GOP Senators Tried to Stop Trump From Firing Megadonor Gordon Sondland

On Friday, President Donald Trump took his

to a new level when he summarily removed two key
impeachment witnesses—National Security Council official
Alexander Vindman and Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland—from
their posts. Trump also removed Vindman’s twin brother from the
NSC. The president’s actions sparked immediate
outrage—including, apparently, from some Republican lawmakers.
Well, sort of.

According to a New York Times
over the weekend, a group of GOP senators that included
Susan Collins (Maine), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Ron Johnson (Wis.),
and Thom Tillis (N.C.) “tried to stop” Trump from firing
Sondland. The senators privately argued to White House officials
that the optics of such a move would be terrible and that Sondland
should instead be allowed to leave on his own terms, the Times

But the Times story included another remarkable tidbit.
According to the paper, these same senators had no objection to the
removal of Vindman, who on Friday was
out of the White House by security guards:

The senators did not express the same concern about Colonel
Vindman, who is viewed less sympathetically by the president’s
allies. Republicans considered some of Colonel Vindman’s comments
during his testimony overtly political and, in any case, believed
it was untenable for him to remain on the staff of a president with
whom he broke so publicly.

At first blush, the idea that Vindman could be “viewed less
sympathetically” than Sondland is difficult to comprehend.
appeared to be

who had essentially purchased his position by

donating $1 million
to Trump’s inaugural committee. He played
a leading role in pressing Ukraine to investigate Trump’s
political enemies and was forced to
his congressional testimony after initially omitting
significant details. Vindman is an Iraq war veteran, Purple Heart
recipient, and Ukraine expert who
Sondland’s nefarious activities to White House
lawyers and then jeopardized his own career by testifying. 

At second blush, though, it’s entirely obvious why Republican
senators viewed Vindman “less sympathetically” than Sondland:
The former EU ambassador is a Republican megadonor.

Let’s start with Tillis. According to
FEC records
, Sondland has donated more than $38,000 to
Tillis’ various political committees since 2016. As
the Oregonian explained
last year:

Sondland first donated to Tillis in 2016. That same year,
Sondland and [his wife Katherine] Durant’s foundation donated for
the first time to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Duke
received $1.7 million from the foundation over the next three
years. Both of Sondland and Durant’s children now attend the
school…Tillis introduced Sondland at the June 2018 Senate
confirmation hearing on his nomination as European Union
ambassador. He cited Sondland’s family history as the child of
Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany, his business experience
and his ability to build relationships and manage competing

“I would also tell you he’s a man of great character and a
great mentor to two of his kids who had the good sense to go to a
North Carolina school,” Tillis said.

Sondland hasn’t donated directly to Collins, Johnson, or
McSally. But in recent years, he has donated more than $68,000 to
the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which supports GOP
Senate candidates. And as it happens, Tillis, Collins, and McSally
all have tough
reelection fights
coming up this fall.