WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said on Thursday that she would put a hold on the confirmation of over 1,000 military promotions until Defense Secretary Mark Esper provided assurances on the promotion of a former White House aide who testified in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who provided some of the most damaging testimony during an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, is up for a promotion to colonel. However, there is concern his promotion could be affected due to political reasons.
“Our military is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy. It is simply unprecedented and wrong for any commander in chief to meddle in routine military matters at all,” said Duckworth, a former Army National Guard helicopter pilot who lost both legs when she was shot down in Iraq in 2004.
She is also reportedly under consideration by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to be his running mate.
Duckworth intended to place a hold on 1,123 senior military service members’ promotions until Esper “confirms in writing that he did not, or will not, block the expected and deserved promotion of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman to colonel,” a statement said.
Duckworth’s action would make it far more difficult and time-consuming to approve such promotions, especially given how little time the Senate has before the November elections.
Vindman and his twin brother were escorted from the White House in February.
“We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want,” Trump said at the time.
Esper said in November that Vindman should not fear retaliation over his testimony.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)