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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman should not fear retaliation over his testimony to the U.S. Congress in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.
Vindman, now detailed to the White House National Security Council, has been targeted by Trump following his Oct. 29 congressional testimony. Trump tweeted that Vindman was a "Never Trumper witness," raising questions about potential fallout on his military career.
"He shouldn't have any fear of retaliation," Esper told a small group of reporters during a flight to New York, adding that he had reinforced the "no retaliation" message in a conversation with the secretary of the Army.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis once sat in the dirt with a man who'd attempted to kill him with a roadside bomb in Iraq.
"It had been a bad night for him," said Mattis to a crowd of roughly 1,100 people in downtown Spokane on Thursday night. "He was out there with his wheelbarrow. He had two artillery rounds, and he was out digging a hole, and next thing you know he looks up and there's five guys with automatic weapons standing around him, and they're not his."
"So he knew, at that point, his retirement plan was in jeopardy," Mattis said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Despite the Pentagon's desperate attempts to stay out of the growing Ukraine drama engulfing Washington, senior officials at the Defense Department have been directed to turn documents on military aid to Ukraine to the Office of the General Counsel.
With Adm. Bill Moran's abdication three weeks before he was due to become chief of naval operations, the Pentagon has yet another vacancy to fill with precious few days left before Congress goes on summer break.
As of Monday, a total of 20 top positions across the U.S. military are vacant, including defense secretary, Air Force secretary, and inspector general, said Heather Babb, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Two officials have been confirmed by the Senate but have yet to assume their official duties: Christopher Scolese as director of the National Reconnaissance Office and Veronica Daigle as Assistant Defense Secretary for readiness, Babb said.