Trump says he agrees with Navy Capt. Crozier’s firing

President Donald Trump defended the firing of Navy Capt. Brett Crozier during a coronavirus task force press conference Saturday afternoon, calling Crozier’s letter asking for help for the sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt “not appropriate.” 

Trump said he did not make the decision to fire Crozier, but he disagreed with Crozier’s actions and suggested the captain was at fault for the coronavirus infections on board the aircraft carrier for docking the ship in Vietnam.

“Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic,” Trump said, adding the letter was “not appropriate” and “he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

Crozier had circulated a four-page letter later obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle asking for “decisive action” as the coronavirus ravaged his crew. 

“We are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily,” Crozier wrote. 

Four days after he pleaded for help, Crozier was fired by the Navy. 

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier had “exercised extremely poor judgment” in distributing the letter. 

The Navy said Saturday 44% of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt had been tested for the coronavirus, and 155 service members had tested positive. About 1,548 service members had been moved onshore. None had been hospitalized. 

[USA Today]

Trump defends firing ‘terrible’ intel community watchdog as Republicans question sacking

President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his decision to fire the intelligence community’s top watchdog, calling the sacked official a “total disgrace” over his handling of a whistleblower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment.

“I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible,” Trump said of Michael Atkinson, who was let go from his role as the inspector general of the intelligence community on Fridaynight.

“He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump added. The initial report was largely corroborated by witnesses testimony and the summary describing Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine, which was the subject of the whistleblower complaint.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump mused about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) being the whistleblower’s “informer,” without citing evidence. Schiff was the public face of the House’s effort to impeach the president.

“They give this whistleblower a status that he doesn’t deserve. He’s a fake whistleblower,” Trump concluded. “And frankly, somebody ought to sue his ass off.”

Trump’s remarks underscore his deep, long-running disdain toward the officials and lawmakers whose actions led to his impeachment in the House over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals.

Despite Trump’s vehement defense of his decision to terminate Atkinson, some Republican senators expressed uneasiness with the president’s actions and praised Atkinson.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, for example, said the firing of Atkinson “demands an explanation.”

The Iowa Republican, who crafted the nation’s whistleblower protection statutes, did not criticize Trump for firing Atkinson, as several top Democrats did when Trump relieved Atkinson of his duties late Friday night. But he said the Trump administration should explain the move in greater detail.

“[Inspectors general] help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation,” Grassley said in a statement on Saturday. “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration.”

Also on Saturday, the office of the director of national intelligence announced that Thomas Monheim, who has served in top legal positions throughout the intelligence community, was named acting inspector general.

In a letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees late Friday, Trump informed lawmakers that he was terminating Atkinson because he no longer had confidence in him.

Atkinson drew strong criticism from Trump’s allies after he provided Congress with the whistleblower complaint that detailed Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other actions by White House and State Department officials.

POLITICO reported on Saturday that Atkinson sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last month in which he said the past six months were “a searing time for whistleblowers,” and he criticized those who have failed to defend whistleblowers — without mentioning the president.

“Those repeated assurances of support for whistleblowers in ordinary matters are rendered meaningless if whistleblowers actually come forward in good faith with information concerning an extraordinary matter and are allowed to be vilified, threatened, publicly ridiculed, or — perhaps even worse — utterly abandoned by fair weather whistleblower champions,” Atkinson wrote in the letter to Schumer.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) praised Atkinson on Saturday for his “professionalism and responsiveness,” but did not mention the circumstances of Atkinson’s firing.

“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive,” Burr said. “However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who often criticizes Trump’s conduct, said Atkinson’s removal was “not warranted” and that Trump’s explanation was not “persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the president has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said in a statement.

Top Democrats strongly condemned the move, dubbing it an abuse of power and an act of politically motivated retaliation. Michael Horowitz, who chairs the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, lauded Atkinson for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law.”

“That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law,” Horowitz added.

A congressional source said that while the House and Senate intelligence committees were given the 30-day notice of Atkinson’s removal as required by law, he was immediately placed on administrative leave, meaning that his tenure effectively ended Friday night.

[Politico]

Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who told Congress about whistleblower complaint that led to impeachment

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.

