Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman smiles as he testifies before Congress.

Lt. Col. Vindman’s Opening Statement Was a Powerful Rebuke to the Attacks These Impeachment Witnesses Have Faced

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It’s day three of the public impeachment hearings in Congress, and today lawmakers are talking to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindmand and Mike Pence’s national security aide Jennifer Williams. Both have come under attack recently. Trump tweeted that Williams–”whoever that is,” he wrote–is a “Never Trumper.” And after Vindman’s original closed-door testimony, Fox News hosts and some other pundits went so far as to accuse him of espionage and treason based on the fact that he emigrated from Ukraine as a young child.

In his opening statement to Congress today, Vindman addressed these “vile character attacks” that he and other witnesses have been subjected to, calling them “reprehensible.”

“It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks,” his statement reads.

Vindman notes that he is not a political appointee. “The uniform I wear today is that of the United States Army,” he said. “The members of our all volunteer force are made up of a patchwork of people from all ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds who come together under a common oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. We do not serve any particular political party, we serve the nation.”

And like so many other immigrants and refugees, it was that experience that inspired him to serve the United States–not, as ogres like Laura Ingraham are suggesting–to try to destroy it. “As a young man I decided that I wanted to spend my life serving the nation that gave my family refuge from authoritarian oppression, and for the last twenty years it has been an honor to represent and protect this great country,” said Vindman.

Vindman gave Congress a lot of important information today. He spoke about the “improper” phone call which he himself (along with Williams) listened to and the ways in which he reported his concerns. He spoke about the omissions in the “transcript” of the call released by the White House, specifically saying that the word “Burisma,” the company Trump wanted Ukraine’s president to investigate in regard to Hunter Biden, was removed from the transcript.

Lt. Col. Vindman also gave us this wonderful moment:

But it was his personal story as a refugee that really stood out. It was incredibly moving.

Next month will mark 40 years since my family arrived in the United States as refugees. When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s story in America.

I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.

And this was his conclusion:

You can read Vindman’s full opening statement here and watch today’s hearing right here:

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.