Sun. May 22nd, 2022
Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman files federal lawsuit accusing Trump and Rudy Giuliani of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act
  • Vindman, an impeachment witness,  filed a civil lawsuit against Trump and his allies on Wednesday.
  • The suit accuses Trump, Giuliani, and two Trump aides of violating the KKK Act of 1871.
  • It says they conspired to retaliate against Vindman for doing his duties as a federal official.

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Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the Trump aides Dan Scavino and Julia Hahn.

The civil suit accuses the defendants of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which among other things prohibits conspiracies to prevent someone from holding or discharging the duties of their office or to retaliate against them for doing so. It also bars conspiracies to stop witnesses from testifying or to retaliate against them for doing so.

Vindman worked as a top Ukraine expert on Trump’s National Security Council and was among several witnesses who testified to Congress during Trump’s first impeachment about the president’s efforts to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into launching political investigations against the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election.

After it became public knowledge that he was cooperating with Congress’ impeachment inquiry, Vindman, whose family fled the former Soviet Union when he was a child and arrived in the US as refugees, was subject to a slew of antisemitic and xenophobic attacks from Trump’s allies and the right-wing media.

He and his twin brother, Yevgeny, who was a lawyer on the NSC but did not participate in the impeachment hearings, were also abruptly fired and escorted off White House grounds two days after the Senate acquitted Trump of the charges in his first impeachment trial.

“We can’t have a functional government or healthy democracy if witnesses can’t testify, and if federal officials can’t do their jobs, without fear of payback,” Vindman wrote in a USA Today op-ed announcing the lawsuit on Wednesday. “I filed this lawsuit because I believe in the active role all citizens must play in upholding our democracy.”

He continued later: “I hope this lawsuit will shed more light on the abuses that are chipping away at our democracy, and eventually bring a measure of justice to those who are responsible.” 

The suit accuses Trump and the other defendants of trying to intimidate and retaliate against Vindman by:

  • Holding meetings to “coordinate strategy regarding impeachment witnesses”;
  • Putting out talking points amplifying “false narratives” about Vindman’s loyalty to the US;
  • Publishing and repeating lies that Vindman “was a spy for Ukraine and had disparaged the United States to foreign officials”;
  • Leaking classified information to further “the false disloyalty narrative”;
  • Falsely claiming that Vindman lied under oath;
  • Publicly firing Vindman and his brother;
  • Trying to stop Vindman’s promotion to full colonel.

Vindman’s complaint also drew a direct line between efforts to stop witnesses from cooperating with Congress’ impeachment inquiry and problems that the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot is having securing witness testimony.

Specifically, the defendants’ actions “sent a message to other potential witnesses as well: cooperate and tell the truth at your own peril,” the lawsuit said. “The message reverberates to this day, as witnesses subpoenaed by Congress in connection with its investigation into the events of January 6, 2021, continue to heed former President Trump’s instructions to defy those subpoenas, undermining Congress’s constitutional oversight role and the fundamental principle of checks and balances between three co-equal branches of government.”

Vindman was a crucial witness in Congress’ first impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine. He directly listened in on the infamous July 25, 2019, phone call in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the Democratic Party as a whole over bogus claims of corruption involving Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings.

The former lieutenant colonel told lawmakers that he thought Trump’s conduct was “inappropriate” and “improper” and threatened US national security.

He testified that he immediately flagged his concerns to the NSC’s top lawyer “out of a sense of duty,” adding that the lawyer, John Eisenberg, told him not to discuss his concerns with anyone else. A transcript of the phone call was also subsequently moved to a top-secret code-word level NSC server typically used to house sensitive information pertaining to national security.

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