Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU, was in talks to head off into the sunset with the impeachment trial over. Leave it at that, several Republican senators urged President Trump: Let him leave quietly to avoid looking like you're purging the administration of House impeachment witnesses. The senators lost that argument, the New York Times reports, when State Department officials told him to resign Friday, he declined, then was fired. The senators who had urged Trump to avoid that scenario included Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Democrats quickly fulfilled the senators' fears, calling the firings of Sondland, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman—who also testified in the House—and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, the "Friday night massacre." The senators did not lobby for the Vindmans, who were assigned to the National Security Council, and the brothers received an escort from the White House the same day. Trump tweeted a defense of his firing of Alexander Vindman on Saturday, per the Hill, saying he was insubordinate, strayed from the chain of command and leaked information—"In other words, "OUT." Vindman's lawyer called those accusations false and part of the president's "campaign of intimidation," adding that "Lt. Col. Vindman continues his service to our country as a decorated, active duty member of our military." (Read more Trump impeachment stories.)