2020-09-14 16:48:47 UTC
*The purple heart colonel has given his first interview since serving as a star
*Vindman reported on Trump's 'perfect' call with the president of Ukraine where
Trump sought an investigation of rival Joe Biden
*He told the Atlantic Trump 'should be considered to be a useful idiot and a
*Compared it to 'free chicken'
Former national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman called President
Donald Trump a 'useful idiot' for Vladimir Putin in his first interview since
serving as a star impeachment witness.
Vindman, who testified in Congress about Trump's infamous call with the
president of Ukraine, spoke about his time on the Trump national security
council as a Ukraine expert.
'President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow
traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,' Vindman told the
He describes Trump as an 'admirer' of the Russian strongman and says Putin is
able to have a hold over Trump even without the presence of any 'dirt' as
'They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don't have to use it,' he told
the magazine. 'They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him.
'He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires
'He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and
balances. So he'll try to please Putin,' he said.
He colorfully described it as 'free chicken.'
'In the Army we call this 'free chicken,' something you don't have to work
forit just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free
chicken,' he said.
Vindman was escorted from the White House in February, weeks after the
impeachment saga ended, and was removed from his NSC post.
He made the comments to interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg, who produced this month's
bombshell report citing unnamed officials that Trump had called fallen U.S.
troops 'suckers' and 'losers.'
Trump defended Vindman's firing at the time, tweeting that he was 'very
insubordinate, reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly, &. was given
a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated
that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and
leaking information. In other words, 'OUT.'
Vindman's lawyer countered that Trump's statements 'conflict with the clear
personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the
President is well aware.'
Vindman says of Trump: 'The president destroyed my Army career.'
He added: 'Im not crying over spilled milk. I have other things to do' but says
the episode prompted him to miss a chance to get promoted to full colonel.
Vindman's verdict - which comes before a television interview later this week -
is the latest in a barrage of books and interviews which have hit Trump in the
last few weeks.
Those have been led by Bob Woodward's Rage, in which the veteran Watergate
reporter revealed tapes of Trump admitting coronavirus is 'deadly stuff' in
early February, despite then telling the public it was 'going to go away' and
'like flu,' and in late March saying he liked to 'play it down' because he did
not want 'panic.'
On Monday Woodward revealed how Trump told him that he gets along better with
strongmen like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoðan than leaders of countries
that the U.S. gets along with.
'I can tell you the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the
better I get along with them,' Trump is heard telling Woodward in a sound clip
that debuted on the 'Today' show Monday. 'The easy ones I don't like as much or
don't get along with as much.'
Woodward's new book 'Rage,' which comes out Tuesday, uses the contents from 18
recorded interviews with Trump.
In the clip Woodward shared Monday, Trump specifically brings up Erdoðan as he
talks about his relationships with world leaders.
'I get along very well with Erdoðan, even though you're not supposed to, because
everyone says, "What a horrible guy." But, you know, for me it works out good,'
The president then adds, 'You'll explain that to me some day, OK.'
'But maybe it's not a bad thing,' Trump says.
Critics of Trump have long lambasted his affinity for leaders like Erdoðan,
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump has
talked up having good relationships with those three, while criticizing NATO
members for not paying enough.
Woodward, who concludes his book by saying that Trump is the 'wrong man for the
job,' explained to NBC's Savannah Guthrie on Monday why the president's comments
on world leaders are troubling.
'As you know, under the Constitution the president controls foreign relations
unilaterally,' Woodward said.
'He decides and has decided, "Oh, I'm going to get along with Putin. I'm getting
to get along with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MBS. I'm going to try to get
along with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea,"' Woodward said.
On the other hand, Woodward continued, Trump 'smears South Korea time and time
again' during their conversations.
South Korea has long been an American ally.
'He is the face of the United States to the world,' Woodward said. 'And he has
said, and there is it, "Hey, look, I get along with these bad guys, but not the
Woodward also reported in his book that former Director of National Intelligence
Dan Coats remained suspicious that Putin 'had something' on Trump.
'Yes. But Dan Coats, who was the number one intelligence officer in the country
did not have proof,' Woodward said Monday to NBC's Savannah Guthrie's
questioning. 'They went through all the intelligence. But he, indeed, harbored