Bush-Era Ethics Lawyer Suggests Not Only Trump, But Also Pence, Should Be Impeached and Removed After Sondland Testimony

Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush, suggested on Wednesday that not only President Donald Trump, but also Vice President Mike Pence should be impeached and removed from office.

"Sondland -- in a last ditch effort to avoid going to the slammer for perjury - comes clean (at least partly). Trump is going down," Painter tweeted as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified before the House Intelligence Committee in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump. "Senate Republicans need to demand his resignation TODAY!"

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In a follow-up tweet, he wrote: "Game over. Send Trump home. Swear in Pence. Continue the investigation." He then added in another post: "In a few weeks the only open question should be whether the evidence is sufficient for President Pence to be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate."

During his public testimony, Sondland asserted that Pence as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "were in the loop" in regards to Trump's campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would target his domestic political opponents. The ambassador is a key witness in the inquiry, as he was in direct communication with Trump and the president's personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani about the desired announcement about unsubstantiated claims against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats worked with Ukrainians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Although Trump and his supporters have attempted to dismiss impeachment inquiry witnesses as so-called "Never Trumpers" or members of the Washington "swamp," Sondland clearly does not fit either of those criteria. The wealthy businessman was appointed to ambassador last year after he donated about $1 million to Trump's 2017 inaugural committee, but he did not have previous diplomatic experience.

Painter, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, has repeatedly criticized the Trump administration, particularly in the wake of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. In October, the lawyer tweeted that Trump's actions were "very dangerous for U.S. national security" and that the president "needs to be impeached. NOW."

Despite Painter's suggestion that Pence should be impeached and removed in addition to Trump, it still appears highly unlikely that even Trump will be removed from office. While Trump may be impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, a two-thirds majority vote is required in the Republican-controlled Senate to remove him from office. That would mean at least 20 Republicans would have to vote to remove Trump, along with every single Democrat and independent in the upper chamber of Congress.

Mike Pence and Donald Trump
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump listen during a conference call with the International Space Station on October 18 in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty
Bush-Era Ethics Lawyer Suggests Not Only Trump, But Also Pence, Should Be Impeached and Removed After Sondland Testimony | U.S.