Atkinson will leave his job in 30 days, Trump told the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and he has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, according to a congressional source.

Trump did not name a permanent successor.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

The announcement that he’s firing Atkinson late on a Friday night comes as the President is dealing with a worldwide pandemic from the novel coronavirus, which has consumed his presidency since the end of the impeachment trial only two months ago. Trump has faced widespread criticism for the federal government’s response to the outbreak, and has said the impeachment trial “probably did” distract him from responding to the virus’ outbreak during the trial in January and early February.

Atkinson’s firing is the latest case of the Trump administration removing officials who took part in the President’s impeachment. Trump also removed Alexander Vindman, a then-National Security Council official who had testified in the House’s proceedings, along with Vindman’s twin brother, both of whom were reassigned out of the NSC, and fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Other officials, including then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and her acting successor, Bill Taylor, left the Trump administration after the impeachment proceedings.

Trump also fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 while the FBI was investigating the President.

The congressional source said that Atkinson was informed on Friday evening that Trump had fired him. The statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires that both intelligence committees be notified 30 days before the inspector general can be dismissed, so Trump could not immediately remove Atkinson — he could only place him on leave until the 30 days pass.

Top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees blasted the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in statement that Trump must “immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe, particularly during this time of national emergency.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who led the House’s impeachment investigation, said the firing was “another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” Schiff said in a statement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was “all too familiar a pattern in this administration.”
“When you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often, you get fired,” Schumer told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

Atkinson — a career, nonpartisan official — came under fire from the President’s allies last year for alerting lawmakers to the then-unknown whistleblower complaint, which Congress later learned was an allegation that Trump had sought dirt on his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine’s President while withholding US security aid from Kiev.
The allegation sparked a House impeachment inquiry that detailed the quid pro quo effort and led to Trump’s impeachment in December on two articles. The Senate acquitted Trump on both charges in February.

One of the former attorneys for the anonymous whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, told CNN the firing of ICIG Michael Atkinson was not unexpected yet still “disheartening” and “pretty clearly retaliation” for his role in transmitting the initial complaint to Congress.

“I think Atkinson was quite honorable and acted with integrity. The way he handled himself underscored his independence and neutrality. Not all IG’s have historically done that,” said Bakaj, who no longer represents the whistleblower after they hired new legal counsel earlier this year. “In this case you have an individual who got an allegation, did an investigation and came to an independent conclusion. This is truly a loss to the IG community and also a shot across the bow for any future whistleblowers from coming forward.”
Bakaj said Atkinson “had the courage to do what was right” when he shared the whistleblower complaint with Congress despite clashing with his then-boss, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, over whether it rose to the level of “urgent concern.”

After the whistleblower complaint was shared with Congress, Atkinson testified before the intelligence committees, explaining how he had attempted to corroborate the complaint in order to determine it was credible and should be shared with Congress. Maguire initially pushed back on that recommendation, but the White House ultimately relented and released the complaint.
Bakaj told CNN that Atkinson’s replacement was ultimately expected and, in some ways, serves as a “bookend” for the impeachment saga. “The door is finally closed,” he said, adding that he was alerted that Trump had been planning to fire Atkinson for some time.

Maguire formally resigned from US government service in February after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the job full time, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Other top intelligence officials also have recently left the administration, after Trump picked US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to replace Maguire as acting director of national intelligence. Russ Travers, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired last month by Grenell in a move that was seen as a removal of someone not perceived as loyal enough.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine issued statements later Saturday on Atkinson’s removal.
“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure,” said Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role.”

Grassley said that “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence,” adding, “More details are needed from the administration.”

“The intelligence community inspector general is particularly essential to ensuring the nation’s secrets are well protected and powerful, highly invasive surveillance authorities are not abused. Going forward the ICIG must step up its focus on investigating those abuses and preventing leaks of classified information,” he said.

Collins noted that Trump followed established procedure by notifying Congress 30 days prior to the removal of the inspector general along with the reasons for the removal in line with The Inspector General Reform Act. But she added that she “did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said.

