US President Donald Trump clouded by his victory over the impeachment trial and determined to hit-back at everyone who worked against him during the trial, the president sacked Mr. Sondland as ambassador to the European Union not long after the White House fired Colonel Vindman on Friday.
President Trump on Friday opened a campaign of retribution against people he blames for his impeachment trial, removing two of the most prominent witnesses in the House inquiry against him barely 48 hours after he was discharged and acquitted by the Senate.
Mr. Trump ordered Gordon D. Sondland, the founder of a hotel chain who donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee, recalled from his post as the ambassador to the European Union on the same day that Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran on the National Security Council staff, was marched out of the White House by security guards.
The ejection of Mr. Sondland and Colonel Vindman, along with Mr. Vindman’s brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an Army officer who also worked on the National Security Council staff may only presage a broader effort to even accounts with the president’s perceived enemies.
In 48 hours after Trump was acquitted in the Senate, the president has railed about those who testified against him, calling them “evil,” “corrupt” and “crooked,” while his press secretary has said, ”those who hurt the president should pay for it.
Although Mr Trump has decided to strike back at every member of his administration who testified in the House impeachment inquiry, he has assailed a Democratic senator who he had hoped would side with him during the trial but did not and called on the House to “expunge” his impeachment because he deems it illegitimate.
“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. Lt. Col. Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.” David Pressman, Colonel Vindman’s lawyer, said in a statement.
”Colonel Vindman spoke publicly only once, after being ordered to under subpoena. And for that, the most powerful man in the world, buoyed by the silent, the pliable and the complicit, has decided to exact revenge,” Mr. Pressman added.
Mr. Sondland who served as the ambassador to European Union took a more measured approach, confirming that he had been fired out of office without offering any protest.
“I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States ambassador to the European Union. 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,” he said in a statement hours after Colonel Vindman’s dismissal.
Mr. Sondland and Colonel Vindman were part of Trump’s administration yet the major witnesses in the House impeachment hearings. Mr. Sondland, who was deeply involved in the effort to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s Democratic rivals, testified that “we followed the president’s orders” and that “everyone was in the loop.” Colonel Vindman, who was on Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, testified that it was “improper for the president” to coerce a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.
They may not be shocked to hear President Trump want them out of office as they may not be comfortable working with a president they sold publicly. At a point when Mr. Trump was asked of Colonel Vindman’s fate, he said, “Well, I’m not happy with him. You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”
The president continued to assail lawmakers who voted for conviction, targeting Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who bitterly disappointed Mr. Trump by sticking with his party. “I was told by many that Manchin was just a puppet for Schumer & Pelosi,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “That’s all he is!”
Although Mr. Trump flew to North Carolina to highlight his economic record, he has called on the House to “expunge” his impeachment, an idea with no precedent or basis in the Constitution. “They should because it was a hoax,” he told reporters. “It was a total political hoax.” And he accused Ms. Pelosi of committing a crime by ripping up a copy of his State of the Union address. “She broke the law,” he said.
Mr Tump’s critics had initially warned that he would feel unbound if acquitted, and some said his actions now proved their point, quickly calling them “the Friday night massacre,” as Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, put it.
“These are the actions of a man who believes he is above the law,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead House impeachment manager. Mr. Schumer said the White House was running from the truth. “This action is not a sign of strength,” he said. “It only shows President Trump’s weakness.” Ms. Pelosi said, “This goes too far.” At the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. asked the audience to stand in support of Colonel Vindman.
The White House has refused to discuss the Vindman decision. “We do not comment on personnel matters,” said John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, celebrated the dismissals, offering mock thanks to Mr. Schiff. “Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired,” he tweeted.
“The president had every right to make the moves that he did today,” Representative Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, said in an interview. “Moving Lt. Col. Vindman, for example, is a good move based on the fact that there is a lack of trust. He disagrees with the president’s policies.” As for Mr. Sondland, “the president can recall an ambassador at any time with or without cause, and in the case of Gordon Sondland, the guy was a hot mess, anyway.”
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, showed no regrets at all over Mr. Sondland’s dismissal. “Somehow I think America will be able to deliver foreign policy without Gordon Sondland,” he said by text message.