Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top National Security Council official and Purple Heart recipient, told his father "do not worry" about threats against him for speaking out at President Trump's impeachment hearings.
"Dad, [that] I'm sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family," Vindman said in his House Intelligence Committee statement on Tuesday. "Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth."
Vindman's family fled Ukraine when he was a toddler as part of a wave of Jewish refugees coming to the US in the 1970s.
Now director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, Vindman has faced threats from the president and his supporters after he raised concerns that the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky threatened US national security.
"In Russia, my act of expressing concern to the chain of command would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life," Vindman said.
Soviet authorities brutally cracked down on dissent, throwing people into labor camps, psychiatric hospitals, and, at the height of its repressions, shooting them after show trials. At times in Soviet history, Jews were particularly targeted for dissent, and they faced broad discrimination throughout the USSR's existence.
"I'm grateful for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family's safety," " Vindman said.
When the transcript of Vindman's closed-door testimony was released earlier this month, Trump tweeted that the foreign service official was a "Never Trumper" — providing zero evidence in his attempt to discredit the witness.
Vindman has served for two decades in the US Army. He was wounded by an IED in Iraq in 2004 and was later awarded a Purple Heart.
When Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the intelligence committee, asked Vindman a question, he initially used the title "Mr."
"Lieutenant Colonel Vindman please," Vindman corrected him.
Later in the hearing, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart from Utah seemed to question if Vindman was trying to push his military background to make himself seem more credible.
"I see you're wearing your dress uniform," said Stewart. "You normally wear a suit to the White House."
However, it is army policy for personnel that "when an invitation calls for business attire, the appropriate Army uniform is the service or dress uniform."
"Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?" Stewart asked.
"I'm in uniform, wearing my military rank," replied Vindman. "I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that."
Vindman then tried to talk about the threats against him.
"The attacks I've had in the press and Twitter have kind of eliminated the fact... either marginalized me as a military officer, or questioned my judgement," said Vindman, before Stewart cut him off.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Army conducted a security assessment of Vindman and is continually monitoring security threats against him and his family. The Army is prepared to move Vindman and his family to a military base for their security if required, officials told the newspaper.
Vindman hinted at those threats during his opening remarks by noting the "courage" of his colleagues who have appeared and are scheduled to appear at impeachment hearings.
"I want to state that the character attacks on these public servants is reprehensible," Vindman said. "It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate and this has been the custom of our country since the time of our founding fathers. But we are better than personal attacks."
His twin brother, a National Security Council ethics lawyer, sat behind Vindman at the hearing. Vindman referenced him when talking about his father's decision to leave Ukraine to give his sons a better life.
"His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and has instilled in us a sense of duty," he said.