Don Jr, Giuliani sued by key witness in 2019 Trump impeachment

Retired US Army officer Alexander Vindman says he was target of intimidation campaign by top Donald Trump allies.

Former US Army Lt Col Alexander Vindman, pictured here in dark suit and red tie, was a military attache to the National Security Council.
Alexander Vindman had testified during 2019 impeachment proceedings about former US President Donald Trump's controversial phone call with Ukraine's president [File: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

A key witness in Donald Trump’s first impeachment case has sued the former US president’s son, Donald Trump Jr; his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani; and other Trump allies, accusing them of conducting a “concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation”.

The 73-page lawsuit from retired United States Army officer Alexander Vindman, a former White House aide who testified during House of Representatives impeachment hearings in 2019, was filed on Wednesday in the US District Court in Washington, DC.

Vindman testified during the impeachment proceedings about a phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate his rival, Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter.

“As the result of being called to testify before Congress, Lt. Col. Vindman immediately became the target of a dangerous campaign of witness intimidation by President Trump and a group of conspirators,” the lawsuit claims.

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, left, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol
Alexander Vindman (right) says he was the target of a ‘dangerous campaign of witness intimidation’ [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

In addition to Trump Jr and Guiliani, a longtime Trump aide who has served as his personal lawyer, Vindman’s lawsuit names as defendants former White House communications officials Dan Scavino and Julia Hahn.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump and his “close group of aides” coordinated and advanced “false narratives” about Vindman, including that he was a spy for Ukraine, had leaked classified information and had lied under oath.

An American citizen, Vindman was born in Ukraine and served as director for European affairs on the Trump White House’s National Security Council.

“The actions taken by Defendants against Lt. Col. Vindman sent a message to other potential witnesses as well: cooperate at your own peril,” his complaint states, adding that “the message reverberates to this day.”

Lawyers for Trump Jr, Scavino and Giuliani did not immediately return messages seeking comment from The Associated Press news agency. Hahn did not reply to an email seeking comment.

Vindman announced in July 2020 that he was retiring from the US army after more than 21 years and voiced similar allegations of harassment, bullying and intimidation as those included in Wednesday’s lawsuit.

Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress but acquitted by the Republican-held Senate in February 2020.

The House impeachment proceedings revealed a July 25, 2019 phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy had been part of a pressure campaign by the then-US president to get the Ukrainian government to investigate claims of corruption against Biden and his son.

At the time of the phone call, the White House had delayed delivery of US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine for defence in its border war with Russia.

Meanwhile, Guiliani and Trump administration officials were pressing Zelenskyy for an investigation into Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.

“I was concerned by the call. What I heard was improper. And I reported my concerns” to White House lawyers, Vindman told the House impeachment inquiry.

“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent,” said Vindman.

There was no evidence Biden or his son had engaged in any wrongdoing.

For his part, Trump claimed he had done nothing wrong in the phone call with Zelenskyy.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies