Republican lawmakers reacted with shock and appall when it was suggested that fear of President Donald Trump’s wrath (i.e., pikes) entered their minds when voting on impeachment. The president promptly lashed out at Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for voting to convict, and on Friday he sent the Vindman brothers and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland packing.
The president made the decision to make a point rather than allowing impeachment witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Sondland to leave on their own. Republican Senators reportedly tried to stop these ousters from happening and so did “officials,” but the president was not deterred by a bad look.
Vindman and Sondland were supposedly planning their own exits and the president was informed of that, but instead of letting them leave President Trump relished the moment he all but said the oh-so familiar, “You’re fired.”
Before they were fired, Gordon Sondland & Lt. Col. Vindman were quietly planning their own exits. Officials told Trump this was likely, & advised him to just let them leave on their own to spare himself the criticism of firing witnesses, but Trump disregarded that advice.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) February 10, 2020
If anything, these decisions have energized Trump’s base as much as they have enraged the left, which is perhaps why this was a no-brainer for him. Another thing to consider is that people keep wrongly referencing a certain “witness retaliation” statute, 18 U.S. Code § 1513(e):
Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
This reads very similarly to what happened here, except the part about Vindman, Sondland et al. providing information to a “law enforcement officer.” Congress is not that, but even if you really wanted to make the case that the president engaged in criminal witness retaliation, we would refer you to the DOJ’s “can’t indict a sitting president” policy. The only remedy is impeachment and we just saw how that went.
In the case of the Vindmans, they are being reassigned, not fired (technically). Sondland was a political appointee.
[Image via Fox News screengrab]