A group of Republican senators including Susan Collins tried and failed to stop Trump from firing Gordon Sondland
A group of GOP senators unsuccessfully tried to convince President Donald Trump not to fire Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who testified in the impeachment inquiry. Trump disregarded the warnings and fired Sondland on Friday. Among the senators who sought to change his mind was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was recently mocked for voting to acquit Trump and saying she believed he had learned a lesson. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
A group of Republican senators unsuccessfully tried to persuade President Donald Trump not to fire Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who testified in the House impeachment hearings in November, The New York Times reported Saturday. Trump dismissed Sondland Friday, even though he had reportedly already been planning to leave his position. But a number of GOP senators had feared the optics of Trump firing his own diplomatic official after the impeachment proceedings, according to The Times. Among those who tried to stop Trump was Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who voted to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment and endured widespread derision for saying she believed Trump had "learned from this case" and would be "much more cautious" going forward.
The Times reported that the other Republican senators who tried to warn Trump were Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. The Times reported that the senators did not try to intervene in Trump's firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council who also testified against the president in the impeachment hearings. Trump also fired Vindman's twin brother, Yevgeny, a White House official who was not involved in the impeachment inquiry. On Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to explain why he fired Vindman. "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, & … 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.'"
Read more: Trump called out a viral picture of his tan line for being edited, but originals didn't look too different The Trump administration went back on its promise to protect whistleblowers' safety 72 photos show all of the key moments from Trump's impeachment People are comparing Trump's purge of 2 top officials who testified against him to an episode straight out of the Watergate scandal Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
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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
'He's trying to muzzle everyone': National security veterans were shaken by Trump's decision to 'purge' witnesses who testified against him
President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through Washington on Friday when he abruptly fired two key impeachment...President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through Washington on Friday when he abruptly fired two key impeachment witnesses and a third official who wasn't involved in the impeachment inquiry but is related to one of the witnesses. National security and intelligence veterans were stunned. A current FBI special agent characterized Trump's move as "appalling," adding, "He's trying to muzzle everyone who speaks out against him, even if they use the appropriate legal channels." "We have every reason to expect that — far from having learned his lesson, as some would have us believe — Trump is in the midst of attempting to do away with potential witnesses who would be in a position to call out his wrongdoing," NSC veteran Edward Price told Insider. "A purge is a good way to put it," Frank Montoya, Jr., a former FBI special agent, told Insider. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The rumblings of payback began almost as soon as the Senate acquitted President Donald Trump on Wednesday of the two charges against him following a bitter impeachment trial. The next morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham gave the public a preview of the plan of action Trump would outline in a speech 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." The first person to pay the price was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Vindman, a decorated war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was abruptly fired and escorted out of the White House on Friday along with his twin brother, Yevgeny, who also served on the NSC. Vindman was given no explanation for his dismissal, but his attorney made it clear in a statement to Insider that the army colonel was forced out as retaliation for testifying against Trump in the impeachment hearings after receiving a congressional subpoena. Shortly after, Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union and another pivotal impeachment witness against Trump, was recalled from his post. It was something like a Friday Night Massacre, a peculiar reversal of the famous Saturday Night Massacre in the 1970s, when the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in protest during the Watergate scandal after refusing to carry out President Richard Nixon's order to fire the special prosecutor investigating him. "This is an unconscionable act of retaliation," Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert in criminal and constitutional law, told Insider. He went on to excoriate Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander, who argued that Trump had learned his lesson from impeachment. But "the opposite is happening," Ohlin said. "Trump is emboldened, angry, unhinged, and vindictive." 'He's trying to muzzle everyone who speaks out against him' Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, hours before Alexander Vindman was dismissed, that the White House planned to package his removal as part of a broader effort to slim down bureaucracy in the foreign policy apparatus. But Trump "taking direct aim at his perceived critics is something that much more closely resembles a purge than an orderly streamlining," Edward Price, the former senior director of the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, told Insider. He added: "We have every reason to expect that — far from having learned his lesson, as some would have us believe — Trump is in the midst of attempting to do away with potential witnesses who would be in a position to call out his wrongdoing." One current FBI special agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly comment on the matter, characterized Trump's actions as "appalling." "He's trying to muzzle everyone who speaks out against him, even if they use the appropriate legal channels," the agent told Insider. Asked whether there could be any motivation for ousting the Vindmans that wasn't rooted in political vengeance, Price deadpanned, "Two brothers from different Directorates with different responsibilities sacked on the same day, at the same time, in the same unusual way? No." Frank Montoya, a former FBI special agent, echoed that point, telling Insider, "A purge is a good way to put it. The fact that [Vindman's] brother got the axe, too, seals it." Vindman is fluent in English, Russian, and Ukrainian and brought a deep knowledge of the US-Ukraine and US-Russia relationship with him to the NSC when he joined in 2018. "It's a loss to the nation when the White House gets rid of a subject matter expert as highly qualified as [Lt. Col.] Vindman simply because they don't like that he speaks truth to power," Montoya said. "That makes us weaker, not stronger." Trump 'is now getting rid of war heroes and not some D-list star' on 'The Apprentice' The way the Vindmans were fired also set off alarms. "It's incredibly unusual," Price said. The Obama administration downsized its NSC staff just like the Trump administration claims to be doing now. But in the former case, "zero staffers were escorted off the premises, and it happened through natural attrition, as was supposed to have been the case in this process." Vindman catapulted into the national spotlight when he testified last year about his firsthand knowledge of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and White House lawyers' subsequent efforts to cover up records of the conversation after Vindman reported his concerns. During the call, Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden — a 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner — and the Democratic Party as a whole. Trump made those demands while withholding vital military aid and a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately wanted and still hasn't gotten. Vindman listened in on the phone call and testified that he immediately reported what had taken place to the NSC's top lawyer, John Eisenberg, because he was "concerned" and found Trump's "demand" both "inappropriate" and "improper." Sondland, meanwhile, was one of Trump's handpicked agents in charge of running what witnesses characterized as the administration's "irregular" foreign policy channel that sought to carry out a "domestic political errand." Specifically: investigations in exchange for military aid and a White House meeting. The now-former EU ambassador testified that there was a "quid pro quo" in which Trump leveraged a White House meeting in exchange for investigations. Sondland also told Congress that "everyone was in the loop," including top brass at the White House and State Department. Price told Insider that Friday's developments indicate that there is "every reason to expect that — far from having learned his lesson, as some would have us believe — Trump is in the midst of attempting to do away with potential witnesses who would be in a position to call out his wrongdoing." Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, skewered the president for his actions, telling Insider, "He has the right and power to be a vindictive accused who was let off the hook by a gaggle of politicians afraid of his tweets." What Trump is doing is "a far cry from when he was on his game show," "The Apprentice," Cramer added. "He is now getting rid of war heroes and not some D-list star." Vindman's ouster, in particular, could have other far-reaching consequences. Price said he believed Vindman should have been afforded whistleblower protections, as Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer requested of the Department of Defense last year. But rather than protecting Vindman, the NSC terminated him, "sending a clear signal not only to Vindman but to all would-be whistleblowers throughout the administration that protections won't apply to them," Price said. "The implication from that is clear."SEE ALSO: 'I'm not happy with him': Impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is being reassigned from the White House after Trump complained about him 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
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...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