Former Trump Chief Of Staff Defends Vindman Over Need To Report Trump’s “Illegal Order”

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s decision to report President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. Kelly referred to the call as an “illegal order” that had to be reported. Most of us support Vindman raising his concerns with the chain of command and hopefully Trump will not attack Kelly for stating his support for Vindman. This is a principled and reasonable view of one of our most respected military officers.

In comments at Drew University Wednesday night, Kelly said Vindman “did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave. He went and told his boss what he just heard.” Kelly went on: “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.” 

I do not see the call as an “illegal order” but agree that such reservations should be raised, as they were, with Vindman’s superiors. As I have written, I do not see the call as a crime or illegal. While I have criticized the reference to the Bidens as inappropriate and deeply concerning, the issue is not whether it is illegal but whether it was appropriate for Vindman to take the matters to his superiors. The answer is clearly yes.

While I am not hopeful, Trump should respect the view of Kelly on this question and not counterpunch with a personal attack. Kelly’s criticism of other issues like immigration are simply his opinion, but the Vindman question goes to a core principle of military ethics that should not be questioned by the White House.

89 thoughts on “Former Trump Chief Of Staff Defends Vindman Over Need To Report Trump’s “Illegal Order””

  1. The people who work in the WH serve at the President’s discretion…PERIOD. Trump should have cleared the WH of all his enemies a long time ago.

    The Dems in Congress want to usurp the President’s Constitutional powers. That is very dangerous.

    1. The people in the WH serve the U.S. Constitution first, the president second. There is no legal binding oath that supersedes the constitutional oath of office. Presidents have a slightly differently worded oath but they are legally required to follow the U.S. Constitution also.

      The President’s Oath under Article II (Section 1-7):
      “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

      WH staff have a more restricted oath of office, where they follow the US Constitution as the “supreme law of the land”. Bottom line: if presidents follow the Constitution, so do most WH staff members.

  2. Congress actually has broader authority over the military. Article I (Section 8-14) states: “[Congress] to make rules for the government [executive branch] and regulation of the land and naval forces”. The Founding Fathers wanted to make clear that we don’t have dictators or monarchs in the USA, so Congress is listed first in Article I powers (closer to the voters) and presidents are listed second in Article II powers. If Trump had made a deal to benefit voters, he would have been on more solid ground but he made a deal for self-serving reasons (to find dirt on his political opponent).

    1. Ashcroft’s Zersetzung :

      “Congress actually has broader authority over the military. Article I (Section 8-14) states: “[Congress] to make rules for the government [executive branch] and regulation of the land and naval forces”. The Founding Fathers wanted to make clear that we don’t have dictators or monarchs in the USA, so Congress is listed first in Article I powers (closer to the voters) and presidents are listed second in Article II powers. If Trump had made a deal to benefit voters, he would have been on more solid ground but he made a deal for self-serving reasons (to find dirt on his political opponent).”
      ***************************
      There’s so much wrong with your analysis: First, the President is commander-in-chief regardless of where it’s written in the document. That’s the broadest possible authority. Congress can declare war, authorize funds and pass laws affecting that but it can’t usurp POTUS plenary power by regulations or otherwise. Second, the Congress isn’t “closer to the voters.” Hell, US Senators weren’t even popularly elected until 1913; they were appointed by the state legislature. And btw, the President stands for election in every congressional district not just one or one State, hence he arguably is the “closest” to ALL the voters not just the ones in Pigknuckle, Arkansas or Arkansas itself. And finally, how do you know what was in Trump’s mind when he asked the Ukrainians to investigate the Biden sinecure? I don’t and unless you’re doing seances, you don’t either.

      Please it’s a legal blog. The BS detection meter is in high detection mode and its rattling off the shelf with your comment. Try again.

  3. The republicans have made it very clear, THIS president is above the law. The chosen one and stable genius is free to do what he wants when he wants.

    1. “Free to do what he wants when he wants” omg please stop.

      The Democrats have made it very clear…..that you can get away with lying under oath, lying to Congress, lying to investigators, lying to courts, lying like Schiff, planning a coup to overturn an election result….and then….get a million dollar book deal along with a paid position as a cable news political “analyst” where you get to go on TV and spin your own crimes. But make no mistake, you can only get away with ALL of this….IF you are a Democrat or serving the Democrat agenda. Got it Fishy?

    2. Fishy, just wait until President Trump pardons Roger Stone. And if he does it on Super Tuesday? Hoo boy. Plan accordingly for Democrat-Media to lose their collective minds.

      1. I doubt that Trump would pardon Stone and others on Super Tuesday.
        If there are to be pardons ( or commutations) of Manafort, Stone, Flynn, etc., Trump would be most likely to do it after the November elections.
        If he loses the election, he still has over 2 months in office to grant pardons.
        If he wins, he can pardon them after an election he won without having to worry about any future elections.

  4. Vindman deliberately subverted his chain of command. He politicized his position. What the h*ll is John Kelly talking about? If Kelly did not like Trump and he disagreed with his policies, then Kelly should have resigned. Now he’s out backstabbing the president? During his tenure as Chief of Staff, was Kelly subverting the president’s agenda? My money says, yes he was. Prove me wrong.

    1. Basically Kelly talks like a saboteur now too. This is probably not his intention but he’s dragged along by institutional bureaucratic culture.

      The top generals are always the top bureaucrats.

      1. “Basically Kelly talks like a saboteur now…” Yep. Word on the street is that Kelly is “Anonymous”….remember Anonymous who tried to sabotage Trump from within? Yep, it was most likely Kelly himself. Listen to him now and it makes sense.

