Saturday, February 08, 2020
Trump ousts key impeachment figures Sondland, Vindman days after Senate acquittal
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testified about President Trump’s Ukraine dealings during the House impeachment hearings, said Friday he had been recalled from his overseas position, hours after a National Security Council aide who testified against the president was also fired.
“I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States ambassador to the European Union," Sondland said.
Sondland's recall follows the dismissal of another impeachment witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was fired by the National Security Council and escorted off of the White House grounds on Friday.
The moves come just two days after Trump was acquitted in the Senate on two articles of impeachment brought by the House last year over his dealings with Ukraine.
With Sondland and Vindman out, eight of 12 officials who testified publicly during the impeachment hearings have left their roles, been fired, or reassigned.
"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," Sondland said Friday. "I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career.”
In November, Sondland tied top officials to a “potential quid pro quo” involving U.S. military aid to Ukraine and investigations desired by Trump during his highly anticipated impeachment hearing testimony – yet said he never heard that link from the president himself.
The impeachment inquiry was sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump's July 25 call, in which the president asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for political investigations – including involving former Vice President Joe Biden's family -- at the same time U.S. military aid for the ally was stalled.
Sondland was a Seattle hotelier and major donor to Trump before being tapped to serve in Brussels.
Vindman was on detail to the National Security Council from the Department of Defense, and it is expected he will return there. Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman, confirmed that Vindman had been escorted out of the White House on Friday.
A senior administration official also told Fox News that Vindman’s twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman has also left the National Security Council. Yevgeny Vindman was assigned to the office that vetted publications like former national security adviser John Bolton’s book – though he has said he was not involved in the vetting of the Bolton manuscript.
Trump, when asked about Vindman on Friday, told reporters that he was "not happy with him."
"You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not," Trump said, adding that a decision would be made soon.
Fox News' Rich Edson, Matthew Borowski, John Roberts, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.