Former Vice President Joe Biden urged Democrat voters to applaud Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, in what some characterized as an awkward moment at Friday night’s 2020 primary debate in New Hampshire.
“Colonel Vindman got thrown out of the White House today, got walked out. [President Donald Trump] should have been pinning a medal on Vindman and not on Rush Limbaugh,” Biden said.
Hours before the debate, Trump’s administration ousted Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, two witnesses who provided damaging testimony during his impeachment investigation.
“I think we should all give Colonel Vindman a show of how much we supported him. Get up a clap for Vindman,” Biden, who appeared to have slight difficulty getting his words out, said.
The New Hampshire audience slowly got to its feet in response to Biden’s request.
What Joe Biden just did was absolutely cringe. Ughhh. #DemDebate
— Samantha Sullivan (@SamSullivan) February 8, 2020
Two days after Trump was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate on charges of trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Vindman — the top Ukraine expert at the White House’s National Security Council — was escorted out of the building, according to his lawyer.
Hours later, Sondland said he had been fired from his post as U.S ambassador to the European Union.
The two men served as star witnesses during the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ impeachment investigation last year.
Vindman‘s twin brother Yevgeny, who worked as a lawyer at the NSC, also was escorted out of the White House, according to Michael Volkov, who represented Vindman when he testified in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump has said he is still upset with Democrats and government officials involved in the impeachment investigation, even after he was acquitted on Wednesday.
“I’m not happy with him. You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” he said of Vindman on Friday.
Vindman‘s two-year stint at the White House had been due to end in July. An Army spokesperson said both brothers had been reassigned to the Army, but declined to give further information “out of respect for their privacy.”
Another senior White House aide who testified over impeachment, Jennifer Williams, left this week for a post at the U.S. military’s Central Command, according to Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination suffered a serious setback when he came in fourth place at the Democrats’ first state contest in Iowa this week.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)