Feb 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump retaliates: Sondland fired after Vindman

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.

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Army secretary: "There's no investigation" into Alexander Vindman

Alexander Vindman before testifying during Trump's impeachment inquiry on Nov. 19, 2019. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Army is not investigating Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key national security official who was fired and escorted from the White House last week, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at the National Press Club on Friday.

Why it matters: Firing Vindman was one of Trump's first acts of retribution against officials who testified at his House impeachment hearings. After Vindman's ouster, Trump made it clear that what happens next in Vindman’s career is "up to the military."

Trump justifies firing Alexander Vindman for being "insubordinate"

President Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning to explain why he fired national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the president's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "improper."

"I don't know [Vindman], never spoke to him or met him (I don't believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly.......and was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, 'OUT.'"

Biden rips Trump for kicking Vindman out of White House

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Trump for firing former National Security Council adviser Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Trump during the House impeachment investigation, and giving conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh the nation's highest civilian honor during Tuesday's State of the Union.

What Biden is saying:  "Lieutenant Colonel Vindman got kicked out of the White House today. He should be pinning a medal on Vindman and not rush Limbaugh. I think we should all stand now and give Col. Vindman a show of support. Get up there...That's who we are. We are not what Trump is."