The White House National Security Council’s top expert on Ukraine, Alexander Vindman, and US Ambassador to the European Union (EU), Gordon Sondland, who testified at the House investigation into the impeachment of President Donald Trump, were removed from office on Friday.
David Pressman, one of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s lawyers, announced in a statement the removal of the advisor, which comes just two days after Trump was acquitted in the political trial he was subjected to in the Senate for his pressure on Ukraine to gain advantages over his electoral opponents.
“The truth is that it has cost the lieutenant colonel his job,” said Pressman, who said he had no doubt that it was a political vendetta.
On November 19, in pre-trial hearings at the House of Representatives, Vindman considered it “inappropriate” that Trump had asked his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodimir Zelenski, to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call.
“I was concerned about the call. What I heard was inappropriate. It was inappropriate for the president of the United States to require a foreign government to investigate a political opponent,” Vindman said in a public hearing as part of the “impeachment” investigations, as the presidential impeachment process is known.
The House inquiry sought to determine whether Trump intentionally blocked the delivery of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to obtain a Kiev investigation into Biden and the business there of his son Hunter, who worked for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
In his testimony, Vindman argued that he believed then-Ukrainian Attorney General Yuri Lutsenko and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani “promoted a false narrative” that undermined U.S. policy in Ukraine, and about his personal position in the White House he said the military serves the country, not “any particular political party”.
In a somewhat prophetic way, the lieutenant colonel then complained about attacks by the government and Trump himself on public officials who testified in the pre-trial investigations.
After being exonerated in the “impeachment,” Trump claimed that he was “unhappy” with his advisor.
Vindman, who was the White House’s top expert on Ukraine, personally heard the call on July 25 in which Trump asked Zelenski to investigate Biden, a Democratic pre-candidate for the November presidential election, and alerted his superiors to the case because he felt that the request was “not appropriate.
Hours after Vindman’s dismissal, it became known that Sondland, who claimed that Trump ordered through Giuliani the “quid pro quo” for Ukraine, by making military aid to the country conditional on an investigation into Biden’s family, was also dismissed.
“I was informed today that the president intends to immediately withdraw me as U.S. ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement released by local media, in which he thanked Trump for giving him “the opportunity to serve” the country.
During his statement before the House of Representatives, Sondland confirmed the existence of “quid pro quo,” a Latin expression that means to give something in exchange for something else and that is at the center of the investigation.
“Was there “quid pro quo? (…) With respect to the requested call from the White House and the White House meeting, the answer is yes,” the diplomat said in his opening testimony.