Key impeachment witness Alexander Vindman said he now considers himself a 'Never Trumper'

By Lauren Frias

Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, said he "absolutely" became a "Never Trumper" in light of the president's attacks against him.

Following Vindman's congressional testimony for the president's impeachment inquiry, Trump accused the decorated veteran of being a "Never Trumper." When Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut asked at the time if Vindman identified with the term, he replied saying, "I would call myself a never partisan."

In an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt, Vindman said he now considers himself a "Never Trumper," adding that he joined into the administration "with the hopes of being able to do my job, with the hopes of being able to advance US national security interests."

"Regardless of what administration, I would just try to do the best I could to advance national security interests," Vindman told Holt, "but I think, as the president's attacked and politicized me directly, in taking a very sober view of where this president is taking this country, the divisions, the catering to our adversaries, the undermining of national security interests, I am absolutely a 'Never Trumper.'"

Vindman and his twin brother were both ousted from their positions at the National Security Council earlier this year.

In July, Vindman retired from the Army after more than two decades. Vindman's lawyer David Pressman told Fox News the veteran's decision to retire was because "it has been made clear that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited."

"Nobody told me that I had to leave," Vindman told Holt during the NBC News interview. "As a matter of fact, if the president were not to be re-elected, for instance, I probably could have continued on but that's a huge if."

"If he were to be re-elected, the joke was that I would end up in a radar station in Alaska."

Vindman also claimed in the NBC News interview that the White House leaked classified information about him to GOP congressional members in an attempt to smear him.

During his congressional testimony, Steve Castor, the lawyer for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Vindman if the Ukrainian national security adviser asked if Vindman, who was born in Ukraine would work as the country's defense minister.

"That memorandum that I had classified, the White House leaked to the Republicans, a classified memo, to try to trip me up," Vindman told NBC News. "That could have only come from one place, could have only come from the White House."

Castor told NBC News that he denied that he learned the information from the White House but did not clarify where it came from.

In response to the interview, National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot described Vindman as "a disgruntled former detailee, seeking publicity, who is making allegations that are without merit," according to the NBC News report.

Vindman, however, said it was not bitterness or anger that compelled him to speak out against Trump, which he said could bring "a significant amount of personal risk, reputational risk" to him.

He said he spoke out in hopes "to share a perspective that could somehow inform an electorate going into the most important election of our lifetime, and maybe persuade them to choose an alternative to what we have, an alternative to four more years of disaster."