Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Another Trumpublican smear campaign against a decorated military officer

Led by whom? Dumb question.

The so-called conservatives, aka Tumpublicans, GOPlins, etc., have no problem vilifying members of our armed forces when it suits their purposes. The ugliest of the smears originate in the office of the commander-in-chief. Their latest target is Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman. He just happens to be the Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Here’s what’s going on.

The Washington Post reports that Vindman offers a firsthand account of critical episodes in alleged quid pro quo.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert assigned to the National Security Council, is testifying in the House impeachment inquiry Tuesday, offering new details on the push for investigations of President Trump’s political rivals and corroborating other witnesses with his firsthand account of the alleged attempt at a quid pro quo.

Vindman is the first impeachment witness to have listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump said he wanted a “favor” after Zelensky brought up the topic of nearly $400 million in promised American military aid. Vindman was listening from the Situation Room along with other NSC officials and members of Vice President Pence’s staff, he said in prepared remarks released late Monday, and was so “concerned by the call” — and that the president’s request could be seen as “a partisan play” that could “undermine U.S. national security” — that he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel.

Here are parts of his opening statement.


I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantryofficer, I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart. Since 2008, I have been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. In thisrole, I have served in theUnited States’embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefswhere I authored the principle strategy for managing competition with Russia.In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the National Security Council.

When I joined the White House’s National Security Council (“NSC”), I reported to Dr. Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. My role at the NSC includes developing, coordinating, and executing plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic national security issues for the countries in my portfolio, which includes Ukraine.

In my position, I coordinate with a superb cohort of inter-agency partners. I regularly prepare internal memoranda, talking points, and other materials for the National Security Advisor and senior staff.

Most of my interactions relate to national security issues and are therefore especially sensitive. I would urge the Committees to carefully balance the need for information against the impact that disclosure would have on our foreign policy and national security.

I have never had direct contact or communications with the President.

Following this meeting [July 10], there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.

Following the debriefing meeting, I reported my concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel. Dr. Hill also reported the incident to the NSC’s lead counsel.

On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.

I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel.

Vindman’s prepared testimony touched a nerve with Trump. The president took to Twitter early Tuesday to deride the Iraq War veteran, who appeared for his testimony in uniform, calling him a “Never Trumper” and questioning his recollection of events.

That attack was echoed by other right-wingers. Right takes aim at key White House witness, decorated combat vet reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

… Vindman is a White House official with direct, first-hand information about what transpired – he was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky – and his testimony appears likely to corroborate the testimony of other key witnesses.

Just as importantly, Vindman, who immigrated to the United States as a small child, is a witness with tough-to-dismiss credibility: the lieutenant colonel is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, where he was injured by an IED blast in the line of duty. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

This morning [Tuesday], Donald Trump nevertheless denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper witness,” suggesting without evidence that the lieutenant colonel has suspect political motivations. As New York’s Jon Chait added, several prominent voices in conservative media have targeted him in even uglier ways.

“Here we have a U.S. national-security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House apparently against the president’s interest,” [Fox News’ Laura Ingraham said] on her nightly show. “Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?” former Bush-administration lawyer John Yoo replied. “Some people might call that espionage.” (Alan Dershowitz, the third member of the colloquy, smiled along.)

This morning on cable news, the smear campaign continued. “It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense,” said former congressman Sean Duffy on CNN. “I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy … We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from … he has an affinity for the Ukraine.” Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade added, “We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, emigrated with his family. Young. He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine.”

My point is not that decorated American combat veterans are always right or that their conclusions must never be challenged. That’s not how a responsible public discourse works in a free society.

It is nauseating, however, for Trump’s allies to publicly question Vindman’s loyalties because he’s an American immigrant who has the audacity to tell the truth about what he saw and heard at the White House.

If this seems at all familiar, it’s because the right has too often been willing to smear decorated American combat veterans who stand in conservatives’ way. The Swift-Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004 was inexcusable – I won’t soon forget attendees to the Republican National Convention wearing band-aids to mock Kerry’s Purple Heart – and Donald Trump’s eagerness to mock John McCain’s military service was just as awful.

More recently, Robert Mueller, another decorated combat veteran, was on the receiving end of far-right attacks.

No one is immune.

Postscript: Trump suggested this morning that he’s “never even heard of” Alexander Vindman. As I noted on Twitter, that’s not a great line: the president, who’s been deeply and directly engaged on U.S. policy toward Ukraine, has never heard of the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council? Why not?

Now scroll back and check out that picture. All those medals and service ribbons mean something to those presently serving in our military and those who have served in the past (and that would be me). To trash that man’s service is to cast a blight on us all. Damn right I take it personally.

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