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Defense watchdog: Trump administration targeted brother of impeachment witness

Defense watchdog: Trump administration targeted brother of impeachment witness
A defense watchdog report released Wednesday found the brother of Trump impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was illegally targeted for whistleblower complaint. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- Trump administration officials illegally retaliated against the brother of a key witness in former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pentagon Inspector General's office.

The report supported Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman's allegation that he was unfairly ousted from his role as ethics counsel to the National Security Council on Feb. 7, 2020, the same day his twin brother was escorted out of the White House for raising concerns about Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Yevgeny Vindman's brother, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, was on the July 2019 call and went to Yevgeny Vindman with his concerns after Trump asked Zelensky to open an investigation into Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

In addition to his firing from the NSC, Yevgeny Vindman received poor performance reviews for his service and was not recommended for an end-of-tour award after raising concerns about possible "sexist conduct" at the NSC.

RELATED Alexander Vindman sues Trump allies for alleged intimidation, retaliation

"Based on a preponderance of evidence, we conclude that it is more likely than not that the complainant was the subject of unfavorable personnel actions and that these were in reprisal for his protected communications," the report said.

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The report did not recommend any punishment for military or Trump administration officials, but verified Yevgeny Vindman's claim that he was unfairly punished for protected whistleblower statements.

Yevgeny Vindman's lawyer said the report "fully vindicates" his client.

RELATED Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman retires from Army citing 'bullying,' 'retaliation' by Trump

"Through his protected lawful whistleblowing activities, Lt. Col. Vindman properly reported misconduct involving officials within the Trump administration's White House and National Security Council," attorney Mark Zaid said in a statement.

Top Democrats, who urged the inspector general to open the investigation, issued a joint statement Wednesday calling for added measures to protect whistleblowers.

"After Watergate, Congress passed significant reforms to ensure that whenever federal personnel made disclosures, they would be protected from reprisal. The Trump administration broke that promise by targeting whistleblowers and individuals connected to them with a vengeance. That can never be allowed to happen again, under any administration."

RELATED Star impeachment witnesses Vindman, Sondland removed from jobs

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about reproductive rights as she virtually meets with abortion providers in the South Auditorium on Thursday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

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