Trump and Republicans zero in on decorated Army officer Alexander Vindman wearing his military uniform to impeachment hearings

Business Insider Politics 2 weeks ago

President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have zeroed in on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman wearing his military uniform to impeachment hearings amid his participation in the inquiry.

The implication from the president and congressional Republicans is seemingly that Vindman, an Iraq War combat veteran and active duty Army officer, has used his dress uniform as a prop as part of a partisan performance.

But Army regulations state that "when an invitation calls for business attire, the appropriate Army uniform is the service or dress uniform." The regulations further state: "All personnel will wear an Army uniform when on duty, unless granted an exception by the commander to wear civilian clothes. "

In short, Vindman has been following US military protocol, and it would be a violation of Army regulations for him to show up to congressional hearings out of uniform.

And Vindman — the top adviser on Ukraine on the National Security Council — in his testimony on Tuesday vehemently denied his involvement in the inquiry was motivated by partisan leanings. 

"The uniform I wear today is that of the United States Army," Vindman said. "We do not serve any political party. We serve the nation."

GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee zeroed in on Vindman's uniform in Tuesday's hearing. 

Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, for example, mentioned that Vindman wore the uniform "even though you wear a suit" to the White House. He also questioned why Vindman earlier in the hearing corrected Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the committee, on his current rank in the Army.

Stewart said: "Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?"

"I am in uniform wearing my military rank, I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that," Vindman replied.

He added: "The attacks I've had in the press and Twitter have kind of eliminated the fact that...or marginalized me as a military officer."

Trump on Vindman: 'I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in'

Meanwhile, Trump at the White House on Tuesday explicitly mentioned Vindman's attire in comments to reporters.

The president said: "I don't know him, I don't know, I don't know – as he says, Lieutenant Colonel. I understand somebody had the misfortune of calling him mister and he corrected him. I never saw the man, I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in, no, I don't know Vindman at all."

Trump also mocked Vindman for wearing his uniform in an interview last week, stating: "You know him. He shows up in his uniform for the first time ever."

The remarks from Stewart and Trump echoed the headline of an article from the far-right news outlet Breitbart. The article, published in late October, is titled: "NSC Official Alex Vindman Testifies in Full Military Uniform, Despite Not Wearing One to Work Every Day."

Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney on Tuesday rebuked Republicans for focusing on Vindman's uniform. 

"It seems like if anybody gets to wear that uniform it's somebody with a breast plate with those commendations," Maloney said in defense of Vindman.

Vindman was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that led to a whistleblower complaint that ultimately sparked the impeachment inquiry. The Army officer's first-hand knowledge of the call and expertise on Ukraine have made him a key figure in the scandal that's threatening to upend Trump's presidency.

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