Tom Monheim, a career intelligence official, will be the acting intelligence community inspector general, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

[CNN]

Navy captain fired by Trump administration for trying to save his crew

The Navy captain fired by the Trump administration for issuing a stark warning about the risk to his crew from the coronavirus outbreak has been given a standing ovation as he left his post.

Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved of his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after his superiors lost confidence in his ability to lead.

As Capt Crozier left on Thursday night he was given a standing ovation and cheered on by members of the 5,000-strong crew, who chanted “Captain Crozier, Captain Crozier” as he departed.

Earlier in the week, Capt Crozier sent a letter to the Navy, obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, asking for the crew to be isolated completely in order to try and stop the spread of a coronavirus outbreak onboard the ship.

“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure…This is a necessary risk,” he wrote.

“Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

During his press conference on Thursday evening, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the decision to sack Capt Crozier was his alone and explained that the captain’s actions forced his hand.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew,” he said. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”

Mr Modly added his admiration for the captain: “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man.”

Earlier in the day, at his daily press conference, President Donald Trump was asked by a reporter if he thought the decision was the correct one, replying: “No, I don’t think that at all.”

The decision to relieve the captain of his duties was criticised by the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination, Joe Biden, who released a statement on Thursday evening saying that Capt Crozier should not have been fired.

“Donald Trump’s Acting Navy Secretary shot the messenger – a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic,” said Mr Biden.

“The Navy sent a chilling message to the rest of the fleet about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 245,601 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 6,058.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 50 people as part of the battle to contain the spread of the contagion.

[The Independent]

Pentagon policy chief’s firing was part of White House purge

The White House demanded the ouster of Pentagon policy chief John Rood last week after the former industry executive opposed the administration on plans to pull U.S. troops from Syria and its policy toward Chinese tech giant Huawei, six current and former Trump administration officials tell POLITICO.

Rood, who has served as undersecretary of Defense for policy since January 2018, resigned on Feb. 19 at the behest of President Donald Trump and will officially step down at the end of this week. Rood oversees implementation of national security policy throughout the Defense Department and is one of the defense secretary’s top advisers.

At the National Security Council, Rood was known for his tendency to explode at underlings, leading to a steady string of high-level departures from the Pentagon over the past year. On top of that, the NSC chafed at Rood’s opposition to several key White House agenda items.

Trump’s campaign to root out “anti-Trump” members of his administration following his impeachment acquittal provided the NSC the perfect opportunity to finally oust Rood, current and former officials said.

“He never hesitated to tell the White House that he disagreed on stuff,” said one former administration official, citing the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and pulling U.S. troops from Syria —decisions former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also opposed before his own ouster. “He definitely wasn’t a loyalist.”

Most recently, Rood opposed a rule from the Commerce Department that would have barred companies from selling to Huawei from overseas facilities. The Pentagon later dropped its opposition to the rule.

Rood had warned against Trump’s hold on military aid to Ukraine, which prompted the impeachment inquiry. But long before the scandal, sources say Rood clashed with NSC officials, particularly former national security adviser John Bolton and his core advisers Victoria Coates and Charles Kupperman.

Rood’s office declined to comment.

Early last year, a group of NSC senior directors brought up complaints about Rood’s leadership style with Bolton, according to current and former officials. The sources expressed concern that Rood’s treatment of his staff, particularly widespread incidents of yelling at subordinates, was prompting senior leaders to leave the department.

Since Mattis left in December 2018, several high-ranking civilians have resigned. Of 58 Senate-confirmed positions at DoD, 18 are vacant, and that will rise to 19 once Rood departs at the end of this week.

“He’s the least liked guy in national security circles,” said one administration official. “It’s the most widespread negative view of any one official” that the source had encountered during their long tenure in the Trump administration.

Rood’s ouster has prompted fears within the Pentagon that Trump’s purge could extend to other officials seen as not sufficiently loyal to the president, said the first former administration official. People who are awaiting nomination or confirmation — including Elaine McCusker, whose nomination to be Pentagon comptroller may be in jeopardy due to her opposition to the Ukraine aid freeze — are seen as particularly vulnerable.

“There is a long list of names of people they are going to boot out and they are going to replace them with purely politicals,” the former official said.

