Alexander Vindman and twin brother are Ukrainian refugees and Army lieutenant colonels who both now work in Trump White House
by Russ Read | Washington Examiner
The U.S. Army officer who has emerged as a key witness in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump is from a family of Jewish refugees who fled Ukraine in 1979 when it was under the yoke of the Soviet Union.
Harvard-educated Alexander Vindman and his twin brother Yevgeny left Ukraine when they were three. Both are now 44-year-old lieutenant colonels working in Trump’s White House on the National Security Council. Alexander is Director for Ukraine and Yevgeny, a military lawyer, works on ethics issues.
Both twins are married, and they have offices across from one another in the West Wing of the White House, according to Carol Kitman, a photographer who met the family when they were boys, chronicled their lives and is a close family friend.
Vindman is expected to tell investigators on Tuesday that he felt it was improper for Trump to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Vindman will be the first White House official who listened in on the July 25 call to testify in the proceedings.
“I was concerned by the call,” he said in his statement. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”
He is testifying, he said, out of what he called “a sense of duty,” after twice raising concerns about the Trump administration’s handling of Ukraine.
The Vindman twins, along with their father Semyon, maternal grandmother, and older brother Leonid, immigrated to the United States in 1979. They settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, a neighborhood known as “Little Odessa” due to its high population of Ukrainian emigres. Their mother had died in Ukraine, and the family sold their possessions while waiting for U.S. visas, arriving in the country with $750.
“I think their father felt they would do better in the United States as Jews,” said Kitman, who recalls seeing the grandmother and twins, then known as Sanya and Genya, under the elevated train in Brooklyn. She spoke to the grandmother in Yiddish, she said, and went back the next day planning to write a book about their lives.
Vindman joined the Army as an infantry officer in 1998 after graduating from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1998. After spells in South Korea and Germany, he fought in the Iraq war, where he was wounded by a roadside bomb, earning a Purple Heart. His dress uniform shows that he has the Combat Infantryman Badge, attended jump school, graduated from Army Ranger school, and served with the “Tropic Lightning” 25th Infantry Division.
As an Army officer, he earned a master’s degree from Harvard in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies.
Vindman has been a foreign area officer specializing in Eurasia since 2008, working in U.S. embassies across the region, including Ukraine and Russia. He joined the National Security Staff in July 2018 as Ukraine Director.
He said he first became concerned about the administration’s dealings with Ukraine in the spring, citing efforts by figures outside the administration attempting to create a “false narrative.” By July, he was concerned that the administration was pushing Zelensky to investigate Biden’s role at Burisma, an energy company based in Kyiv.
After listening in on the July 25 call, VIndman reportedly became concerned that Trump’s request would prove detrimental to U.S. national security. Vindman is not believed to be the whistleblower who first reported concerns with the phone call, though he did communicate his concerns up the chain of command.
“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained,” Vindman said in his opening statement. “This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel.”