National Security Advisor Ambassador Robert O’Brien commented Tuesday night on the abrupt dismissal from the National Security Council last Friday of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, implying that the two were insubordinate and tried to control U.S. policy with regard to their native Ukraine. When asked directly if he was accusing the Vindman brothers, O’Brien said no, however it was a telling statement on the situation at the NSC before O’Brien took over last September from his fired predecessor Ambassador John Bolton.
The twin brothers Vindman.
Robert O’Brien, screen image.
O’Brien gave a speech to Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. and then sat on stage for an interview by CBS Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan. His comments on the Vindman brothers came in a follow-up to this question about him downsizing the National Security Council.
.@FaceTheNation's @margbrennan's asks about the "right-sizing" of the @WHNSC and the role of political bias plays.
NSA Robert O’Brien cites budget and historic precedent as reasons for the decrease in personnel. pic.twitter.com/FLk82joF4e
— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) February 12, 2020
Video of complete interview set to start at Brennan’s question about the Vindman brothers’ dismissal from the NSC:
Transcription by TGP:
O’Brien, “…but with the timing of what just has happened with the conclusion of impeachment, the fact that Vindman and his brother Yevgeny who was an ethics lawyer on the National Security Council were both fired on Friday and walked out, it sounds like the thing you said you wouldn’t do which is to retaliate. Can you answer that specifically, can you say unequivocally it wasn’t that?”
“No, look, ab-absolutely, and uh, so, so number one, uh, they weren’t fired. Uh, so, none of the detailees that leave the NSC are fired. Uh, folks may think it that, you know, it feels that way, and, look, it’s great to work at the White House, everybody likes working at the White House, uh, but there will come a time for all of us who work at the White House, including me, uh, that will leave the White House.
“And as far as being walked out that’s standard procedure and folks who, who’ve worked at the White House know this, your last day you lose your badge, and someone walks you out to the uh, gate and so that happens when you’re at the White House as a visitor, you have an escort who escorts you out. People aren’t kind of free range in the White House. And if you don’t have a badge to open the gate, somebody has to let the Secret Service know and they let you out. So uh, I, I just wouldn’t read anything into that.
“But look at the end of the day the President is entitled to staffers uh, that, that want to execute his policy, that he has confidence in and uh, and I think every, every president’s entitled to that. Uh, but, but there’s no, absolutely no retaliation with respect to the Vindmans as far as impeachment goes. But the president is entitled to a staff that he has confidence in and that he believes will execute his policies.
“I mean look, we’re, we’re not a country where a, a group of lieutenant colonels can get together and dictate what the policy of the United States is. The policy of the United States is uh, formulated and decided by an elected President of the United States. We’re not some banana republic where lieutenant colonels get together and decide what the policy is or should be.”
Brennan: “Is that what you’re suggesting happened?”
O’Brien, “No, I’m just, I’m just that saying we’re not that country, so the President’s entitled to a staff of people that he has confidence in.”
Brennan: “…can you directly say that they were not retaliated against?”
O’Brien: “I, I can absolutely tell you they were not retaliated against.”
Brennan: “Did the President ever tell you, to get rid of them, because he spoke publicly and named them. You don’t normally hear the names of National Security Council members.
O’Brien: “Aaa, aa, absolutely not, but the hiring and uh, the, the decisions with respect on personnel are made by the National Security Council. Uh, with our, ultimately the buck stops with me but we have a chief of staff, we have uh, a deputy and we have lawyers who are involved in every one of those decisions. And so, those, those were my decisions and I stand by ’em and um, we’re very proud of what we’ve done so far.”
President Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday about the dismissal of Alexander Vindman.
‘We sent him on his way to a much different location and the military can handle him any way they want,’ said President Trump on former White House National Security Council aide Alexander Vindman, who testified in the impeachment trial https://t.co/R4fDbXg4R7 pic.twitter.com/x55F6Gqpvl
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 12, 2020
Excerpt from White House transcript:
Q Then can you talk a little bit more about some of the recent departures from the White House, including the Vindman twins and —
THE PRESIDENT: No, well —
Q — and pending departures?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I obviously wasn’t happy with the job he did. First of all, he reported a false call. That wasn’t what was said on the call. What was said on the call was totally appropriate. And I call it a “perfect call.” I always will call it a “perfect call.” And it wasn’t one call; it was two calls. There were two perfect calls. There was no setup. There was no anything. And he reported it totally differently.
And then they all went wild when I said that we have transcripts of the calls. And they turned out to be totally accurate transcripts. And if anybody felt there was any changes, we let them make it because it didn’t matter. So we had accurate — totally accurate transcripts. And it turned out that what he reported was very different.
And also, when you look at Vindman’s — the person he reports to — said horrible things: avoided the chain of command, leaked, did a lot of bad things. And so we sent him on his way to a much different location and the military can handle him any way they want. General Milley has him now. I congratulate General Milley. He can have him, but — and his brother also.
So we’ll — we’ll find out what happened. I mean, we’ll find out. But he reported very inaccurate things. You understand that, John. When you look at his report and then when you look at what, actually, the exact the words – fortunately, I had the words, because otherwise we would have had a lot of people lying. And we were able to do it. So fortunately, we had transcripts of those calls.
I think you guys all agree with that. Right?…
…Q When you — when you say that the military can deal with Vindman any way that they want, are you sugg- —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, no, well, that’s up to them.
Q Are you suggesting he should face —
THE PRESIDENT: He is now — he’s — he’s over with the military.
Q Do you think he needs to face disciplinary action?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s going to be up to the military. We’ll have to see. But if you look at what happened, I mean, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that. But, no, I think what he did was just reported a false call…