Hours after Donald Trump ousted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council and had him escorted off the White House grounds, the president reportedly moved to take action against another impeachment witness.
Late on Friday, ambassador Gordon Sondland released a statement saying he was told by Trump that he would be removed from his post.
“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Gordon Sondland said in a statement, via The Daily Beast.
Both Sondland and Vindman had testified during the House impeachment inquiry, revealing damaging details about Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on Joe Biden.
Sondland’s testimony was seen as particularly damaging as it showed that many top White House members were in the loop on Trump’s plans.
“Sondland told the panel that senior players including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Vice President Mike Pence knew about his attempt to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a public commitment to investigate a conspiracy theory around 2016 election and the gas company Burisma.”
Vindman also testified that he raised immediate concerns after a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president in which Trump pushed for an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Alexander Vindman’s twin brother, who also worked in the White House, was removed from his post on Friday as well.
The ousters of Vindman and Sondland come just days after the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Trump of the two articles of impeachment passed by the House. It also follows a controversial and contested report claiming Trump warned Republican senators that their “head will be on a pike” if they voted against him.
That report drew some pushback from Republicans after it was referenced by House impeachment manager Adam Schiff during Trump’s impeachment trial. As Politico reported, many Republicans shook their heads and said that the report was not true after being referenced by Schiff. Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski said that Schiff was wrong to reference the report.
But in the wake of Trump’s acquittal, many critics say the report appears to have been proven true as Trump moved quickly to seek retribution against those who testified against him. That began with a speech Trump delivered the day after his acquittal in which he mocked Vindman, attacked Democrats who led the impeachment hearings, and claimed that the acquittal vindicated him of the charges he had faced.