WASHINGTON — As Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman sat in a stately chamber testifying Tuesday, the White House posted on its official Twitter account a message denouncing his judgment. His fellow witness, Jennifer Williams, had barely left the room when the White House issued a statement challenging her credibility.
In President Donald Trump’s Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable — but for the fact that Vindman and Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.
With the president’s allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Vindman’s case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.
Trump has publicly disparaged Cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.
“This White House appears to be cannibalizing itself,” said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush. “While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff — especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties.”