By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Former Marine Gen. John Kelly became President Trump’s first Homeland Security chief before moving into the White House as his chief of staff. The retired general proved again this week why he was eventually forced out.
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During an event at Drew University in New Jersey, according to The Atlantic, Kelly said he agreed with former National Security Council member Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s decision to undermine President Trump by reporting his ‘concerns’ to his superior regarding Ukrainian military aid.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
The remarks from Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, come after Vindman was removed Friday from his role as the top Ukraine specialist on the NSC and escorted from the White House grounds. Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny, who served as a senior lawyer on the NSC, was also forced from his post.
Their dismissals were widely viewed among Democratic lawmakers and administration critics as an act of political retaliation after Vindman informed White House attorney John Eisenberg of Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and proceeded to cooperate with the House impeachment investigation.
Kelly, who served as Trump’s most senior aide from July 2017 until early last year, said Vindman’s decision to escalate his concerns about the call were in line with the protocol of the armed forces.
“We teach them, Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,” Kelly said Wednesday of Vindman’s reporting of the call.
Kelly also appeared to affirm that he believed Trump did indeed condition hundreds of millions of dollars in vital military aid to Ukraine on Zelensky’s agreement to assist in the investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against …. the Russians,” Kelly said. “And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”
To be clear, according to a transcript of the July 25 phone call in question released by the White House — something the president’s political enemies never thought he would do — Trump never threatened to condition U.S. military aid to Ukraine on the opening of a formal corruption investigation into the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden. The president did suggest it, but he never insisted on it. That’s a matter of record, and in fact, the Justice Department has cleared the president of any legal wrongdoing.
Speaking of military aid, the Obama regime never gave any direct lethal aid to Ukraine even as that country was battling Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east. Trump did, however, provide lethal military aid in the form of Javelin anti-tank missiles. John Kelly knows this.
Also, nothing in that phone call rose to the level of an ‘illegal order,’ as Trump wasn’t tasking Vindman to do anything. Foreign aid is disbursed through the Office of Management and Budget, not the NSC. There were no “orders” given to Vindman so there wasn’t anything for him to ‘lawfully disobey.’
The fact is, Vindman and others on the NSC have been working to undermine Trump in a way that no previous president in generations has been undermined since the council was formed in 1947.
And, as National Security Adviser Robert O’Brian noted, mid-level career Army officers don’t make national security and foreign policy, presidents do. John Kelly knows this, too.
“We’re not a country where a bunch of lieutenant colonels can get together and decide what the policy is of the United States,” O’Brien said during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank. “We are not a banana republic.”
In any event, this isn’t the first time Kelly has publicly trashed his former boss. He also said he “believed” John Bolton, who allegedly will assert in an upcoming book that Trump improperly withheld aid from Ukraine. Thus, Kelly, by default, also must believe that the Democrats’ impeachment effort was also legitimate.
No wonder he’s no longer at the White House.
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