With Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman out, here's what Robert O'Brien told "Face the Nation" about "retaliation" for his Trump testimony

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President Trump has ousted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC),  in a move Vindman's attorney suggested was an act of retaliation for giving testimony that was critical of Mr. Trump's July 25 call with the Ukrainian president. 

"There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful," his attorney's said. 

In October, Vindman told Congress he didn't think it was proper for the president to urge the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and he shared his concerns about the president's comments with the lead National Security Council lawyer.   

Vindman was previously scheduled to remain on the job at the White House until July 2020, his lawyer told CBS News in November.  The question about the duration of Vindman's detail on the NSC first arose when CBS News' "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan asked national security adviser Robert O'Brien whether Vindman would continue to serve on the NSC, even though he had criticized the president when he was interviewed by Congress in October.  

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Asked directly by Brennan, "Will he continue to work for you despite testifying against the president," O'Brien responded indirectly.

"Well, look," he replied, "one of the things that I've talked about is that we're streamlining the National Security Council. It got bloated to like 236 people from, up from 100 in the Bush administration, under President Obama." 

He added, "We're streamlining the National Security Council. There are people that are detailed from different departments and agencies. My understanding is he's — is that Colonel Vindman is — is detailed from the Department of Defense. So everyone who's detailed at the NSC, people are going to start going back to their own departments and we'll bring in new folks. But we're going to get that number down to around 100 people." 

Brennan followed up by asking O'Brien to confirm that this did not constitute retaliatory action against Vindman.

"I never retaliated against anyone," O'Brien told Brennan.

After "Face the Nation" aired, Vindman's lawyer, Michael Volkov, told CBS News in a statement, "LTC Vindman is still detailed to the National Security Council.  His detail ends July 2020.  We are not aware of any change in his status. Obviously any retaliatory action against LTC Vindman on a day when we honor our military heroes would be reprehensible."

A few hours after initial reports of Vindman's departure, another official that testified against the president, Brennan confirmed that Gordon Sondland, United States Ambassador to the European Union, was also out, releasing the following statement: "I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union."  

Mr. Trump insinuated to reporters that Vindman's days were numbered at the White House earlier Friday morning, telling reporters "Well, I'm not happy with him. You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not." 

Adding of his eventual leave, "You'll be hearing. They will make a decision."

A Pentagon official tells CBS News Vindman will now return to the Department of the Army for assignment until his Army War College class starts this summer.

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    Emily Tillett is the digital producer at "Face the Nation"