Trump Moves Against Impeachment Witnesses [Updated]

President Donald Trump has moved against two of the most prominent witnesses at his impeachment hearings in the House with the removal of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine policy officer on the National Security Counsel. There is no question that the President has a right to remove them and Vindman is not being “fired” but rather being transferred to a Defense Department post. Both ignored instructions from the White House not to appear in Congress. Yet, the timing smacks of retaliation against witnesses and the White House has not offered a full explanation of the action. Previously, a Pentagon official pledged that no retaliation against Vindman would be tolerated, but that might not include a transfer. What is particularly concerning is the removal of the twin brother of Vindman who did not testify and merely went with his brother as emotional support at the hearing.

A president is entitled to a staff that he trusts, but the timing was clearly meant to send a message. It was a message that most senators did not want to hear. Senators like Susan Collins could well lose her seat over her vote and this move will only further enrage many in Maine. Most of us expected that these witnesses would be gradually moved to new posts or they would (like a number of other witnesses) voluntarily retire or leave government work. Vindman was expected to leave this post soon, as is common for such positions. It would have been easy to allow such transitions to occur gradually but Trump clearly wanted to counterpunch. It is a tendency that many of us have criticized in the past. Indeed, he effectively counterpunched his way into this impeachment.

Yet, again, I am most disturbed by the removal of Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny, who serves as a senior lawyer on the NSC. Why? It smacks of familial retribution or Roman-style decimation. Some senators have suggested that they want to look more closely at Vindman’s conduct but there have been no allegations raised about the conduct of Yevgeny Vindman.

I have long criticized President Trump’s tendency to counterpunch when a more restrained approach would better advance his agenda and support his allies. This is one such example. At a minimum, the President should explain the action. It is possible that staff raised objections to the continuation of Vindman in light of the disobeying of the direction of the President on his testimony after the White House raised constitutional objections. However, the removal of his twin brother undermines such a rationale.

Update: President Trump has defended his action on Vindman with a tweet:

“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’.”

186 thoughts on “Trump Moves Against Impeachment Witnesses [Updated]”

  1. I completely disagree.

    A president’s job is to look out for the country, not to care for his staff’s feelings. At the very least, it would have been extremely awkward for Vindmann and his colleagues if he had stayed on.

    As you said, Vindman had no right to be on the NSC but the country has a right to the most effective government president Trump can assemble. The sooner he fired Vindmann, the better.

  2. Early warning signs of fascism. 1. IDENTIFICATION OF ENEMIES AS A UNIFYING CAUSE. 2.Religion and government intertwined. 3. Corporate power protected. 4. Disdain for intellectuals & the arts. 5. Rampant cronyism & corruption. 6. Powerful and continuing nationalism. 7. Rampant sexism. 8. Disdain for human rights. 9. Obsession with crime and punishment. 10. FRAUDULENT ELECTIONS. ……..

    1. Don’t be ridiculous. This sort of thing happens all the time at the upper reaches of the interagency, with, of course, virtually no notice taken by the media. Every political appointee serves at the pleasure of the President. Military officers in staff roles, including those at the NSC, are not independent agents. The real wonder here is that this President tolerated rampant insubordination across the Executive Branch for as long as he did.

    2. Fishy — You do know that your list just described the Democrat party of today. Especially numbers 1, 2,3, 5, 7, and 10. Ever hear about Nancy Pelosi’s thugs meeting her members who step out of line in the parking lot with tire irons? That kind of rigorous towing of the party line does not happen in the Republican party. Ever notice how the Democrats and their media treat Democrats who vote their conscience? It ain’t kindly, I’ll tell you that much. And…of course….we don’t ever hear much about it, do we? The Dems who step out of line are chastized and punished….they are not glorified and praised like Mitt Romney. Every notice that Fishy? THAT is what “totalitarian rule” actually looks like: the Democrat Party.

  3. I’m most disturbed by ANYONE who questions the right of the POTUS to employ or fire any member of his White House staff. Why am I wrong?

