Trump ditches impeachment witnesses — Vindman, Sondland

  • SONDLAND

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, left, walks with his twin brother, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, after testifying in the impeachment investigation in the House. Yevgeny, a White House lawyer, was also canned Friday. AP PHOTO

  • FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2020, file photo Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council who testified during the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, walks down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Vindman was escorted out of the White House complex on Friday, Feb. 7, according to his lawyer. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) Susan Walsh

  • VINDMAN

  • FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. President Donald Trump has ousted Sondland, who gave damaging testimony in impeachment inquiry. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

Associated Press
Published: 2/7/2020 11:51:38 PM
Modified: 2/7/2020 11:51:25 PM

WASHINGTON — Taking swift and harsh action against those who crossed him, President Donald Trump ousted two government officials Friday who had delivered damaging testimony during his impeachment hearings. Trump made the moves just two days after his acquittal by the Senate.

First came news that Trump had expelled Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the White House national security aide and decorated soldier who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case. He was escorted out of the White House complex Friday, according to his lawyer, who said he was told to leave in retaliation for “telling the truth.”

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” David Pressman, an attorney for Vindman, said in a statement. The Army said in a statement that Vindman and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who also was asked to leave his job as a White House lawyer on Friday, had been reassigned to the Army.

Next came word that Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, also was out.

“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement.

Sondland was another crucial witness in the House impeachment inquiry, telling investigators that “Everyone was in the loop” on Trump’s desire to press Ukraine for politically charged investigations. He told lawmakers how he came to understand that there was a “quid pro quo” connecting a desired White House visit for Ukraine’s leader and an announcement that the country would conduct the investigations the president wanted.

Alexander Vindman’s lawyer issued a one-page statement that accused Trump of taking revenge on his client.

“He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: He followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril,” Pressman said. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”

The White House did not respond to Pressman’s accusation.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” said John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council, the foreign policy arm of the White House where Vindman was an expert on Ukraine.

Vindman’s status had been uncertain since he testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine. Vindman’s ouster, however, seemed imminent after Trump mocked him Thursday during his post-acquittal celebration with Republican supporters in the East Room and said Friday that he was not happy with him.

“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I’m not. ... They are going to be making that decision.”

Vindman, a 20-year Army veteran, wore his uniform full of medals, including a purple heart, when he appeared late last year for what turned out to be a testy televised impeachment hearing. Trump supporters raised questions about the immigrant’s allegiance to the United States — his parents fled the Soviet Union when he was a child —and noted that he had received offers to work for the government of Ukraine, offers Vindman said he swiftly dismissed.

“I am an American,” he stated emphatically.

Trump backers cheered Vindman’s removal, while Democrats were aghast.

“The White House is running a two for one special today on deep state leakers,” Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, wrote on Twitter.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was another example of how the “White House runs away from the truth.”

“Lt. Col. Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution,” Schumer said in a statement. “This action is not a sign of strength. It only shows President Trump’s weakness.”

Alexander Vindman is scheduled to enter a military college in Washington, D.C., this summer, and his brother is to be assigned to the Army General Counsel’s Office, according to two officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pressman said Vindman was among a handful of men and women who courageously “put their faith in country ahead of fear” but have “paid a price.”




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