Pentagon Chief: No Penalty For Officer In Impeachment Probe

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Former National Security Council Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, center, leaves after reviewing his testimony from a closed-door interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in the impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says an Army officer has no reason to fear retribution for testifying before Congress in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Esper was asked about potential retribution for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman during a trip Monday to New York. The defense secretary said the Pentagon “has protections for whistleblowers” who report waste, fraud or abuse.

He says Vindman or any other whistleblower “shouldn’t have any fear of retaliation,” according to a transcript of the exchange released by online publication Defense One.

Vindman is a Ukraine specialist at the White House. He testified about concerns that Trump was delaying military aid to the Eastern European country while pressing the country to investigate his political rivals.

That allegation is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

According to the Defense One transcript, Esper was asked what he would tell service members who might wonder if Vindman’s career is in jeopardy and whether their own careers would be at risk if they blew the whistle on waste, fraud or abuse.

Esper responded by saying the Pentagon “has protections for whistleblowers — they’re guaranteed in law. And he shouldn’t have any fear of retaliation. That’s DoD’s position,” referring to the Department of Defense.

(AP)