  4. Turley, ya don’t have to comment on everything. You’re not qualified! Trump is cleaning out the trash and we applaud him for that.

  5. Like Roman emperors before him Trump brooks no disloyalty. So in a fit of vengeful rage and retribution Trump has gotten rid of of Lt. Col. Vindman, his twin brother and Ambassador Sondland. who was appointed after donating $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. In Sondland’s case loyalty comes first–one of the only times Trump has put loyalty before money. If I were Sondland I would ask for my money back. All of the above have one thing in common— they were willing to speak truth to power and paid the price. Now they are banished from the lord’s castle. So who is left who is willing to tell the king the truth? No one. Only loyal subjects will be allowed inside the castle walls. Susan Collins will rue the day she said: “I believe that the president has learned from this case” and “he will be much more cautious in the future”. No doubt Maine voters will have something to say in November about her decision to acquit Trump.

    1. No doubt Adam Schiff’s startling retelling of events style is rubbing off on the faithful.
      See ya in November.

    2. What they were “willing” to do was insist the President do what they recommended he do – something no President is obliged to do. Political appointees are chosen precisely because the President choosing them expects they are generally aligned with his policy positions. Yes, they are often in the position of playing Devil’s advocate. But, they are not “the deciders.” If their knickers were in such a twist because the President doesn’t choose to act on their recommendations, appointees can resign (and say why); those in the military can go to their agency’s or service’s IG. In this case, they weren’t speaking “truth to power”, they were airing their personal grievances.

      1. Old, Vindman was a 1st person witness to the Zelensky call and verified the WB info which was also consistent with the transcript. This had virtually nothing to do with policy. Trump does not have a policy except how he can personally benefit.

        You can’t see that?

    3. Are you ——- kidding me? Are you totally insane?

      No one in their right mind would betray or, otherwise, cross Bill and/or Hillary Clinton.

      Take a little time to review the facts of history. The Clintons are but one communist entity of merciless vengeance.

      Obongo-Congo’s handlers carry the same threat as the Clintons.

      The Clinton Body Count

  6. What is particularly concerning is the removal of the twin brother of Vindman who did not testify and merely went with his brother as emotional support at the hearing.

    If the testifying brother relies on his emotional support brother wherever he goes, then logically they need to both be removed at the same time. Not concerning at all; it was a move of compassion. 🙂

    Our national security should not take a backseat to the feelings of the staff. The President needs to be confident his subordinates can be trusted to carry out their duties professionally and within the President’s foreign policy directives. If the President has any doubt anyone on his staff doesn’t meet his standards, he needs to remove them immediately.

  7. In Vindman’s case he violated the weight control program with too many embassy dinners no doubt. that was one out of shape fat ass REMF if ever was. The whole thing though was he got off the hook with a wrist slap. He should have, at the very least, been stripped of his security clearance as untrustworthy and the as a result lost his rank which requires a clearance. That may yet happen. We’ll see if being a ring knocker helps by checking on his next assignment. It won’t be a promotion to Colonel. However REMFs take care of REMFs and ring knockers take care of ring knockers……

  8. Under any other circumstance retaliating against someone for testifying to Congress would be unconscionable. I don’t see what happened as being illegal, but that in no way makes it right. It pains me greatly that the standard we hold the president to is “As long as it is not criminally illegal (and even then maybe).”

    1. You used the word PROMINENT in your description of these witnesses (I don’t remember seeing Lt. Col. Vindmanns’s brother in the inquiry). However, he fired them not for their role in the inquiry, but as was pointed out, Lt. Col. Vindmann was not a good employee, if he had his way, he’d be running the policy in Ukraine, he was an Obama holdover, and as sucn, Donald Trump was well within his right to let both go some time ago, but he chose now. Vindmann knows this, that he serves at the will of the President. I see I already answered this question; he, 2 responses is 2 times my wisdom! All for the bargain basement price of $0!

