WASHINGTON — An Army officer who was a prominent witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump last year said on Wednesday he has decided to retire after his promotion was imperiled by objections from the White House.
The incident is the latest in what Pentagon and congressional officials say could be another flash point between the president and the military.
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran who served on the staff of the White House National Security Council, is among scores of officers who have been picked to be promoted to full colonel this year. Typically, such promotions are backed by Army and Pentagon officials before moving to the White House for final approval, and then to the Senate for a confirmation vote.
But the White House had made clear to officials in the Pentagon’s office of personnel and readiness, which handles such matters, that Mr. Trump did not want to see Colonel Vindman promoted, officials said.
In fact, when they saw an earlier draft version of the list last month, National Security Council staff members told their Defense Department counterparts they had evidence of misconduct by Colonel Vindman. No evidence of wrongdoing was ever provided.
“Today I officially requested retirement from the U.S. Army, an organization I love,” Colonel Vindman said in a Twitter message on Wednesday morning. “My family and I look forward to the next chapter of our lives.”
A person familiar with Colonel Vindman’s decision said he decided to retire after more than 20 years in the Army when it became apparent he would not be able to serve in a useful capacity in his area of specialty, Eurasia affairs. He had been scheduled to start a term at the Army War College later this summer.
Colonel Vindman’s retirement, which still must be approved by the Army, comes despite promises from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other senior military leaders to protect from retribution members of the armed services who return to military duties after serving tours at the White House.