Damned if you do – Damned if you don’t!
Today Lt. Col Vindman was relived of his position as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council (NSC) and escorted off the grounds of the White House.
This dismissal is a result of his decision to testify to congress after receiving a congressional summons to appear.
Vindman, among others received orders from the White House not to appear and not to testify.
However Vindman falls in a different category than the civilian appointees who were also summoned. He falls under a United States Military Chain of Command.
All military members take an Oath of Office. as follows
“I,____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God”
Notice the oath states, “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States…”, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 90 states that military personnel need to obey the “lawful orders of his/her superior. The duty and obligation to obey lawful orders creates no grey area for discussion. But does the military member have a duty to DISOBEY “unlawful orders” including orders of senior officers, Secretary of Defense and even the President of the United States? The UCMJ actually protects the soldier in this situation as he/she has a moral and legal obligation to the Constitution and not to obey unlawful orders and the people who issue them.
These have to be strong examples of a direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ and not the military member’s own opinion.
Vindman’s decision to testify placed him in a precarious position of disregarding verbal orders of his Commander and Chief.
To Obey, or Not to Obey?
It depends on the order. Military members disobey orders at their own risk. They also obey orders at their own risk. An order to commit a crime is unlawful. An order to perform a military duty, no matter how dangerous, is lawful as long as it doesn’t involve the commission of a crime.
Vindman’s chose to disobey the order by the President not to appear. His reason as stated in his opening remarks was personal.
On the other hand, he added, if he received a subpoena from Congress and failed to comply, he could face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However in this case any military charges resulting from refusing to testify would be quashed by order of the Commander and Chief.
The question of this U.S. Army Officer now is in the hands of his Command, The United States Army. In choosing to testify, did he violate orders? During his testimony did he release classified information? These will be determined first by the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Army (CID). In the mean time this morning LTC Vindman’s security clearance was suspended as was his brothers as a possible collaborator.
Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman (Alexanders brother) was serving as a JAG officer to the NSC.
All NSC members must have current security clearances to remain in their position and on White House Grounds.
With no security clearance he was escorted off White house Grounds as was his Brother, the JAG officer in whom he confided about the phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Both are now the under investigation for possible violations under UCMJ and possible Unauthorized Disclosure of Classified information.