Friday, February 7, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?


Trump fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran and intelligence analyst, from his job at the Ukraine desk of the National Security Council, today. Vindman was escorted out of the White House less than 48 hours after the Senate voted not to expel Trump from office.

Trump has been openly seething at Vindman since he obeyed a Congressional subpoena to testify about what he observed of Trump's efforts to force the government of Ukraine to announce a fake corruption investigation of the Biden family. Vindman's appearance on television in uniform—standard procedure for military officers testifying before Congress—especially upset the image-conscious Trump, who avoided service in Vietnam.

Specifically, Vindman told Congress that the partial summary—not a transcript—of the key July 25 phone call left out Trump's specific demands that Ukraine "investigate" Hunter Biden and the company he worked for. (Trump has never released the actual transcript, which remains secret.) 

Vindman also identified himself as one of the many actual witnesses to the call who reported their alarm at Trump's actions. He said that after he told NSC officials about his concerns, he was ordered to keep silent about the call, records of which were then hidden on secret servers.

A White House spokesperson tried to justify Trump's actions by saying that he was coping emotionally with "just how horribly he was treated, and [he felt] that maybe people should pay for that." Another senior advisor to Trump, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Trump was sending a message that siding against him wouldn't be tolerated—even if it took the form of truthful testimony in response to a lawful subpoena.

Alexander Vindman's twin brother, Lt. Col Yevgeny Vindman, also works at the NSC and was also fired today. Yevgeny is a staff lawyer and was not involved in the impeachment process. The White House did not attempt to explain his firing.

Trump also apparently fired the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. A million-dollar donor to Trump's mysterious inaugural fund, Sondland testified against Trump only reluctantly, and only after evidence of his own involvement in the Ukrainian scheme came to light. That led to this statement:
I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a "quid pro quo?" As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.
Retaliating against witnesses by taking action against their employment is a federal crime.

Why does this matter?

  • Taking revenge on witnesses and their families is what mob bosses do.
  • It is un-American to punish public servants for telling the truth.