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Sondland at a Nov. 20 impeachment hearing. Photo: The Washington Post/Contributor via Getty Images

EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a stand-out witness in the impeachment trial of President Trump, was fired on Friday, according to a statement provided to Axios.

Driving the news: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key national security official who testified that Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "improper," was "escorted" from the White House on Friday, according to his lawyer.

What they're saying: "I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union," Sondland said Friday in the statement.

  • "I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Sondland's dismissal, stating: “Lieutenant Colonel Vindman has proven to be an American patriot: on the battlefield when he earned a Purple Heart, and in the House trial when he spoke truth to power. His brave testimony showed America that right still matters."

The big picture, per the New York Times: "Trump and his aides wasted little time opening a campaign of retribution against those he blames for his impeachment" on Friday.

  • Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alayna Treene: The optics of this aren’t good, given Trump was acquitted just two days ago. But as political appointees, both Vindman and Sondland serve at the pleasure of the president and Trump has full authority to remove them.

Flashback: Sondland testified that he worked with Rudy Giuliani "at the express direction" of Trump on matters involving Ukraine during the House impeachment trial.

The White House did not respond for comment.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

German election: Social Democrats narrowly beat Angela Merkel's bloc

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) clinched a narrow victory in Germany's historic federal elections on Sunday, just four years after suffering its worst loss since World War II.

Why it matters: It's a stunning political comeback for the SPD, paving the way for its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz to form a new governing coalition and lead Europe's largest economy into the post-Merkel era.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney: Americans deserve better than choice of Biden or Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney talks with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans "deserve better than having to choose between" President Biden's "disastrous" policies and former President Trump, "who violated his oath of office."

Why it matters: Cheney made the remarks after CBS' Lesley Stahl put it to her in the interview that Republicans feel that her joining the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot helps "keep the focus on Trump instead of on the shortcomings of the Biden administration."

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.