  5. Didn’t Vindman go OUTSIDE of the chain of command? Also, order was he given? He was a second hand instigator and nothing more.
    They would do well to learn how it’s done from General Mattis. He disagreed with Trump on policy and he resigned. He didn’t conspire with anyone to launch an impeachment.
    Neither Vindmann nor Kelly can carry Mattis’ rucksack.

  6. In closed door testimony of pencil neck’s House intelligence committee, Col Vindman credited Obama for delivering Javelin missiles to Ukraine. Lied.
    In 1994 Pres Clinton, France, Britain and Russia signed the Budahpest Memorandum guaranteed the security of Ukraine when Russia removed it’s nuclear missiles from Ukraine. When Russia invaded in 2014 Obama did nothing.

  7. All this just says is Bolton has to be heard from. And he will be, But it will be questioned because of monetary motives. To me, Vindman heard a ‘holy crap did i just hear that’ moment? He reacted as he would to a superior out of control. It’s now in the hands of us armchairs to bloviate about it. Seems the outcome is always the same in that forum.

    1. Perhaps because Vindman is Ukrainian and this was a personal bias, he resented Trump who we are always told is some kind of Russian asset, false but oft repeated, and so. The details didn’t matter; he was laying in wait for something to complain about, and then give him the metaphorical shiv. Just as all the rest of them are. Basically, guys like Vindman, they’re not team players. They’re plying their own agendas. A regular business boss would fire all these malingerers pronto.

      1. Could be bias involved. Still Trump’s job not to be such punch drunk rookie real estate developer running his NY game in Washington though. Trump just makes it too easy…both for the potential backstabbers and Russian intelligence.

  8. “This is a principled and reasonable view of one of our most respected military officers.”
    *****************
    Sure. Hell hath no fury like the military brass scorned. Send him off to Orange, New Jersey where he can just fade away like George McClellan after writing his “I Hate the President” memoirs. Said McClelland of Lincoln: “The President is no more than a well-meaning baboon. I went to the White House directly after tea, where I found “The Original Gorilla”, about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen to be at the head of our affairs now.” (Now there’s a respectful general officer!)

    And said Lincoln’s Secty of War, Edwin Stanton, of McClellan: “If we had a million men, McClellan would swear the enemy had two millions, and then he would sit down in the mud and yell for three.” Perhaps the best assessment of a general scorned came from the Great Emancipator himself (who had served as an militia officer in the Black Hawk War): “It is called the Army of the Potomac, but it is only McClellan’s bodyguard … If McClelland is not using the Army of the Potomac, I should like to borrow it for a while.”

    “Little Napoleon” McClellan is a footnote of history; Lincoln — a whole encyclopedia. Who cares what Kelly thinks, says or does?

  9. Withholding the aid was an illegal order. GAO confirmed that.

    Turley continues to descend into irrelevance. His only positive comments these days are from Trumpalos.

    1. Turley continues to descend into irrelevance.

      I suspect relevant enough that you are posting on his blog instead of the other way around.

  10. As a thirty year plus retired Colonel, I am particularly familiar with how to handle being given an illegal order. And in short, General Kelly, doesn’t know what he is talking about or how it applies to Vindman.

    First, if you are given **what you think to be** an illegal order, you ask your superior to clarify it. When a combat leader says, “Get rid of the prisoners,” the reply should be, “Do you mean me?” The second question is, “What exactly do you mean?” If your boss persists in clearly issuing an illegal order, the proper response is, “Sir (or Ma’am), I cannot comply unless you issue a signed, written order in which you take full responsibility.” (There is a great scene in the 1957 Stanley Kubrik movie, Paths of Glory, depicting such a scenario.)

    Poor Vindman handled it exactly wrong. As someone who listened in on an official conversation between two others, he wasn’t ordered to do anything. Vindman did not go to his supervisor–he went to a lawyer and a whistleblower. He said he didn’t have time to go to his supervisor. That’s why Vindman’s supervisor criticized his judgment.

    It’s sad to see Kelly, gold star dad that he is, to be so mistaken and out of touch.

  11. The issue does not apply, as Vindman was not given an order of any description, legal or otherwise. He reported a telephone conversation he overheard, and the issue of refusing illegal orders does not cover anything you overhear said to others or what you see done by others. You are responsible for what you do, but not for what someone else does. This “defense” by Vindman and Kelly is distraction and nonsense.

  12. My father fought with the First Division in WWII and was a lifer, retiring after 35 years and 3 wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam). HIs view in the 70’s was that the army had gone to hell. He said in his army, you gave an order and expected it to be obeyed and you received an order and executed it. This crap Kelly is espousing is yet another result of the trial lawyerization of our culture. It’s not right. It leads to divisiveness and chaos and we will reap the bitter harvest if we should ever face a near-peer in war.

  13. Let’s play Kelly’s game! First, “Kelly referred to the call as an “illegal order” that had to be reported.” I see two elements:

    1: illegal
    2. order

    First, who ordered Vindman to do what??? I don’t think anybody told the self-righteous twerp to do anything.

    Next, what part of the call was “illegal” – because I don’t remember the Impeachment Managers finding any “crime.”

    In conclusion, if you ain’t got no “order” and you ain’t got no “crime”, then ipse dixit res ipsa loquitur and caveat emptor – you ain’t go no “illegal order.”

    So there!!!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. I know nuth bout Bind man but the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. In English we spull “wind” with a letter w. V is kraut.

  15. Gen Kelley is saying Vindman should have reported it to his superior and should not be fired for doing so.
    However, Vindman is being transferred or fired for leaking it outside of his chain of command with no real “need to know”, hence (in my opinion) appropriately fired (at a bare minimum.
    I am open to counter arguments.. just let me know.

  16. Turley, you gave Republican senators legal cover to acquit and unleash this immoral president. I hope history judges you poorly for this.

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