      Jonathan Turley says that there is n o question that…. There is EVERY REASON to question. He is not being fired as punishments but the leaks are coming from somewhere, he is an Obama holdover. You do the math!

      1. Annie Nowlin – Vindman mentioned telling his brother about the phone call. Their offices are across from each other.

        1. To Paul Schulte,

          Is it material where Vindmann’s brothers office is? The other question is just as immaterial that I don’t remember it, so I can’t comment on it,

          1. Annie Nowlin – the proximity of Vindmann’s brother’s office accounts for the ease of complaining to him about the phone call. The other two are a mystery to still be discovered.
            Remember the WB mentioned that he heard from several people, one of which was clearly Vindmann, since Schiff would not let Vindmann expose his name.

      2. Annie, Lt Col Vindman was not a political appointee. He’s a career military expert on the Ukraine and Russia and therefore not an Obama holdover as you say. Not be too sarcastic, but if you believe he was not fired for his role in the inquiry you must believe Trump cared about corruption in the Ukraine and not the poll leading Democratic nominee. In fact, Trump tweeted his displeasure with his testimony this morning.

        1. Military Foreign Area Officers are often referred to as “experts” – this, typically, means they have an academic background and perhaps tours on the ground in a specific country or region. They often serve as military attaches to ambassadors or agency heads. For example, persons working a country desk at State or Defense are often called “experts” in that particular country’s or region’s geo-political policies, etc. To the extent these inform their leadership’s policy recommendations or decisions, fine. Those who come to believe their expertise should be the determining factor in shaping those policies or decisions are seriously confused about their roles.

          1. Vindman was fired for testifying, not policy differences – as if Trump had a policy. Trump verified this in a tweet this morning.

            1. It is a good policy. Undercut the boss and get escourted from the building. Happens sll the time in everyday life. Not a hard policy to understand unless you are a squishy trust fund baby who has never had to experience consequences for bad behavior.

            2. Vindman was fired for testifying, not policy differences – as if Trump had a policy.

              He testified to his objections to Trump’s policy moves. He was insubordinate. That gets you canned. (In his case and that of his brother, it just gets you sent back to the Defense Department).

  9. These two are insubordinate employees. Of course they were removed. The President shouldn’t have to put up with someone in a continual snit that his boss was interfering in what ‘The Interagency’ decided upon.

    1. If anyone should be removed, it should be the President for his disparaging remarks about nearly everyone. He is not gentleman. His behavior is unbecoming for a president.

      1. If anyone should be removed, it should be the President for his disparaging remarks about nearly everyone. He is not gentleman. His behavior is unbecoming for a president

        1. You propose to impeach the president for being rude. Frivolous.

        2. Your definition of impermissible speech is entirely sectarian. Liberals fancy they and their clientele must be immune from critique. Grow up.

      2. If Vindmann wanted to make the policy, he should have run for POTUS. Until such time, the show is run by POTIS

      3. Since when is it a requirement to be a “gentleman” to be President of the United States? He is there doing what he said he would… draining the swamp of all the deep state actors that have been subverting the American People, the Constitution and Freedom and Liberty in general!

        The Deep State has run this country for far too long!

        Thank God for his tenacity and unwaivering commitment to the American People, the Constitution, Liberty and Freedom!

        End the Fed!

        1. “…draining the swamp of all the deep state actors that have been subverting the American People, the Constitution and Freedom and Liberty…”

          He hasn’t made a dent and, in fact, he’s continuing to support it. Gina Haspel is a case in point.

        2. What you call the deep state are the professional civil servants who replaced the patronage and nepotism systems of the early last century, and thank god for that. It also elected Trump when Comey kneecapped Hillary 2 weeks before the election while protecting Trump from public knowledge of the investigation into his campaign. You should be kissing his a.s and have an altar on your dresser for the deep state.

          1. What you call the deep state are the professional civil servants

            Peter Sztrok, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe, Rod Rosenstein, Andrew Weissmann, John Brfennan, and doddering Robert Mueller. How can we ever repay them?