Rood’s ouster had been in the works for a while, the sources said. It took the arrival of a new director for the White House Presidential Personnel Office, John McEntee, who Trump hired to oversee his post-impeachment loyalty purge, to push the final decision through. McEntee is “energetic and gets things done,” said the first administration official.

Another former defense official defended Rood as “a good Republican,” but noted that in the aftermath of the impeachment inquiry, the White House is eliminating all dissension and the Pentagon’s policy chief was “easily a target.”

“Rood has served in the public and private sector admirably. He is loyal to the mission, but I think President Trump has been convinced that Rood is an obstacle to his agenda,” the former defense official said.

[Politico]

New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

  • But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.
  • Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”
  • McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.

The backstory: Several administration officials have already been targeted in a post-impeachment blitz.

  • Barely 48 hours after Trump was acquitted in the Senate, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a key national security official who testified during the impeachment inquiry that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “improper” — was “escorted” out of his White House post.
  • U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who also testified in the impeachment investigations, was fired the same afternoon.
  • Trump has also promoted or brought back several people he considers core loyalists — including McEntee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
  • McEntee’s job already is being tested with Trump’s decision to tap Grenell, a staunch loyalist who has never worked for an intelligence agency, as the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Trump has said it’s only a temporary move until he names a new permanent director.
  • But his efforts to put a Republican congressman in that job, thereby plucking him out of a Senate race with a complicated GOP primary, aren’t going smoothly.

[Axios]

Trump fired acting DNI Maguire over alleged staff disloyalty

President Trump erupted at acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire in a meeting last week over concerns about Maguire’s staff’s loyalty, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The reported incident occurred shortly before Trump announced on Wednesday Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell would take over from Maguire as the acting intelligence chief.

Trump decided against nominating Maguire for the post on a permanent basis after learning a member of his staff, Shelby Pierson, gave a classified briefing last Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee regarding election security, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The specific contents of Pierson’s briefing are unknown, but Trump appeared to believe she had given information specifically to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that would be beneficial to Democrats if made public, the people familiar with the matter told the Post.

Trump was furious and held Maguire personally responsible when the two next met, the Post reported, resulting in a “dressing down” by the president and which served as “the catalyst” for Trump ultimately opting to appoint Grenell.

A committee official told the Post the briefing concerned “election security and foreign interference in the run-up to the 2020 election,” speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Members on both sides participated, including Ranking Member [Devin] Nunes [R-Calif.], and heard the exact same briefing from experts across the Intelligence Community,” the committee official said. “No special or separate briefing was provided to one side or to any single member, including the chairman.”

Pierson was initially appointed in 2019 by then-DNI Dan Coats, who departed the White House the same year, and had frequently disagreed with the president on the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the threat of future interference.

[The Hill]

Trump installs loyalists in top jobs after impeachment purge

President Donald Trump is surrounding himself with loyalists after a week of banishing staffers across the government in a post-impeachment revenge plot.

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s most trusted confidants, will return to the White House to work directly for the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser after nearly two years away. Trump’s “body man” Johnny McEntee is also being promoted to run the office responsible for filling hundreds of top political jobs throughout the federal agencies, according to three senior administration officials, replacing Sean Doocey, who will move over to the State Department.

One senior administration official said the West Wing personnel changes are likely to continue in the coming weeks to prepare for both the 2020 campaign season and a potential second term.

Taken together, the moves have signaled a pattern of reinstating and promoting those closest to Trump after purging staffers Trump viewed as insufficiently loyal or part of the alleged “deep state” plot to get him. The last seven days have seen a makeover of White House and agency offices, driven partly by Trump’s desire for revenge post-impeachment and partly by his wish to staff the West Wing with people with whom he feels comfortable.

The new hires and promotions like Hicks and McEntee also happen to be close with Kushner, who is overseeing the reelection campaign and has his own influential power center within the White House.

“POTUS is surrounding himself with people who believe in him and his policy agenda,” said Jason Miller, a former top communications adviser on the 2016 campaign who applauded Hicks and McEntee’s return to the West Wing.

Trump’s vengeance campaign has claimed people across the government.

