Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key figure in the impeachment proceedings and a Ukrainian Jewish refugee who arrived in America as a child, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
Republican lawmakers and pundits have repeatedly used Vindman’s heritage to question his loyalty to the United States and his credibility as a witness.
Weaving his family’s saga into his testimony, Vindman argued that his immigrant history endowed him with a sense of duty towards his country.
He joined the military, he said, because he decided as a young man “that I wanted to spend my life serving the nation that gave my family refuge from authoritarian oppression.”
Familiarity with the oppressive regime his family fled convinced him of the importance of reporting President Trump’s potential misconduct, he said in his opening statement: “In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”
At the end of his statement, Vindman addressed his father personally. “Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” he said. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
During questioning, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York asked Vindman why he felt the need to reassure his father of his safety during his opening statement. Vindman responded that in his father’s experience, coming forward against a powerful politician was “the ultimate risk.” However, Vindman said, he felt comfortable doing so now “because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served, and here right matters.”
Applause broke out as Vindman finished speaking.