US president Donald Trump has ordered the recall of the United States ambassador to the European Union, with immediate effect.
Gordon Sondland, a businessman and generous donor to the Trump campaign in 2016, took part in the House of Representatives’ impeachment procedure as a witness. Sondland had been responding to a subpoena from the House, and was a rare case of an administration official who obeyed the subpoena.
According to the main news sources, what happened then is behind what has happened now. In his sworn testimony, Sondland revealed that there had indeed been a quid pro quo with the suspension of US military aid to Ukraine and a demand from Trump and his lawyer, Rudi Giuliani, that the Ukrainians investigate the son of former vice-president Joe Biden on allegations of corruption.
“Was there a quid pro quo [with Ukraine]?” he asked on the stand. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Trump had loudly and frequently stated there was no quid pro quo. Sondland’s testimony blew that claim out of the water. From a position as a fellow millionaire businessman who had the ear of the president he became a pariah within the administration. His departure was only a matter of time.
On Wednesday, after a trial before the Senate on the charges brought by the House, Trump was acquitted on two charges after the Senate majority Republicans had refused to allow witness testimony or documents to be entered into evidence.
Trump’s first move was to sack Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council (NSC), who had also given damning testimony to the House. “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,” his lawyer David Pressman said. “Lt-Col Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
And, in what can only be described as a fit of pique, Trump also sacked Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny, a lawyer at the NSC, like his brother born in the Ukraine, but who had never said or written a word about the controversy. Both men will return to the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, where they will be reassigned.
““I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” he writes. “I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career.”