Monday, October 28, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He found out that the "deep state" involves decorated military officers.

This morning, Trump gave his latest version of an explanation of the July phone call with the Ukrainian president that has now all but guaranteed that he will be impeached for abuse of power:

We had a very good conversation with the Ukrainian President. The conversation was perfect. They don’t ever talk about the conversation. It started with the whistleblower, and now they don’t want the whistleblower. Then they had a second whistleblower; now they don’t want the second whistleblower. The reason is that when the whistleblower -- when they saw what the whistleblower wrote, and then when I released the conversation, which bore no relationship to what the whistleblower saw, they said their case was out the window. And I think it's a disgrace.

Of course, in the real world, it was Trump's uncharacteristic transparency in releasing the partial summary of the phone call—effectively admitting that everything the first whistleblower said was true and accurate—that has him facing impeachment now. (He ignored staff who told him that this would happen.)

But Trump seems convinced that it's a political winner to attack the still-anonymous sources risking their careers and safety to bring his activities to light. This may be because he actually thinks that most Americans hate the U.S. intelligence community, which exposed Russia's attempts to rig the election on his behalf, as much as he does.

Tonight, the New York Times is reporting on the forthcoming testimony of an Army officer, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council and a decorated Iraq War veteran. Vindman twice told his superiors in the White House that Trump's extortion of Ukraine was damaging American interests. He says in his prepared opening statement:

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. 

As Vindman himself notes in that statement, because of how seriously U.S. military officers take the civilian chain of command, it is extremely unusual for serving U.S. military officers to offer anything even remotely resembling criticism of a sitting president.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents shouldn't do things that the intelligence community, the diplomatic corps, and the military all agree are wrong and bad for American national security.
  • Repeating a lie does not make it true.