            Comey kneecapped Hillary 2 weeks before the election while protectin

            He answered a banal question posed to him by a congressional committee, after allowing her to skate on criminal charges (including spoilation of evidence). The overweening entitlement mentality of partisan Democrats extends to resentment when their tools don’t put their thumbs on the scales.

  10. Anyone watch Joe Biden at the Democrat debate last night? He encouraged the audience to stand up and cheer for Lt. Col. Vindman! Whaaat? Why Joe? Why? What a sad and embarrassing sight to watch Joe struggle through his campaign. Having Joe Biden be anywhere near the Oval Office is a scary thought indeed.

  11. Vindman…excuse me…Lt. Col. Vindman….and his position has become highly politicized. He was compromised and could no longer hold his national security position. Nor should his evil twin brother. We can see this was part of a plot from the inside to take down Trump. Why wasn’t Vindman removed months ago? That is the only puzzling question to me. And why is Eric Ciamarella still working over at the CIA?

  12. Wally says: Vindman spoke the truth.

    No…..Vindman spoke his opinion. The truth is foreign policy is set by the president; not by a mid-level NSC staffer.

    It has been reported that he was known to regularly go outside of the chain of command as he did in this case. He’s lucky the CIC didn’t bust him down to buck private.

    1. Did CNN story last week accidentally defend Trump?
      (CNN) Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, has told colleagues he expects to leave the White House’s National Security Council in the coming weeks to return to the Defense Department, a source tells CNN.
      Vindman said his departure from the council could come as soon as this month, the source said. That would be well ahead of the scheduled end of his time at the White House, which was originally slated to last until July. Vindman was appointed to his post in July 2018 and was asked to stay for two years.
      The source did not say whether Vindman’s departure was voluntary or at the behest of the White House, though aides inside the West Wing had speculated it could come soon as the impeachment trial was over.

  13. Professor Turley,

    I’m not a Trump voter, but I believe he is completely justified in moving the Vindman brothers.That’s the least he should do because he has a responsibility to clean up the upper levels of executive branch agencies.

    I believe we will learn much more about things that have been occurring behind the scenes when the Barr/Durham report comes out. There will also be more on Ukraine as Congress begins their probe. I assume that Vindman’s brother’s hands are not clean in all of this.

    Trump MUST clean house. Since the campaign there has been a huge effort to help Hillary win and protect her from any consequences while simultaneously attempting to spy on and sabotage the Trump campaign with the goal of removing him from office.

    Fraudulent FISA applications were submitted and approved to investigate Carter Page so they could surveil everyone within a couple hops from him. The Obama Administration unmasked a bunch of Trump campaign people from this investigation during the campaign.

    The Clinton email scandal began and everything became obvious. Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch on a tarmac to “talk about grandkids” during the investigation into Hillary Clinton. (I don’t believe anyone believes that.) Her email server looked to be a clear violation of law, however, Comey used specific language and talking points to divert responsibility away from Clinton when he testified to Congress. This investigation was being done by Strok and he helped her kill this controversy. For the record, I don’t believe the email situation itself was that horrible. I got the impression that she’s not the only one in Washington doing this. As everything else ends up, the cover up is worse than the crime.

    The intelligence agencies were obviously sabotaging Trump immediately upon taking office. They were the ones that kept leaking his personal conversations with other world leaders. (The NSC appears to be the main source of these leaks and both Vindman’s were on it.)

    The FISA Court initially denied any problems with the FISA applications when complaints or lawsuits were filed alleging wrongdoing. Then the IG report came out and the FISA Court acted so surprised and unhappy like it was the first they heard of it.

    After the IG report proved the FISA process was abused the FISA Court took a man that publicly denied any FISA violations and defended the FBI and appointed him to reform the system. How is he a good person to do this?

    The IG FISA report proved the Nunes memo to be completely accurate. It also proved Schiff to be a complete liar. Once this was proven, Schiff lost ALL credibility and Nunes gained credibility. Nothing Schiff says should be accepted as truth.

