When Bloomberg News first reported late Thursday that the White House planned to reassign Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his post as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, the outlet cited sources as saying the decision would be portrayed as part of a "broader effort to shrink" the Trump administration's foreign-policy bureaucracy.
A day later, Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., blew up that flimsy defense, tweeting, "Allow me a moment to thank—and this may be a bit of a surprise—Adam Schiff," referring to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead House manager who oversaw witness testimony in Trump's impeachment hearings.
"Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam! #FullOfSchiff," Trump Jr. tweeted.
His tweet confirms, as it's already been suspected, that the president's motivation in firing Vindman was rooted in personal vengeance and not a desire to cut bureaucracy.
Indeed, Trump himself signaled as much earlier Friday, telling reporters he was "not happy" with Vindman, who provided firsthand testimony about his knowledge of Trump's Ukraine dealings after receiving a lawful congressional subpoena last year.
Vindman was fired shortly after and escorted from the White House grounds. His brother, Yevgeny, who served alongside him on the NSC but was not an impeachment witness, was also similarly fired and escorted off the grounds without being given a reason.
And hours later, the president recalled Gordon Sondland, another witness who testified in the impeachment proceedings, from his post as the US's ambassador to the European Union.
The president's actions illustrate how he's become newly emboldened following his acquittal in the Senate after a bitter impeachment trial.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham gave the public a preview of what Trump would say in a speech from the White House podium Thursday afternoon addressing his acquittal.
"He is going to be honest, going to speak with honesty and I think with a little bit of humility that he and the family went through a lot," Grisham told Fox News. "But I think he's also going to talk about just how horribly he was treated and, you know, that maybe people should pay for that."
Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman, also released a scathing statement defending his client and saying Vindman was fired for "telling the truth."
"Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress," David Pressman, Vindman's attorney, said in a statement to Insider.
"LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," Pressman said. "His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful."
Trump Jr.'s tweet could foreshadow more firings targeting other impeachment witnesses who testified against the president and are still serving in the US government. They include the Pentagon official Laura Cooper, State Department officials David Holmes, David Hale, and George Kent, and more. Last week, Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who testified in the hearings, left his office earlier than planned and went back to work at the State Department.
The president also took aim at lawmakers who voted to convict and remove him from office, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to break ranks and vote for Trump's conviction, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democratic swing-vote who is known to be friendly with the president.