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Star impeachment witnesses Vindman, Sondland removed from jobs

By Don Jacobson
Star impeachment witnesses Vindman, Sondland removed from jobs
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, shown here testifying before the House intelligence committee in November, was fired from his job as a National Security Council aide Friday, his lawyer said. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and Gordon Sondland, each of whom provided damaging testimony in the House of Representatives' impeachment hearings, were fired from their government posts Friday.

Vindman, a National Security Council aide, and Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, each indicated they had been ousted just two days after President Donald Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment.

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Attorney David Pressman said Vindman was unceremoniously escorted out of the White House on Friday, months before he was scheduled to leave his post as a Ukraine expert on the NSC.

"LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," Pressman said in a statement. "His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful. 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."

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Sondland, meanwhile, said in an issued statement that had been recalled from his EU diplomatic posting.

"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 U.S. Mission to the European Union," he said, adding, "I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career."

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel called Vindman's firing "shameful, of course. But this is also what we should now expect from an impeached president whose party has decided he is above the law and accountable to no one."

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The Ukraine expert and Purple Heart winner testified during the House of Representatives' impeachment hearings in November that he reported concerns about President Donald Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky within hours after it happened.

The call was at the heart of the one of the articles of impeachments against Trump that alleged he held up nearly $400 million in military aid to the Ukraine as leverage to persuade Zelensky to announce announce investigations of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden, a former board member at Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

"It was improper for the president to request, to demand an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this could be an impartial investigation and that this would have significant implications if it became public knowledge," Vindman said in his testimony.

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His role on the NSC was expected to last until July, but that seemed thrown into doubt earlier Friday when Trump was asked about the Iraq War veteran's future and responded he was "not happy" with him.

Pressman said Vindman's twin brother, Yevgeny, an NSC lawyer, was also removed from his post and left the grounds walking next to his brother.

Sondland's testimony also provided key evidence in the Democrats' case against Trump, saying on Nov. 20 that "everyone was in the loop" about the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals.

The ambassador said he pressured Ukraine for investigations at the "express direction" of Trump via Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

"Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky," he said. "Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of [claims Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election] and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president."

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