President Donald Trump delivered payback Friday to two key witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry, firing Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and removing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his White House job.
Both officials provided critical information about Trump during public hearings, with Sondland saying the president sought a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine's leader and Vindman criticizing Trump's conduct during a July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as "improper."
The moves came hours after Trump was asked about his press secretary's comments that his opponents should pay a price. “Well, you’ll see," the president told reporters.
Sondland said in a statement Friday night, "I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union."
Jon Tester wrote about the need to call witnesses “NOW.” Tina Smith scribbled “protecting the election” – and underlined it. With a blue pen, Tim Scott declared “What a hot mess!”
For 13 days, 100 senators absorbed the arguments during the impeachment trial – and ultimate acquittal – of President Donald Trump. They weren't allowed to speak but they had a lot to say.
Prohibited from using phones or computers, members could only record their thoughts on one of the most consequential votes of their careers using the same technology they used in grade school: pen and paper.
And by doing so, senators instantly created historical artifacts.
USA TODAY reached out to dozens of senators and asked for a few pages of their notes during the trial. Seven of them – three Republicans and four Democrats – shared part of what they wrote. What they provided offers a glimpse of what senators, who acted as jurors in the historic proceedings, thought was important to record at the time – in their own words and in their own handwriting.
Some filled multiple notebooks, legal pads or small, bound journals at their mahogany desks as they sipped from glasses of milk or water. Others jotted just a few thoughts while others copied verbatim arguments from House impeachment managers and members of Trump's defense team. In black and blue ink, they underlined, starred, circled and bullet-ed what stood out to them.
WATCH: House convenes for vote on use of 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on Jan. 12 on a measure urging Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office. Read more: wapo.st/2K4Idsw.
President Donald Trump, a man hyperaware of his achievements and place in history, will add a first to his record on Wednesday.
Seven days before the president leaves office, the House plans to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week. Trump will become the first president impeached by the chamber twice.
The president’s behavior in the 13 months since the first impeachment has left House Democrats making a more clear-cut case than the first time around.
House Speaker Pelosi opens debate on President Trump’s impeachment The four-page article of impeachment the chamber will vote on Wednesday argues Trump fed his supporters months of false claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election, then urged them to contest the results before they marched to the Capitol and disrupted Congress’ count of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
“He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to manifest injury of the people of the United States,” the House’s charging document reads.
After the insurrection that killed at least five people, including a Capitol Police officer, Democrats have argued allowing Trump to serve out his term both lets him dodge consequences and raises the prospect of more violence before Biden’s inauguration. Still, Congress may not have enough time to push the president out of office before next week.
Democrats urged Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to start the faster process of removing Trump through the 25th Amendment. Pence refused, arguing in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that the move is not “in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.”
Pelosi opened debate on the House floor and argued the country cannot risk leaving the president in power.
“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love,” she said.
An impeachment trial of Donald Trump isn't about removing him from the presidency – his term ends Wednesday, either way.
It's about preventing him from seeking the presidency again in 2024.
Several senators, including Republicans, have noted that if they vote to convict Trump of inciting last week's attack on Congress, they could then vote to bar him from future public office, effectively nixing another presidential campaign.
"If the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., soon to be the new Senate Majority Leader.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the chamber's top Republican, made clear he is considering conviction, opening the door to an effective ban on Trump within the Republican Party.
"I have not made a final decision on how I will vote," McConnell said this week. "and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
To be sure, conviction is not guaranteed; House prosecutors would need at least 17 Republican senators to join all Democrats in support of it.
But many Republicans beyond Congress have said it would be a good idea to leave Trump behind, underscoring GOP anxiety over another Trump presidential run in the wake of last week's insurrection by supporters.
Another Trump candidacy would further divide and undermine the Republican Party, making it more vulnerable in future congressional and presidential races, several Republicans have said. Many blame Trump for this month's losses by two Republican senators in Georgia, defeats that cost the party control of the chamber.