Editor’s Note: Samantha Vinograd is a CNN national security analyst. She is a senior adviser at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute, which is not affiliated with the Biden campaign. Vinograd served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council from 2009 to 2013 and at the Treasury Department under President George W. Bush. Follow her @sam_vinograd. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

After months of publicly smearing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, it appears President Donald Trump took a final shot at a man who did nothing more than faithfully carry out the duties of his job – and issued a warning shot to anyone else who dares question him.

According to his attorney, Vindman was fired on Friday from the National Security Council – a decision that will have adverse impacts for American national security. Later that evening, he also fired the US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, a Trump appointee and Republican donor who gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.

 Sam Vinograd

Both men had testified under subpoena before the House Intelligence Committee during impeachment last November. Vindman told the committee that he had listened in (as part of his NSC duties) on President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President, and he had been so disturbed by the content of what he heard that he reported it to an NSC lawyer.

Trump made no secret of his anger at Vindman’s testimony, and the timing of Vindman’s dismissal is likely no coincidence. Acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday, President Donald Trump feels emboldened to act on his every impulse, now that Congressional Republicans have shown him they will not hold him accountable – no matter the risk.

Vindman was escorted off White House grounds, according to his attorney, and in a manner that was likely intended to publicly embarrass him. His brother Yevgeny Vindman, who also worked on the NSC and is also a lieutenant colonel, was fired as well. (When asked to comment on the departure of the Vindman brothers, NSC spokesman John Ullyot said, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”)

Trump could have let Vindman depart the NSC with some dignity – and waited until July, when Vindman was slated to leave and could more seamlessly transition his portfolio over to a new successor. Instead, the President appears to have forced Vindman and his brother out in the least dignified manner.

And there is also little doubt that this move was intentional retribution – and designed to send a clear message to any other government official who dares to challenge the President. Speak out, and you risk compromising not just your own job, but that of your family’s.

Of course, the President’s surrogates will defend him and argue Trump has the full right to hire and fire staff as he sees fit. And while that may be true, it also ignores the sad reality hidden in that truth. The President only wants henchmen and yes-men who defer to his orders and actions, no matter how dangerous, inappropriate or potentially illegal they may be.

There have been earlier reports that Trump is downsizing the NSC and stacking it with more political appointees. By removing Vindman, and by moving forward with plans to cycle out career government officials, it appears that the President also does not want witnesses around to report, through legally protected channels, any future actions that may cross moral or legal lines.

But there is a great danger to removing individuals like Vindman from the NSC who have longstanding relationships. Trump appears intent on transforming the NSC – from a critical American policy-making apparatus that advances the rule of law to a political arm for his personal benefit – with little regard for rules or laws.

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    Just consider the many men serving in the Trump administration who watched the President’s attacks on government officials like Vindman and did nothing. From Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (to name a few) – these men have remained silent, and in doing so, failed their teams in the short term and the national security interests of the American people in the long term.

    To all of the Republicans who said Trump had learned from the impeachment proceedings and would not make the same mistakes again, you were dead wrong. He hasn’t learned from his mistakes – he’s doubling down on them.