Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in ex-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, had some choice words about the former president who fired Vindman as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council in 2020.
Trump’s private persona closely resembles his public one, Vindman told the group Russian Speaking Jews at American University on Feb. 24. He called Trump “very undisciplined, very erratic and impulsive. And acts off of instinct.”
Vindman described Trump as a “weak authoritarian leader” who “had the authoritarian tendencies, but didn’t have the willpower or the force or the intellect to carry through on those things.”
Vindman gave the Jan. 6 attack of the Capitol as an example.
“We could have had a catastrophe if he were re-elected. And frankly, that’s why I did my best to be as vocal as I could be to prevent that.”
Born in Ukraine, Vindman, 45, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 2019, he testified before Congress regarding Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate then-political opponent Joe Biden.
Vindman said Trump retaliated against him for testifying and was harassed by Trump supporters. But he believes his testimony was the right thing to do.
“I was not going to allow a subversion of our democracy by anybody. And the president should be held to a higher standard. And I was not going to compromise on my oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I made my voice heard, both privately and then ultimately publicly defending my convictions.”
“Surely, there’ll be another more competent and capable Donald Trump-like figure that emerges at some point in the future. And if we don’t learn from that, we could end up a completely different country.”
Vindman said his father was a Trump supporter until the first impeachment.
“I would constantly argue with my father,” he said. “Even after I testified, my father still was somewhat supportive of Donald Trump. It’s not until he started to retaliate against me that [he] ultimately broke.”
“He is a product of years of Soviet experience and has some appreciation for strong leadership, and liked the way that the president did business for some reason. And it took a fairly significant amount of time for my father to realize who the president was and take those blinders off.”
But things are better now between Vindman and his family.
“Let’s just say they stopped watching Fox News.”
Vindman said he is a product of an expatriate Soviet family. To him, being Jewish is a “subtext” of his family’s identity, as the Soviet government did an “extremely effective job at suppressing the Jewish identity.”
He grew up in a household that identified as Jewish but wasn’t well-versed in Jewish knowledge or practice. Today he and his family are members of Congregation Adat Reyim, and attend Shabbat services at the Springfield synagogue regularly. His 10-year-old daughter attends religious school there.
“And I hope that she has a better jumping off point for whichever way she wants to take her Judaism when she gets older,” Vindman said.
When it comes to Trump’s legacy, Vindman said the former president has damaged the U.S.’s reputation.
“Our friends don’t know if four years from now we will return to another Trump kind of America-first, nationalist, populist president, and therefore don’t know if we’re a reliable partner. And adversaries see a weakened America. So these are very, very serious challenges for the Biden administration.”