People are comparing Trump's purge of 2 top officials who testified against him to an episode straight out of the Watergate scandal
President Donald Trump on Friday abruptly fired two key impeachment witnesses who testified against him. They are US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and top National Security Council official Alexander Vindman on Friday. Trump also fired Vindman's twin brother, who also works in the White House but was not involved in impeachment. Many people, including veteran journalists and Democratic politicians, referred to Trump's actions as the "Friday night massacre." It is a riff off the "Saturday night massacre," which refers to a night in October 1973 when Nixon removed three top officials investigating his role in the break-in at the Watergate complex and subsequent cover-up of it. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump abruptly fired two top US officials who testified against him in his impeachment trial, leading politicians and veteran journalists to compare it to an episode out of the Watergate scandal that ultimately forced then-President Richard Nixon to resign. Trump on Friday fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, both of whom testified against Trump's dealings in Ukraine that sparked the impeachment investigation. Trump also fired Alexander Vindman's twin brother, Yevgeny, who also works for the White House but was not involved in the impeachment trial. His job was terminated suddenly and with no explanation, despite two decades of loyal service to this country," Alexander Vindman's lawyer said.
It was one of Trump's first acts after being acquitted on Wednesday by the Republican-controlled Senate, which largely voted on party lines to keep him in office. (The only Republican who voted to convict Trump was Sen. Mitt Romney, whom Trump and his allies have relentlessly attacked since.) This has led to a slew of Democratic lawmakers and veteran journalists to refer to Trump's firings as the "Friday night massacre." It's a riff off "Saturday night massacre," which refers to a night in October 1973 when Nixon removed three top officials investigating his role in the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate complex, and the subsequent cover-up of it. Then-Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox had wanted to hear tapes from the Oval Office's audio taping system, and the White House has refused to comply with Cox's request. When Cox obtained a subpoena, Nixon tried to get Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire him; instead, Richardson and Ruckelshaus refused to do so, and resigned instead. Congress later opened impeachment investigations into Nixon, but the president resigned before he could be impeached.
'I'm sure Trump is fuming that he can't fire Pelosi' Greg Miller, the national security correspondent for The Washington Post, tweeted: "The Friday night massacre is under way. Sondland. The Vindmans. Anyone who testified (and told the truth, by the way) seems targeted for this purge." Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, tweeted Friday night: "The Friday night massacre continues. This is full retribution in plain sight because no one has been willing to stop him." Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, also said: "This is the Friday Night massacre. I'm sure Trump is fuming that he can't fire Pelosi. We aren't a dictatorship...yet." David Rothkopf, a veteran journalist who has published books about US national security, also titled his Friday-night article in The Daily Beast: "Friday Night Massacre's Just the Beginning for Acquitted Trump." The firings of Sondland and the Vindman brothers "are, by any definition, retaliation against witnesses in the case against the president," Rothkopf wrote. "That's a crime," he added, but noting that the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Bill Barr would likely not prosecute the crime, considering Barr's evident loyalty to Trump. On Wednesday, Barr announced nobody at the DOJ can open "politically sensitive" investigations into presidential candidates and top officials without his approval, The New York Times reported.
Joe Lockhart, the White House press secretary for the Clinton White House, went further and tweeted: "Remember when using terms like Friday night massacre, the original Saturday night massacre was senior officials at DOJ refusing to fire the Special Prosecutor on principle." "Remember principle? There isn't anyone in the Trump Administration that has any principles. All gone."
