WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – A retired Army lieutenant colonel who testified in the first impeachment case against Donald Trump has sued the former president’s oldest son and other Trump associates, alleging that they engaged in an “intentional, concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation and retaliation” because of his decision to testify.
The complaint was filed in federal court in Washington on Wednesday by Alexander Vindman, who testified during Trump’s impeachment hearings in 2019 about a phone conversation in which Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to probe Democratic challenger Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In February 2020, Trump was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, a longtime Trump advisor who has also acted as Trump’s lawyer, and former White House communications employees Dan Scavino and Julia Hahn are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
It claims that after House lawmakers summoned Vindman to testify, the defendants and others conspired to spread “false narratives” about him, including that he was a spy for Ukraine and had spoken disparagingly of the United States to foreign officials; leaked classified information about him; falsely accused him of lying under oath, and worked to sabotage his expected promotion to colonel.
“Defendants’ actions against Lt. Col. Vindman sent a message to other potential witnesses as well: cooperate at your own peril,” the suit states, adding that “the message reverberates to this day” as witnesses in the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol defy subpoenas at the direction of the Republican former president.
Trump Jr.’s, Scavino’s, and Giuliani’s lawyers did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment. Hahn also did not respond to a request for comment through email.
Vindman, an Iraq war veteran whose family left the Soviet Union when he was a youngster, was a crucial impeachment witness, claiming that he expressed worry twice about Trump’s effort to have Ukraine probe Biden. After listening to Trump’s talk with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in July 2019, he told a lawyer at the National Security Council about his worries.
According to the lawsuit, Vindman quickly became a “household name” as a result of a defamation campaign.
“The assaults on Lt. Col. Vindman were not accidental nor coincidental, nor were they the consequence of ordinary politics or current news cycles,” according to the complaint.
“Rather, the coordinated campaign was the result of a common understanding and agreement among and between President Trump, Defendants, and others comprising a close group of aides and associates inside and outside the White House, to target Lt. Col. Vindman in a specific way for the specific purpose of intimidation and retaliation,” the complaint continues.
Vindman “has suffered considerable financial, emotional, and reputational injury” as a consequence of the treatment, according to the complaint, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Vindman announced his retirement from the Army after more than 21 years in July 2020, and at the time, he made identical claims of harassment, bullying, and intimidation as those made in Wednesday’s complaint. He has now published “Here, Right Matters: An American Story,” a book about his experiences.