Republican senator confirms he urged White House not to dismiss Sondland

Sen. Ron Johnson confirmed he reached out to the White House in attempt to prevent President Trump from ousting U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

The Wisconsin Republican told reporters on Monday that he urged administration officials against recalling Sondland because the diplomat was already planning on leaving his post and that the senator wanted him to “leave with dignity.” Johnson, 64, said he made “a couple of phone calls” to officials in the White House but would not say who he spoke with other than that he didn’t speak directly to Trump.

“I think Gordon was trying to do the right thing,” he said of Sondland. “His heart was in the right place, and, by the way, I have no problem with people in the administration trying to figure out how they can change the president’s opinion.”

Johnson added, “He was going to leave, anyway. It would have been nice if he could have just left on his terms.”

Reports circulated over the weekend that Johnson was among a group of Republicans, which included Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Martha McSally of Arizona, that warned the White House against the move. The senators noted that Sondland, 62, was already planning on leaving the post at the conclusion of Trump’s impeachment trial.

Sondland testified during the House impeachment investigation last year that “everyone was in the loop” about pressure on Ukraine to open politically expedient investigations.

The president recalled Sondland on Friday, hours after ousting another impeachment witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who worked on European affairs at the National Security Council. Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny Vindman was also removed from the NSC that day.

The Senate acquitted Trump last week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

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