President Donald Trump delivered payback Friday to two key witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry, firing Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and removing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his White House job.
Both officials provided critical information about Trump during public hearings, with Sondland saying the president sought a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine’s leader and Vindman criticizing Trump’s conduct during a July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “improper.”
The moves came hours after Trump was asked about his press secretary’s comments that his opponents should pay a price. “Well, you’ll see,” the president told reporters.
Sondland said in a statement Friday night, “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,” Sondland said.
Democrats denounced the firings as retaliatory.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the dismissals “clear political retaliation, the likes of which is seen only in authoritarian countries around the world.”
“Those who suggested President Trump’s behavior would improve following his impeachment have been proven wrong. I sincerely hope that all members of Congress condemn this latest reprehensible, yet sadly predictable conduct by President Trump,” Menendez said.
Sondland, a hotel magnate who was named E.U. ambassador after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, testified twice before the House impeachment inquiry, and recalled more incriminating information in his second, and public, appearance Nov. 20.
His assertion that “everyone was in the loop” on the president’s plan to get dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter featured prominently in the president’s Senate impeachment trial.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Hallie Jackson and Adam Edelman