Saturday, February 8, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He added some slander to his retaliation against a serving military officer.

On the third full day since the Senate voted not to expel him from office for the Ukraine scandal and his attempted cover-up, Trump was still raging at the people whose testimony sealed his impeachment. After firing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council yesterday, Trump followed up with this on Twitter today:

Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about “Lt. Col.” Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was. Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my “perfect” calls incorrectly, &.......was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, “OUT”.

In reality, the only evidence of a "report" by Vindman's superiors about his performance came from Dr. Fiona Hill, who also testified against Trump. As Vindman testified, Hill characterized him as being in the "top 1%" of military officers she had worked with, and testified to his "excellent judgment."

Trump, who avoided military service in Vietnam with four student exemptions and a medical excuse his father apparently paid for, may not know the technical definition of "insubordination." It is a serious crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But even if Trump's feelings were hurt by what Vindman said about him, it's not insubordination. And even if it were, when a servicemember is acting to "discharge a lawful duty"—like complying with a subpoena to give truthful testimony to Congress—he or she is exempt from insubordination charges.

Trump has never released the actual transcripts of the call he made to the Ukrainian president, but only a highly edited summary. Vindman testified that these left out damning details like Trump's specific demands for an investigation into the company that Hunter Biden worked for.

So what?

  • If there were any legitimate military reasons for Trump to punish Vindman, he would have mentioned them.
  • It's not a great idea for the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military to mock soldiers' ranks or service.