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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:

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In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Biden says $1,400 stimulus payments can start going out this month

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Biden said Saturday that the Senate passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package means the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans can begin going out later this month.

Driving the news: The Senate voted 50-49 Saturday to approve the sweeping legislation. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill next week before it heads to Biden's desk for his signature.