Retaliation In Full Swing

Ken AshfordTrump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Taking swift and harsh action against those who crossed him, Trump on Friday ousted two government officials who had delivered damaging testimony during his impeachment hearings. Trump made the moves just two days after his acquittal by the Senate.

First came news that Trump had ousted Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the decorated soldier and national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case. He was escorted out of the White House complex Friday, according to his lawyer, who said he was asked to leave in retaliation for “telling the truth.”

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” David Pressman, an attorney for Vindman, said in a statement. The Army said in a statement that Vindman and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who also was asked to leave his job as a White House lawyer on Friday, had been reassigned to the Army.

Next came word that Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, also was out.

“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement.

Alexander Vindman’s lawyer issued a one-page statement that accused Trump of taking revenge on his client.

“He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril,” Pressman said. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”

The White House did not respond to Pressman’s accusation.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” said John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council, the foreign policy arm of the White House where Vindman was an expert on Ukraine.

Vindman’s status had been uncertain since he testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine. Vindman’s ouster, however, seemed imminent after Trump mocked him Thursday during his post-acquittal celebration with Republican supporters in the East Room and said Friday that he was not happy with him.

“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I’m not. … They are going to be making that decision.”

Vindman, a 20-year Army veteran, wore his uniform full of medals, including a purple heart, when he appeared late last year for what turned out to be a testy televised impeachment hearing. Trump supporters raised questions about the immigrant’s allegiance to the United States — his parents fled the Soviet Union when he was a child —and noted that he had received offers to work for the government of Ukraine, offers Vindman said he swiftly dismissed.

Trump has the support of his usual cronies in Congress:

And here’s the key to all this: many of the kind of people who voted for Trump agree completely. Firing these people isn’t outrageous, it’s just common sense. Think about it. What kind of dope would keep people around who believed they were working for a guy who had broken the law? And in key positions, no less. It would be like keeping hand grenades with the pins half pulled lying around on your desk. Anybody with a lick of sense would get rid of them all.

To Trump’s base, this is the way any strong leader acts. You think it’s outrageous. They think you’re nuts.

It’s not just firing either.

Barr abruptly left the stage after one question, so no follow-up

But we are now well into fascism, and it is the Republican Senate that is not merely looking the other way, but aggressively assisting Trump’s team in its implementation. Those that testified against Trump are being removed, despite laws seemingly barring such retaliation. The propaganda efforts against Trump’s targeted political foe spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani (financed, it should be noted, from Russia, as previous Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was financed for his own role in manipulating Ukraine towards Russian interests while creating schisms between that country and the West) are now being pipelined directly into Barr’s Department of Justice.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is having none of it.

Schumer is asking that every agency inspector general investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct, after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council.

That’s a good start. As the GOP continues to try to use the levers of power to keep things hidden from the American people, House Democrats should unleash an oversight tsunami on the Trump administration that scrutinizes every decision and every action it has taken.

From how the president continues to profit from his office to sexual assault at Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention camps at the border, there is no shortage of areas ripe for congressional oversight. If we’ve learned anything from observing the Trump administration, it’s that if there is a choice between doing the right thing or the wrong thing, it will almost certainly choose to do the wrong thing. Now, more than ever, we need the House of Representatives to function as guardians of our democracy: as a vehicle for transparency and government accountability.

In the weeks ahead, the president will continue his crusade to purge the federal government of truth tellers. The House Democratic majority could be the last, best hope of protecting our system of checks and balances.