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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 31 mins ago - Science

China launches first astronauts to new space station

The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on Thursday morning Beijing time. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Shenzhou 12 mission carrying three astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning Beijing time.

Why it matters: Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are set to occupy China's new space station. This will be the country's longest crewed space mission ever and the first in almost five years.

Biden's two-step negotiating process

President Biden departs Geneva. Photo: Martial Trezzini/Pool/AFP via Getty

President Biden's summit "reset" was less about trying to make a friend out of Russia than reframing what the U.S. believes can be accomplished by engaging with President Vladimir Putin.

Driving the news: The Geneva meeting yielded no immediate breakthroughs beyond agreements about ambassadors returning to work and plans to launch talks on nuclear security. But in classic Biden fashion — aviators on, jacket off and a one-liner about invading Russia he had to clarify was a joke — the U.S. president used a post-summit news conference to explain his approach.

Scoop: NRCC to accept cryptocurrency donations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Republicans' House campaign arm will begin accepting contributions in cryptocurrency, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The National Republican Congressional Committee is the first national party committee to solicit crypto donations. That puts it at the forefront of a disruptive financial technology that could test campaign finance rules.