leverage.
‘They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,’ he told the magazine. ‘They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him.
Vindman called Trump a ‘fellow traveler’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin
VINDMAN’S SOVIET INSULTS FOR TRUMP
The terms ‘useful idiot’ and ‘fellow traveler’ have intentionally Soviet echoes.
Leon Trotsky coined the term ‘fellow traveler’ after the Russian revolution of 1917, as a phrase for those who were waveringly sympathetic to the Communist party.
But it became an insult in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s and used during the McCarthy era to characterize people suspected of Communist sympathies without evidence they were card-carrying members of the Communist party.
‘Useful idiot’ has long been associated with Vladimir Lenin – although there is no evidence he actually said it – as a term for those who mistakenly help Communist goals through their actions.
It may have come from Tito’s Yugoslavia and was in widespread use by the 1950s in the west.
‘He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him.
‘He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin,’ he said.
He colorfully described it as ‘free chicken.’
‘In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken,’ he said.
Vindman was escorted from the White House in February, weeks after the impeachment saga ended, and was removed from his NSC post.
He made the comments to interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg, who produced this month’s bombshell report citing unnamed officials that Trump had called fallen U.S. troops ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’
Trump defended Vindman’s firing at the time, tweeting that he was ‘very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, &. was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT.’
Vindman’s lawyer countered that Trump’s statements ‘conflict with the clear personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the President is well aware.’
Vindman says of Trump: ‘The president destroyed my Army career.’
He added: ‘I’m not crying over spilled milk. I have other things to do’ but says the episode prompted him to miss a chance to get promoted to full colonel.
Vindman’s verdict – which comes before a television interview later this week – is the latest in a barrage of books and interviews which have hit Trump in the last few weeks.
Those have been led by Bob Woodward’s Rage, in which the veteran Watergate reporter revealed tapes of Trump admitting coronavirus is ‘deadly stuff’ in early February, despite then telling the public it was ‘going to go away’ and ‘like flu,’ and in late March saying he liked to ‘play it down’ because he did not want ‘panic.’
On Monday Woodward revealed how Trump told him that he gets along better with strongmen like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan than leaders of countries that the U.S. gets along with.
‘I can tell you the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,’ Trump is heard telling Woodward in a sound clip that debuted on the ‘Today’ show Monday. ‘The easy ones I don’t like as much or don’t get along with as much.’
Vindman retired this summer and says the events began by the Ukraine call kept cost him his chance of being promoted to full colonel
Woodward’s new book ‘Rage,’ which comes out Tuesday, uses the contents from 18 recorded interviews with Trump.
In the clip Woodward shared Monday, Trump specifically brings up Erdoğan as he talks about his relationships with world leaders.
‘I get along very well with Erdoğan, even though you’re not supposed to, because everyone says, “What a horrible guy.” But, you know, for me it works out good,’ Trump says.
The president then adds, ‘You’ll explain that to me some day, OK.’
‘But maybe it’s not a bad thing,’ Trump says.
Critics of Trump have long lambasted his affinity for leaders like Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump has talked up having good relationships with those three, while criticizing NATO members for not paying enough.
Woodward, who concludes his book by saying that Trump is the ‘wrong man for the job,’ explained to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on Monday why the president’s comments on world leaders are troubling.
‘As you know, under the Constitution the president controls foreign relations unilaterally,’ Woodward said.
‘Rage’ author Bob Woodward released a new interview clip of President Donald Trump Monday morning on the ‘Today’ show in which the president talks about getting along with strongmen leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
‘He decides and has decided, “Oh, I’m going to get along with Putin. I’m getting to get along with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MBS. I’m going to try to get along with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea,”‘ Woodward said.
On the other hand, Woodward continued, Trump ‘smears South Korea time and time again’ during their conversations.
South Korea has long been an American ally.
‘He is the face of the United States to the world,’ Woodward said. ‘And he has said, and there is it, “Hey, look, I get along with these bad guys, but not the good guys.”‘
Woodward also reported in his book that former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats remained suspicious that Putin ‘had something’ on Trump.
‘Yes. But Dan Coats, who was the number one intelligence officer in the country did not have proof,’ Woodward said Monday to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie’s questioning. ‘They went through all the intelligence. But he, indeed, harbored the suspicion.’