Read more: 'He's trying to muzzle everyone': National security veterans were shaken by Trump's decision to 'purge' witnesses who testified against him Alexander Vindman believed he wouldn't be punished for telling the truth in America. Trump proved him wrong. 'A really shameful episode in our history': Legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein accused the GOP of a cover-up over Trump's impeachment Donald Trump Jr. just shattered the White House's flimsy justification for firing the witnesses who testified against Trump Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
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Alexander Vindman's lawyer has hit back at Trump, accusing him of waging a 'campaign of intimidation' against impeachment witnesses
David Pressman, an attorney for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has responded to President Donald Trump's attack...David Pressman, an attorney for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has responded to President Donald Trump's attack on the key impeachment witness. Pressman accused the president of making "obviously false statements" about Vindman, and of waging a "campaign of intimidation." Trump had on Twitter on Saturday accused attacked Vindman's record, and questioned his integrity. After his impeachment acquittal Trump sacked Vindman from his position as top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Vindman had described his concern during his impeachment testimony at hearing a call in which Trump requested Ukraine to probe Democratic rival Joe Biden. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. An attorney for Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official sacked by Trump after testifying in the president's impeachment probe, has accused the president of waging a "campaign of intimidation." In a statement released after the president launched an attack on Vindman on Twitter the official's attorney, David Pressman, said Trump "made a series of obviously false statements concerning Lieutenant Colonel Vindman." "They conflict with the clear personnel record and the entirety of the impeachment record of which the president is well aware." Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about “Lt. Col.” Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was. Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my “perfect” calls incorrectly, &... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2020 He added: "While the most powerful man in the world continues his campaign of intimidation, while too many entrusted with political office continue to remain silent, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military." Earlier Saturday, Trump had in tweets questioned Vindman's professional record and integrity, having the day before removed him as the top Ukraine expert on the NSC. "He was very insubordinate, reported contents of my 'perfect' calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, 'OUT'"", tweeted the president. Trump's actions have sparked fears among witnesses that there could be further retaliation in store, reported the Washington Post. "You look around and you see the adverse actions taken against people who testified under subpoena and it creates a real air of uncertainty," a lawyer for one of the witnesses, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the White House, told the publication. Vindman, a decorated military officer, in November testified as part of the House's investigation into Trump's campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce a probe into top domestic rival Joe Biden, and his alleged use of withheld military aid as a bargaining chip. In his testimony, Vindman had told lawmakers of his concern after hearing Trump's July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which Trump had requested a Biden probe as a "favor." A whistleblower's complaint about the phonecall sparked the impeachment probe. After being acquitted of abusing his office and obstruction the congressional probe last week, Trump has purged Vindman and his brother from the White House, reassigning them back to the Defense Department, and another impeachment witness, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland. Sondland had told the impeachment probe that Trump had made a White House visit for Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky conditional on the announcement of a Biden probe. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
Alexander Vindman believed he wouldn't be punished for telling the truth in America. Trump proved him wrong.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was on Friday fired from the National Security Council and escorted from...Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was on Friday fired from the National Security Council and escorted from the White House. He was a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which upset the president. During his opening statement, Vindman compared his situation to the Soviet Union of his youth, where whistleblowers were harshly punished. Directly addressing his father, he said: "Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth." After Trump was acquitted he quickly moved against Vindman. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham suggested "maybe people should pay" for crossing Trump. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Former National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was fired from the White House on Friday — two days after President Donald Trump's acquittal in his bitter impeachment trial. Vindman was a central witness, testifying publicly on November 19 before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump's behavior towards the president of Ukraine had troubled him deeply. As the top Ukraine expert at the NSC, Vindman listened in on the now-infamous July 25 call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, where Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate his political rivals, the Biden family. Vindman told Congress he was "concerned," and found the call "inappropriate" given its partisan political character, and the conspiracy theory which underpinned it. During his opening statement, Vindman drew a contrast between how somebody in his position might be treated in Russia, and how he believed he would be treated in the US. He moved to address his father, who left the Soviet Union with Vindman, then aged three, for a new life in America: "In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. ... "Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth." Political reality proved Vindman too optimistic. Vindman was the first and most prominent figure to be punished Friday by a newly-emboldened Trump. The President fired Vindman, his twin brother, as well as Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador the the EU, in the space of a few hours. Unlike the Russia in his comparison, Vindman came to no physical harm. But he — and a family member who had no role in the impeachment hearings — were ejected from prestigious jobs in a way which may tarnish their future prospects in the US military. Vindman has only ever worked for the US military, and he and was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Only the most capable officers are recommended for work with the NSC, usually the sign of a sparkling career to come. While he was only on loan to the White House and was transferred to the Pentagon, his highly political dismissal could now feature in Vindman's personnel files. As Command-in-Chief, Trump is Vindman's ultimate boss, and the boss of all his superiors. He has made abundantly clear that he doesn't like him. When competing for promotions with equally skilled offices without this political shadow over them, Vindman could well find himself passed over. In a statement Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman, said, "LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful." Sonam Sheth and Sam Fellman contributed research and analysis to this article.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope