President Donald Trump has recalled Gordon Sondland and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, two senior officials who testified against him at his impeachment trial.
Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the EU, said he “was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately”.
Just hours earlier, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top expert on Ukraine, was escorted from the White House.
President Trump is said to desire a staff shake-up after senators cleared him in the impeachment case on February 5.
In its historic vote, the Senate decided not to remove Donald Trump, America’s 45th president, from office on charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine.
Lt. Col. Alexander 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 February 7.
In a statement issued by his lawyer, Gordon Sondland said: “I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as 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.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had reportedly turned up for work at the White House as usual on February 5.
As he left the executive mansion on February 5 for North Carolina, President Trump told reporters: “I’m not happy with him [Lt. Col. Vindman].
“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”
President Donald Trump has so far not commented further.
According to White House sources, Alexander Vindman had been expecting a transfer. He was telling colleagues for weeks that he was ready to move back to the defense department, where he still holds active-duty soldier status.
On February 5, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters his department welcomes back all of its personnel from assignment.
He added: “And as I said we protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that.”
Testifying in Congress last November, Gordon Sondland was very clear in his testimony that a White House visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was conditional on Kyiv launching investigations that could be politically helpful to President Trump.
He said: “Was there a quid pro quo [a favor granted in return for something]?
“As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Gordon Sondland was at that time working with President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukrainian policy at the explicit direction of the president.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman also testified last November. He said he was “concerned” after hearing President Trump’s “improper” phone call on July 25, 2019 with Ukraine’s president.
The call led to Presidnet Trump’s impeachment in December by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Democratic lawmakers argued that President Trump had dangled US aid in exchange for political favors.
When asked how he had overcome his fear of retaliation in order to testify, Alexander Vindman testified: “Congressman, because this is America… and here, right matters.”
President Trump mentioned the Vindman twins in a tirade against his political enemies at the White House one day before ousting them.
Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement: “This is 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. “
However, Republican Congressman Thomas Massie said he would have fired Alexander Vindman.
He said: “He’s a leaker, not a whistleblower.
“Current Commander in Chief doesn’t take orders from a Lt Col!”
In his comments to media on February 5, President Trump said reports that his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney would be fired were “false”.
The president said: “I have a great relationship with Mick.”
North Carolina lawmaker Mark Meadows is being tipped by the Washington rumor mill as a replacement for Mick Mulvaney.
Mark Meadows, who is retiring from the House of Representatives where he led the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, traveled with President Trump on Air Force One on February 5.
At a rare White House press conference in October, Mick Mulvaney appeared to implicate the president in an alleged corrupt deal with Ukraine.
The acting chief of staff told stunned reporters: “We do that all the time.”
President Trump was reportedly outraged by the gaffe.
Mick Mulvaney then walked back his comments in a written statement that said: “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.”