How a Decorated War Hero becomes a Traitor
Twitter has ‘become the president’s war room’ as supporters take aim at colonel
Days after a decorated Army lieutenant colonel offered damaging testimony about president Donald Trump’s conduct on a July phone call with Ukraine’s leader, Trump stood on the South Lawn and issued a vague but ominous warning.
“You’ll be seeing very soon what comes out,” Trump said, referring to the officer, lieutenant colonel Alexander Vindman.
The US president was not more specific. But an attack on Mr Vindman’s character and motives was already making its way from the dark corners of Mr Trump’s social media following to the front lines of the impeachment battle.
One day earlier, right-wing commentator Jack Posobiec had retweeted a lengthy thread by a Florida man — a fan of QAnon, a fringe conspiracy about the “deep state” — claiming to have witnessed Mr Vindman “bash America” in a conversation with Russian officers during a joint military exercise in Germany in 2013.
That accusation was unsubstantiated and has been rejected by some of the colonel’s colleagues. Even so, Mr Posobiec’s post was retweeted by Trump’s son and chief defender, Donald Trump Jr, driving it through conservative social media circles and onto pro-Trump websites, whose stories the younger Mr Trump promoted to his 4 million followers.
...It is hard to discern how the 6-year-old comments attributed to the officer affect the veracity of his testimony on Capitol Hill, which aligns with that of numerous other witnesses.
But by questioning the colonel’s loyalties, partisans who are spreading the story uncritically to millions of Americans leave the impression he is somehow not to be believed.
The attack emerged late on Halloween night, when a retired Army officer, Jim Hickman, claimed he had overheard Vindman — a major at the time who was chatting with Russian soldiers during a military exercise — laugh “about Americans not being educated or worldly” and talking up “Obama and globalism to the point of uncomfortable”.
Mr Hickman said he took the major aside and reprimanded him.
Through his lawyer, Michael Volkov, Mr Vindman declined to comment.
A review of his past tweets found more than 100 in which he recirculated or commented on QAnon-related theories, including hoaxes about Satanism and paedophilia, and until recently he had the hashtag #Q in his profile.
Reached for comment, Mr Hickman said he did not believe in QAnon but found it “interesting.”
“I do think it’s actually been pretty accurate on predicting a lot of things,” he said.
He has also tweeted strident pro-Trump, anti-Democratic themes, writing, “It’s incredible how evil the Democrat party is”.