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Alexander Vindman's brother files complaint alleging whistleblower retaliation

Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, whose brother, Alexander, served as a key witness during President Trump's impeachment, filed a complaint last week with the Pentagon's inspector general suggesting he was retaliated against for disclosing potential ethics violations by senior White House officials, his lawyers confirmed on Wednesday.

The state of play: Vindman, like his brother, is a decorated Iraq War veteran and served at the National Security Council as a senior lawyer and ethics official. They were dismissed simultaneously in February, though top military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, claim they were not politically targeted.


What happened: Details about Vindman's complaint were first made public in a letter from top House Democrats, including House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, who asked the Pentagon's internal watchdog to open an investigation into the matter.

  • The Democrats say Vindman's complaint alleges he was retaliated against for raising concerns about Trump's 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • They also say the complaint alleges that he was removed from the NSC after he reported potential legal and ethical violations and allegations of sexism by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and NSC chief of staff Alex Gray.

What he's saying: "There were allegations of sexism, violations of standards of ethical conduct for employees and violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act ... I notified my supervisors on the NSC staff and White House Counsel’s Office about each of these concerns," Vindman wrote in a March memorandum that was attached to his complaint.

  • "While any of these infractions are serious, together they form a disturbing pattern of flagrant disregard for rules." 
  • "I fear that if this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed.  I request you inquire into the facts and allegations herein and take appropriate action."

Read House Democrats' letter about Vindman's complaint.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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