Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said a serving U.S. Army officer was "human scum."

This morning, Trump made two contradictory claims about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

First, he tweeted "he'd never even heard" of Vindman, who works for the National Security Council as a Ukraine expert.

This is almost certainly true. Even presidents who pay attention to their security briefings might not know every staffer on the NSC.

Then, Trump tweeted that Vindman—who he's "never even heard of"—is a "never Trumper."

Trump, who is paranoid under the best of circumstances, has been especially agitated about "never Trumpers" recently. He seems to be defining them as anyone, of any party, who isn't actively protecting him. He raged last week that they were "human scum." 

Vindman is a decorated, active-duty Army officer who was wounded by an IED in the Iraq War. He speaks Ukrainian and has been in a Congressional deposition all day about Trump's efforts to extort political interference in the 2020 election from the Ukrainian government. He was brought to the NSC by the Trump administration. 

Trump, who equated Lt. Col. Vindman with "human scum," is commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces.

Note that in both tweets, Trump incorrectly refers to a "transcript," but the partial memo he released of the call explicitly notes that it is not a transcript. But what it does reveal is exactly what Vindman and the intelligence community whistleblower claimed—that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president for an investigation into his political rival.

UPDATE: In fact, Vindman testified today that he tried unsuccessfully to make that memo more accurately reflect the actual content of the call, only to be overruled. The fact that the most incriminating details were kept out may explain Trump's surprising willingness to release the memo. Trump has still refused to release any verbatim transcript or recording.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted crucial words and phrases, and that his attempts to include them failed, according to three people familiar with the testimony.
The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.

So what?

  • It's not a personal attack on the president for a military officer to do his duty to defend the interests of the United States.
  • A president who insults the people who serve the United States in the military just to score political points doesn't deserve to be commander-in-chief.