Littwin: Impeachment question of the day — How much respect is due office of Smearer in Chief?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at the U.S. Capitol on October 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Vindman testified Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at the U.S. Capitol on October 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Vindman testified Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

I’m guessing that some of you out there in reader-land can remember all the way back to Sunday when Donald Trump went to the World Series and came home with not so fond memories of loud booing from the crowd and accompanying chants of “lock him up.”

Some people, including some Democrats, were outraged by what they termed a lack of respect for the office of president, even if that lack of respect was directed toward someone who has spent his entire White House tenure disrespecting the office. 

All I can say is that anyone offended by the spontaneous “lock him up” chant from thousands of baseball fans in a hyper-blue city must be suffering from a serious irony deficit. There would have been no “lock him up” chant without the preceding Trump-approved “lock her up” chant. This was not a call to put Trump behind bars. It was an opportunity for those in an unscreened crowd to render a judgment on the current office-holder. Everyone had to know that this would be the only possible reaction to a Trump appearance. The only surprise is that Trump didn’t later attest that the crowd was whimpering and crying.

I bring up this piece of now-ancient history only because of a certain Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House national security officer who was on the infamous July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky in which Trump asked Zelensky as a “favor” to investigate the Bidens, father and son.

If you’re looking for outrage, I’ve got something for you. It’s the first round of smearing of a seemingly unimpeachable witness, who is, in fact, risking his career in testifying before the House impeachment inquiry. Vindman showed up to the deposition in Army dress blues.

If you’re looking for disrespect, check out Trump’s repeated tweets that Vindman is a never Trumper. This charge — that Vindman’s testimony is somehow politically biased against Trump — is based on, of course, nothing. Trump is suggesting that Vindman is a liar because — I don’t know — he was born in Ukraine?

Lock him up? Nah. It’s enough just to call him out, which is apparently what Vindman did in his testimony, telling the committee members that the reconstruction transcripts left out what The New York Times called “critical words and phrases.”

You probably know much of the story by now. According to his opening statement, Vindman would testify he was so concerned by the quid pro quo call between Trump and Zelensky that he reported that concern to his White House superiors. In the statement, he also said he had confronted Gordon Sondland, the experience-free ambassador to the European Union who coincidentally contributed $1 million to the Trump inauguration committee. According to Vindman, Sondland had said in a July 10 meeting that a promised Zelensky visit to the White House depended on Ukraine investigating the Bidens and also the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, was behind the 2016 hacking incident. 

Much to the White House’s chagrin, Vindman also reported this quid pro quo sample up the line. It may also be to Sondland’s chagrin since his testimony to the same committee seems to have differed in important respects. 

Vindman’s testimony was a critical moment — first-hand testimony from a decorated Army veteran who has served both Democratic and Republican administrations and who is an expert on Ukraine. He was the fifth witness to have testified to the fact — we know it’s a fact from having read the transcript — of a quid pro quo.

It was so big that Vindman would almost immediately be attacked by Trump’s allies in the right-wing media as well as by Trump and, of course, by Rudy Giuliani, all basically questioning Vindman’s patriotism and/or honesty.

It began Monday night on the Laura Ingraham show, barely an hour after The New York Times first reported on Vindman’s opening statement. She noted that Vindman, a Ukrainian-American immigrant who fled with his family to the United States when he was three, had said that Ukranian officials had asked him for advice about dealing with Giuliani, who seemed to be running foreign policy in Ukraine without any portfolio. 

“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,” Ingraham said. “Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?”

There is nothing in Vindman’s statement to suggest he was working against the president’s interest or the nation’s, as Ingraham said, in what would be the initiative smear. Guest John Yoo, the infamous torture justifier of the George W. Bush administration, replied,  “I find that astounding. Some people might call that espionage.”

And off we go.

Meanwhile, on CNN, former congressman Sean Duffy was also questioning the possibility of Vindman’s split loyalty. “It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy,” Duffy said, again without a shred of evidence.

A few Republicans defended Vindman against these smears. Many more — like, say, a junior senator from Colorado, at least as of this writing — said nothing.

And while Trump was tweeting that Vindman was a never Trumper, Guiliani took it a step further, tweeting, in part:  

“ANOTHER SCHIFFTY BACKFIRE: A US gov. employee who has reportedly been advising two gov’s?

“No wonder he is confused and feels pressure.”

I’ve got a feeling the pressure being felt is located in the White House. Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday a vote, probably coming on Thursday, to move the impeachment inquiry further, including the long-awaited public hearings. Republicans had been demanding such a vote, and now that they’re getting it, we’re hearing a too-little-too-late response, which, of course, it isn’t. There are no rules on how the House should run an impeachment. And there are no rules on timing.

There are no rules on smearing either, I guess, except, in this case, the certainty that the Trump-inspired smears against impeachment witnesses will last at least as long as the impeachment hearings.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’m still trying to figure out what the watershed moment is for Senate enablers of the President*.

    As a Conservative, it must be tough watching your Dear Leader fling poo like a crazed orangutan trapped in a cage.

  2. Hope you and Littwin ain’t too butt hurt when he’s reelected. I think Littwin hopes the market will stay strong,as a Pocahontas win would tank it and his PERA could go broke. Austin ain’t cheap… I know I have a house in the Hays county hill country too.. the money he saves on haircuts doesn’t go far, sales and property taxes are nut’s down there. But it’s Texas and it’s home..headed down for winter the next week.. 70yrs old and this sub zero temps at 9000 ft ain’t for me.. you really think Hick had nothing to do with getting Evan Ebel sprung?

    Trump 2020!

    • So Buck,
      How will Trump win with empty promises of limiting the deficit and even paying down the Federal debt, and it winds up increasing in a sizeable way?
      How will Trump win with empty promises of 3, 4, 5% GDP growth when he came close to 3% in 1 year, and this year and next appear to be regressing to the 2% level?
      How many coal miners will support him when 8 companies have gone into bankruptcy this year, and the miner’s pension fund appears likely to be emptied in 2020?
      How many farmers like that the only part of their income going up is the federal payments they get, now over 30% of the overall farm net cash income?

      So, tell me again who will want 4 More Years?

      Safe travels to the red state of Texas.

  3. In an time where our current occupant of 1600 Penn is a complete embarrassment for our country, with no character, decency, or competence to speak of, it is refreshing to see such dedicated public servants and heroes like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Amb. Marie Yovanovitch and Amb. William Taylor put their country first and do what is right. My gratitude goes to them.

  4. The price of hypocrisy should be plummeting as there certainly is a glut of it on the pundit market.
    Oh we must be civil and respect the office. Do ya’ll remember Hey hey “LBJ how many kids did you kill today?”. Or Nixon only showing up in places like Tuscumbia, AL, ‘cuz any place else in the country he’d be roasted.
    Supposedly this country was won from the savages but tough rough and ready hard livin men who didn’t give a hoot about civility and decorum. But when Dear Leader is insulted by wimpy libruls, well something has to be done. ( forgetting Charlottesville for the moment)
    We need an ump who makes both sides play by the same rules.. but there I go again dreaming.

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