Gordon Sondland donated $1 million to Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration.
Kellyanne Conway on Monday defended Donald Trump's decision to fire two key impeachment witnesses last week, suggesting that one of them, the former U.S. ambassador to the EU, had only donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration and had not supported Trump before then.
"It was nice of the president to give him that post in the first place," the White House counselor told Fox News, referring to former Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who testified against Trump in the House impeachment inquiry last year.
"Here is somebody that, I think, leaned into what some others in the establishment Republican party were doing," Conway continued. "I had to cancel a fundraiser for Donald Trump in late the campaign. [Sondland] wasn't there. He wrote a big check to the inauguration but wasn't really there before the president improbably and surprisingly won [for people like that]."
Conway appeared to be referring to an incident in 2016 when the Trump campaign listed Sondland and the president of Sondland's hotel company, Bashar Wali, as hosts for an August fundraising event. The two said they never signed on to the event and would not be participating.
A spokesperson noted at the time that the two were upset about Trump's attacks on Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, had been killed in Iraq in 2004. Khizr and Ghazala Khan had appeared together at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 and criticized Trump's calls for Muslims to be banned from the United States.
After Trump's victory, Sondland was one of just a few dozen donors who made a seven-figure contribution to Trump's inaugural fund. In May 2018, Trump rewarded him with a nomination to be ambassador to the EU.
Sondland was a central figure in Trump's impeachment, though the White House tried repeatedly to block him from testifying in the House inquiry. Trump claimed last October that he would "love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify" before Congress, but couldn't support a "totally compromised kangaroo court."
Sondland eventually testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November. During his public hearing, he stated unequivocally that Trump had engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, dangling the prospect of a coveted White House visit in exchange for investigations into his political rivals.
After that testimony, Trump claimed he didn't know Sondland very well.
"I have not spoken to him much," he said at the time. "This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though. But I don't know him well."
Last Friday, Trump removed Sondland and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, from their posts, apparently in retaliation for their damning impeachment testimony.
Trump also removed Vindman's twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a senior lawyer on the National Security Council who did not testify in Trump's impeachment.
Conway claimed on Monday that the dismissals were not firings, claiming instead that the men "just got relocated."
Asked if there would be more removals in response to the impeachment, Conway said it was a possibility.
"We have people certainly in this administration that are probably holdovers and also people that don't believe in President Trump's agenda," she said. "There are many men and women out there who would love to have these jobs in this administration and would do a great job."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.