“Human scum” is how President Donald J. Trump referred witnesses testifying about his telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump made doing a “favor, though” relating to information on his political opponent a condition for receiving the much-needed military aid to Ukraine.
What do these “human scum” characters have in common aside from the consistent testimony that confirms that Trump did, indeed, request, even demand, that a foreign entity get involved in our political process for his own personal benefit and, in so doing, undermine our own national security?
Well, to begin with, they are all dedicated government employees who have devoted their entire adult lives to government service.
Let’s begin with acting United States Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, who is unequivocally not “human scum,” as characterized by our sitting president and his communications director.
Ambassador Taylor has served this country for more than 50 years and has served in every administration, both Republican and Democrat, since 1980, starting with the Reagan Administration.
He is a graduate of West Point and served his country as an infantry officer for six years, including service in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
There were no bone spurs for this American hero.
He went on to served in the Department of Energy, was a Senate staffer, then served at NATO and then joined the State Department at which he served abroad in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jerusalem and Ukraine.
He more recently served as the Executive Vice President of the nonpartisan United States Institute of Peace.
After the dismissal of another American hero, former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, in May of this year, Taylor was asked to come out of retirement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve once again as Ambassador to Ukraine. Human scum? I do not think so.
Let’s look at another American hero/witness referred to by Trump as a “never Trumper,” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. According to his testimony, Vindman served as an officer in the United States Army for more than two decades. As an infantry officer, he served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, as well as a deployment to Iraq for combat operations where he was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart.
Since 2008, he has been a foreign area officer specializing in Eurasia, and, in that role, he has served in the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia.
He has also served in Washington, D.C. as a politico-military affairs officer for Russia reporting to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In this capacity, he authored the principal strategy for managing competition with Russia.
In July 2018, he was asked to serve at the National Security Council (NSC) in which he reported to Fiona Hill, who, in turn, reported to then-National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Aside from a stellar record of government and military service to our country, these and several other witnesses have in familiar something else; they all became alarmed when the President of the United States abused his power. According to Vindman’s testimony, the concerns were the result of a “demand that a foreign government investigates a U.S. citizen.
He continued: “I was worried about implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.
I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained and, in so doing, undermine U.S. national security.”
As a result of his concern, Vindman reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel and, along with Taylor, Fiona Hill, Yovanovitch and several others agreed to testify before the Congressional Committees investigating Trump’s dealing with Ukraine and its president.
South Carolina Senator and Trump golf buddy Lindsey Graham went from claiming there was “no quid pro quo” to “I won’t even read” the transcripts of the testimony.
This occurred once it became quite clear that a quid pro quo, also known as a “this for that,” clearly existed when Trump held back the critical U.S. military aid to Ukraine contingent on Zelensky opening up investigations into both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son as well as an already debunked conspiracy theory about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server somehow finding its way to Ukraine.
Is there really anyone who could seriously doubt the credibility of these dedicated Americans, these straight shooters, these by the book military leaders who represent the epitome of the term “America’s finest”? Well, sadly, yes. These doubters are more commonly referred to as “Republicans.”
Further, Trump demanded that the opening of the investigations be announced in public. The demand that the announcement be made public can only be looked at as a political benefit.
Add to this Trump holding back a much-desired meeting of the newly elected Ukraine President that sought as a means of establishing greater status with his own electorate was also contingent on that public announcement.
More recently, Graham’s approach to justifying Trump’s actions rested on the disorderly nature of the White House and the unlikelihood that this White House could actually pull off such a “quid pro quo” successfully. To Graham, I can only say Former United States Senator would be extremely disappointed in the lack of integrity of his close friend.
Of course, Graham is not the only Republican searching for a defense that does not exist. Congressman Tom Cole explained that since the military aid was ultimately released without the condition of a publicly announced investigation carried out, there was no harm. No harm, no foul. I assume Congressman Cole would find attempted murder not to be a violation of law as long as the murder did not take place.
House Minority Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise cried foul when the initial investigation phase of the House Committees into the possible impeachment of Trump occurred in closed session.
They even lead a diversionary circus tactic with a Republican sit-in at the hearing. Then it was announced that the discussions would go public but no change in the Republican rhetoric about the unfairness of the inquiry — hypocrisy rules.
The list goes on of defenseless defenses. Still, maybe the most pathetic is the one offered by the incarnation of Mr. Haney from the 1960s sitcom, Green Acres, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, who, while standing on the stage of a Trump rally with Trump curried favor by merely stating the Nancy Pelosi is “dumb.” Actually, my apologies to Mr. Haney, played by the late Pat Buttram. Mr. Haney was a good deal more articulate than Kennedy.
Regardless of these obfuscations by Republicans, the most significant point is this: It is not only about Trump simply abusing his power by using the power of his office to coerce a foreign entity for his political benefit. The concerns for all of us should be the same concerns expressed by both Taylor and Vindman as well as others, including Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, in their testimony.
These include concerns about the threat to national security resulting from pulling Congressionally approved military support funding from an ally amid unfettered aggression by an American adversary, Russia.
Also concerning should be the Ukrainian lives lost during the time the aid was held back. Maybe most concerning should be the loss of our credibility among all of our allies and the raising of questions about the extent to which they can trust our commitments. Concern, too, should be about our Constitution, our democracy and this president’s circumvention of Congressional authority.