REPORT: Four GOP Senators Including Susan Collins Tried to Stop Trump from Firing Sondland

According to a new report from the NY Times, at least four Republican Senators tried to stop President Trump from firing ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The four named by The NY Times report are:

Susan Collins (Maine)
Martha McSally (Arizona0
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)

The NY Times reports a handful of Republican senators tried to stop President Donald Trump from firing Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who testified in the House impeachment hearings, but the president relieved the diplomat of his post anyway, according to people briefed on the discussions.

The senators were concerned that it would look bad for Trump to dismiss Sondland and argued that it was unnecessary, since the ambassador was already talking with senior officials about leaving after the Senate trial, the people said. The senators told White House officials that Sondland should be allowed to depart on his own terms, which would have reduced any political backlash.

But Trump evidently was not interested in a quiet departure, choosing instead to make a point by forcing Sondland out before the ambassador was ready to go. When State Department officials called Sondland on Friday to tell him that he had to resign that day, he resisted, saying that he did not want to be included in what seemed like a larger purge of impeachment witnesses, according to the people informed about the matter.

Sondland conveyed to the State Department officials that if they wanted him gone that day, they would have to fire him. And so the president did, ordering the ambassador recalled from his post effective immediately. Sondland’s dismissal was announced just hours after another impeachment witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, were marched out of the White House by security officers and told their services were no longer needed.

The ousters came two days after the Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump on two articles of impeachment stemming from his effort to pressure Ukraine to incriminate Democratic rivals. Outraged Democrats called the firings a “Friday night massacre” aimed at taking revenge against government officials who had no choice but to testify under subpoena about what they knew.

Among the Republicans who warned the White House was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who after voting to acquit Trump said she thought he had learned a lesson. Others included Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The White House did not respond to requests for comment Saturday but a senior administration official confirmed the senators’ outreach.

Collins said Saturday that her lesson comment had been misinterpreted. “The lesson that I hoped the president had learned was that he should not enlist the help of a foreign government in investigating a political rival,” she said in a statement to The New York Times. “It had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he should fire people who testified in a way that he perceived as harmful to him.”