At the White House, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top National Security Council Ukraine staffer, was escorted off the premises as retaliation for damaging testimony during the House impeachment hearings. His twin brother, an NSC lawyer, was also booted from his job. Both have returned to the military, where they worked before being detailed to the White House.

At the State Department, Trump fired Gordon Sondland, the now-former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, after he also took a turn on the witness stand. Elsewhere, Trump pulled the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu for a top position at the Treasury Department because of her role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant who was convicted on charges of lying to Congress.

McEntee’s new position atop the White House personnel office will be critical for staffing up across the government in 2020 and into a potential second Trump term. The office has long been seen as a weak spot within the administration, given the huge number of vacancies across agencies and a lack of vetting of several top officials that led to fallen nominees and embarrassing headlines. Trump even once said he was simply outsourcing his vetting process to the media instead of doing it in-house.

Donors and the business community have also been frustrated by the lack of responsiveness from the personnel office, according to one Republican close to the White House — not to mention the office’s reputation for frat boy antics inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Over in the West Wing, Hicks will work in her new role under Kushner as a counselor to the president and senior adviser, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham confirmed, calling Hicks “one of the most talented and savvy individuals I have come across.” Hicks departed the White House in March 2018 after working as communications director for Trump. She then moved to Los Angeles to work in a senior communications role at Fox Corporation.

“There is no one more devoted to implementing President Trump’s agenda than Hope Hicks,” Kushner said in a statement. “We are excited to have her back on the team.”

Hicks’ return to the White House gives Trump an ally who’s adept at translating his wishes to the broader staff.

Hicks was always well-liked among the communications and press staff, getting along well with the competing factions from the 2016 campaign and the Republican National Committee. Since leaving the White House, she has also remained close with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, visiting them at the president’s Bedminster resort. McEntee is also extremely close with the entire Trump family.

Hicks will likely start her new position early next month, though the exact details are still being worked out, according to a senior administration official.

Hicks, Doocey and McEntee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Politico]

Trump suggests military should consider additional discipline for Vindman

President Trump on Tuesday suggested the military should consider additional disciplinary action against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided damaging testimony against Trump in the impeachment inquiry and was reassigned from his White House job last week.

“We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Gen. Milley has him now. I congratulate Gen. Milley. He can have him.”

Gen. Mark Milley is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Asked specifically if the Pentagon should pursue further action against Vindman, Trump said it would be “up to the military.”

“But if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that,” he said.

The president’s comments on Tuesday signaled he was open to additional punishment for officials who testified against him in the impeachment inquiry. Some of his allies have sought to cast the ouster of witnesses like Vindman as justifiable reassignments rather than retribution.

Trump added that there were more departures to come, but it was unclear if he was referring specifically to impeachment witnesses.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday signaled there would be no punishment for Vindman, saying the Pentagon protects service members from retribution. 

“We protect all of our persons, service members, from retribution or anything like that. We’ve already addressed that in policy and other means,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon during a press conference with his Colombian counterpart.

Vindman had been working temporarily at the White House as a member of the national security council when he was dismissed. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was fired later the same day.

Both officials were among those who testified about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine during House impeachment inquiry hearings last year. The House ultimately impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, alleging he withheld security aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals.

The Senate acquitted Trump last week in a party-line vote.

Vindman proved to be one of Democrats’ most memorable witnesses. A Purple Heart recipient, Vindman testified that he believed Trump’s conduct on a July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was inappropriate and that he reported it to his superior.

Trump has mocked Vindman for wearing his military uniform during the hearing and complained about the contents of his testimony.

On Tuesday, the president accused Vindman of leaking and going outside the chain of command

[The Hill]

Trump justifies firing Alexander Vindman for being “insubordinate”

President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning to explain why he fired national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the president’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “improper.”

“I don’t know [Vindman], never spoke to him or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly…….and was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT.'”

Context: Vindman was fired on Friday just before U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was dismissed. The firings took place two days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate.

  • Trump “expressed deep anger … over the attempt to remove him from office because of his actions toward Ukraine,” the Washington Post writes.

[Axios]

Reality

If any other person in America retaliated against witnesses like Donald Trump is doing, they would be in jail. But today we have a monarch.

1 2 3 10