The official White House Twitter account tweeted out a quote on Tuesday that called Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman‘s judgment into question as he testified on Capitol Hill in the impeachment inquiry.
“Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman’s former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman’s judgment,” the White House tweeted.
The account attached a graphic of a quote from Morrison’s deposition illustrating that point. Morrison worked at the White House as an expert on Russia before leaving his position just before his deposition.
The tweet reflected the willingness of the president and his allies to target their criticisms on Vindman, who is still detailed to work for the White House as part of the National Security Council. Attacks on Vindman emerged as a theme prior to and during Tuesday’s hearing, a risky move given his résumé of military service and his family history.
While Trump himself largely avoided personal attacks on Vindman and said he did not know the National Security Council staffer, his GOP allies on the House Intelligence Committee sought to suggest Vindman was undermining President Trump‘s agenda or was a source of concern among others in the administration.
Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump campaign, tweeted that Vindman “apparently believes that HE’S the one who makes & coordinates U.S. policy.”
“This may come as a shock to him and the Democrats, but the President of the United States makes U.S. policy,” Murtaugh tweeted. “Case closed.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) similarly questioned Vindman’s judgment earlier in the hearing,
“Your boss had concerns about your judgment, your former boss, Dr. [Fiona] Hill, had concerns about your judgment, your colleagues had concerns about your judgment, and your colleagues felt there were times when you leaked information,” Jordan said. “Any idea why they have those impressions?”
Vindman appeared to be prepared for a line of questioning about his judgment. He read directly from an evaluation from Hill in mid-July in which she characterized him as “a top 1 percent military officer” who “exercises excellent judgment.”
Vindman also asserted that Tim Morrison, another national security official who Jordan cited as raising concerns about Vindman’s judgment, may have simply clashed with Vindman because of a difference in work culture and a lack of familiarity.
The attacks from Trump allies triggered a backlash following Vindman’s closed-door deposition in which he relayed his concerns about the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Commentators on CNN and Fox News suggested he may not be sufficiently loyal to the U.S., citing the fact that he emigrated from the Soviet Union to the U.S. as a toddler and speaks Russian and Ukrainian.
Republicans walked a fine line on Tuesday in raising his ties to Ukraine during the hearing. GOP counsel Steve Castor highlighted that Vindman was offered a role as a Ukrainian defense official multiple times, an offer Vindman said he did not consider serious.
But Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, seized on that exchange, calling it “highly unusual.”
“I’m not questioning his loyalty to the country, it just seems odd to me that the guy would be offered three times the ministry of defense for a country that just happens to be in this case Ukraine,” Sekulow said on his radio show.