US President Donald Trump has sacked US envoy to the EU, Gordon Sondland, and Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a top expert on Ukraine, who testified against him during his impeachment trial.
Sondland was advised that the president intends to recall him effective immediately while Vindman, was escorted from the White House some hours later.
Trump is reportedly ready to restructure his staff after senators cleared him in the impeachment case on Wednesday.
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Trump had been acquitted by Senate in the impeachment trial during the week on charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine.
Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, a senior lawyer for the National Security Council, was also sent back to the Department of the Army on Friday.
“I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as the United States ambassador to the European Union.
“I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the US mission to the European Union.
“I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career,” Sondland said in a statement read by his lawyer.
“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.
“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.
“The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” Lt Col Vindman’s counsel, David Pressman, told the BBC.
“The most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit – has decided to exact revenge,” the statement continued.
White House sources, Lt Col Vindman was expecting a transfer. He was ready to move back to the defense department, where he still holds active-duty soldier status.
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Earlier on Friday, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said his department welcomes back all of its personnel from assignments.
“And as I said, we protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that,” Esper added.
During his testimony in November, Sondland stated clearly in his statement that a White House visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was conditional on Kyiv launching investigations that could be politically helpful to President Trump.
“Was there a quid pro quo [a favour granted in return for something]?” Sondland asked. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland was at that time working with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukrainian policy at the explicit direction of the president.
When it was his turn, Lt Col Vindman said he was “concerned” after hearing Trump’s “improper” phone call on 25 July last year with Ukraine’s president.
This culminated in Trump’s impeachment hearing in December by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Democratic lawmakers argued that the president had dangled US aid in exchange for political favours.
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