WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans who voted to acquit President Donald Trump of impeachment charges last week said that it’s fine that he fired government personnel who testified against him during the House‘s investigation.
Days after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to acquit Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges, the president fired National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. The Purple Heart recipient had testified before Congress that the president’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had threatened US national security.
Shortly after, Trump removed Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, from his post. Sondland who was involved in the scheme to withhold aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Trump’s political opponent, Joe Biden, flipped on the president during the House impeachment inquiry and testified that Trump did participate in a “quid pro quo.”
Republicans justified the president’s actions late Monday, with many of them claiming the president had every right to fire the men.
“Yeah, I think he did the right thing,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe. “People were supposed to have loyalty. Obviously they didn’t.”
According to the Department of Defense, members of the military are free to make complaints against government officials without retaliation. Broader protection for government employees are outlined in the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Sen. Todd Young of Indiana told reporters “the president has sole authority to hire and fire….” when asked about the abrupt firing of Vindman. He added, “It’s the president’s prerogative.”
Trump defended the firings in a series of tweets Saturday morning and in doing so criticized Vindman’s work performance and called him “very insubordinate.”
“The president has every right to decide who serves in the executive branch of jobs,” Sen. Roy Blunt told reporters Monday. “I don't have a problem with it at all.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Vindman’s firing in a tweet Friday evening. “This is not a sign of strength, it only shows president Trump’s weakness,” Schumer wrote.
The New York senator went further and penned a letter to the Department of Defense’s acting inspector general, Glenn Fine, and 73 other inspector generals requesting the agency investigate retaliation against those who spoke to presidential misconduct during the impeachment inquiry.
“Regrettably, these rights are now being challenged like never before, creating a chilling effect among those who, in previous administrations, may have come forward to expose abuses of power,” Schumer wrote.
Republicans, however, refuted any suggestion the president acted in retaliation. At least one Republican likened the president’s governing style to his approach to business.
“The style of how he does things, you know, he's different in that sense,” said Sen. Mike Braun. “I like how he's, you know, trying to shake things up. When it comes to individuals that aren't on board. I think that the president has a right to have people working for him that are pulling the same way.”
The New York Times reported that a group of Republican senators, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin unsuccessfully tried to convince Trump not to fire Sondland. But the former foreign service agent was removed from his post anyway.
“I just wanted him to leave with dignity,” Johnson told reporters Monday.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whose key vote thwarted the possibility of a tie in the vote to allow witnesses during the Senate trial did not break ranks with her Republican colleagues.
“The president has the authority,” she said, her voice trailing as she disappeared behind elevator doors in the Capitol.