In a move reminiscent of President Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly after the 2018 elections, the White House has dismissed two prominent impeachment witnesses within days of the president’s acquittal by the Senate. Numerous sources are reporting tonight that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland have been fired from their jobs in the Trump Administration.
Lt. Col. Vindman, an army officer posted to the National Security Council as an expert on Ukraine, and his twin brother, Yevgeny, a lawyer serving on the NSC, were both reassigned back to the Defense Department.
In a statement, the army confirmed the firings of the Vindman brothers to Politico, saying, ” “We can confirm that both Lt. Cols. Vindman have been reassigned to the Department of the Army, out of respect for their privacy, we will not be providing any further information at this time.”
Hours after the news of Vindman’s firing, news also broke that Sondland had been recalled.
“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 quoted in The Hill.
“I am proud of our accomplishments,” Sondland added. “Our work here has been the highlight of my career.”
The firings came shortly after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told attendees at the Maine Chiefs of Police Association that retribution against witnesses who testified against the president would be “inappropriate” per a report by the Portland Press Herald. Collins voted to call witnesses but cast her ballot to acquit the president of the impeachment charges.
At this point, it is not known whether there will be additional firings. A number of witnesses have already left their government posts, but others are still in their Trump Administration jobs. Among the witnesses still serving are Laura Cooper, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and George Kent, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Marie Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor, and Tim Morrison have all left their government jobs while Jennifer Williams, formerly an advisor to Vice President Pence, was transferred to a new job with Central Command in January.
It is not clear how the federal whistleblower statute will apply to the fired witnesses. However, the Government Accountability Project points out that “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects public employee whistleblowers from retaliation when they make truthful statements while giving compelled testimony.”