Lacking any factual defense for President Trump, Republicans and their media mouthpieces are resorting to baseless smears of a decorated Army officer. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., called those attacks “shameful.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who came from Ukraine to the U.S. when he was 3 and is now detailed to the National Security Council because, among other good reasons, he speaks Ukrainian.
He is one of the parade of witnesses who have corroborated the whistleblower’s account of Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during which the president demanded an investigation into Joe Biden in return for congressionally approved military aid. Vindman was alarmed about the potential threat to national security and passed his concerns up the NSC’s chain of command.
The colonel’s firsthand account of the conversation was delivered to House investigating committees Tuesday. He told them key information had been omitted from the call readout the administration gave Congress. Public hearings are next and no amount of unhinged GOP histrionics will hide the truth about Trump’s culpability.
The administration has tried to stop witnesses like Vindman from testifying. In obstructing the House investigation — itself a potential article of impeachment — the president exhibits what prosecutors call consciousness of guilt. If he’s done nothing wrong, let the evidence prove it. But Trump has ordered officials to ignore House requests and subpoenas for testimony and documents.
Instead, many of them are ignoring Trump’s order. By defying lawful House subpoenas they would likely expose themselves to personal legal jeopardy, which means hiring expensive attorneys, something most can’t afford on the pay public servants receive, according to published reports.
Their corroboration thus far is so thorough, in fact, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is overseeing the hearings, says he may not need to depose the whistleblower.
Damning testimony also came last week from the highly respected career diplomat, Ambassador William Taylor, who was brought out of retirement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last spring to take over as charge d’affaires in Ukraine.
“(European Union) Ambassador (Gordon) Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check,” Taylor told House investigators. “I argued … that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not ‘owe’ President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was ‘crazy.’”
To distract, at the behest of Trump, House Republicans staged a ridiculous publicity stunt last week, barging into the secure hearing room where witnesses are being deposed. The idea was to trick the uninformed into believing Republicans are being shut out of the hearings. Except some 50 Republicans who serve on the investigating committees are in the room hearing testimony and questioning witnesses.
Amid all the GOP’s phony made-for-Fox News theatrics came another blow to Trump’s crumbling defense. A federal judge last Friday ordered the Justice Department to turn over to the House grand jury testimony and other materials underlying the Mueller report, which Attorney General William Barr has refused to do. Similar documents were given to Congress when it was investigating President Richard Nixon’s wrongdoing in 1974.
Judge Beryl Howell also rejected the Republican charge that the investigation is illegal. “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in diligent and thorough investigation into, and a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” she wrote in her 75-page ruling.
Ah yes, the public’s interest, as in, do we really want a president in the Oval Office who, like some Mafia hoodlum, thinks foreign leaders personally “owe” him? As one wag quipped, “Nice little country you got there, Volodymyr. It’d be a shame if anything bad happened to it.”
Republicans, including Georgia Sen. David Perdue, are scrambling to defend the president’s treachery. They have no choice. Perdue and others have tied themselves so closely to Trump they’re now boxed in. And their political careers could very well die at the Trump barricade as the unassailable facts find their way to American voters, more than half of whom already support the House impeachment inquiry.
I was particularly disappointed in Sen. Johnny Isakson, who for health reasons is retiring at the end of the year. The slavish Perdue I understand, but why, at the end of his distinguished public career, does Isakson feel it’s necessary to sully his reputation by being remembered as a guy who pledged his faithful allegiance to Trump?
The president’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, who attempted to bring order to the chaotic White House and failed, said he advised the president to not replace him with a “yes man,” warning Trump that if he did, he would be impeached. The president got his yes man in Mick Mulvaney. He very likely also got his impeachment.