    Then, as you so eloquently stated in your testimony, this was a rushed impeachment process that didn’t even allow the president his right to go to the courts.

    During this entire administration the media has made a clear effort to spin everything to make Trump look like Tony Soprano. Bombshell after bombshell from anonymous sources kept being reported that did the intended damage just to be retracted a couple days later when no one was looking. The media played all Democrats lines of questioning of witnesses and cut away from Republicans lines of questioning. They reported what your colleagues constitutional opinions were and didn’t even report what you said to Nadler as if you didn’t exist. Not to mention the Washington Post basically honoring the leader of ISIS.

    Now that the Democrats have made all their arguments about everything they can think of and yet they are planning to impeach him again without a new offense. So we are all just patiently awaiting the next NYT bombshell from anonymous sources that gives them an issue to impeach on. They are also already accusing Trump of rigging the next election. This is so dirty and dangerous and they know it.

    I’m sad to see our country in this position. Our economy seems to be good by any metric and we haven’t gotten into any new wars, thank God. Trump hasn’t had an anxious finger on the nuclear button, he has shown great restraint. All his Republican war hawks have definitely tried convincing him to go to war in different places.

    I think all of this is evidence of malice from intelligence, DNC, and media operatives aimed at Trump in order to remove him from office. What else could all this be for?

    What I believe the biggest mystery to be is whatever is making them take such drastic action. Why are they doing all this? I don’t believe Trump has done anything that other presidents haven’t done. This is not normal. Something is going on and it’s not clear to me what is really driving this.

    It scares me that our intelligence agencies think they can move against or sabotage the president when they disagree with him.

    On a side note, I don’t know what the truth is on Epstein. I work in a prison and the official story is absolutely possible. Corrections Officers do behave the way these officers were reported to have conducted themselves. However, Epstein was connected to powerful people and undoubtedly had damaging information on them, including Bill Clinton and other powerful players. His autopsy photos do look different from the official story and it’s strange that he was handled so incompetently. Then that story just died along with him. We later learned that ABC had an entire story on Epstein and his associates years before this and they killed that story. Why?

    What is going on in our country today? It’s all crazy. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but all this sounds like a script from a movie about espionage or episodes from House of Cards. I’m hoping for sanity to return soon.

    P.S. Thank you for being a voice of reason and integrity. There are very few of you today.

    Thank You

    1. Good comment.
      Just as an aside, I find it curious that Kevin qualified his comment in advance by establishing his bonafides (not a Trump voter). Prof. Turley did the same thing in his Congressional testimony. Is this some abstract form of virtue signaling?
      And I don’t mean that in a negative way.
      Just wondering, in this left/right world,
      do we all feel the need to justify our opinions?

    2. Kevin,

      Sorry, I couldn’t read all of this short story book by you, why don’t you write another asking Prof Turley why isn’t he calling for CJ John Roberts to either resign or be indicated as a lead coup plotter against the USA president DJT?

      I write this because CJ Roberts is the supervising authority over the Unconstitutional FISA Court & with his authority, did willingly or unwillingly, allowed the Coup against the US gov’t citizen’s leader, DJT.

      One can not un see what’s been seen by everyone. Roberts can’t be trusted around govt leadership, he’s shown this multiple times now.

  14. No allegations concerning Yevgeny? Pardon me? He is allegedly the person who leaked the Bolton book information. On top of that, his brother testified that he spoke to him about the July 25th call – which was a top secret call as all calls between heads of state are. The irony is that dear Yevie is one of the two top ethics lawyers at the NSC.
    We’ve seen far too much of this crap coming out of this administration from Obama holdovers. About time the message was sent out to these resistance types.

  15. “…the White House has not offered a full explanation of the action…” When the WH takes a course of action that calls into play, question, do they REALLY OWE ANYONE an explanation. Lt Col Vindmann (and I’m not sure about his brother, serves at the will of the president and Lt. Col. Vindmann was an Obama holdover.

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