You might ask yourself in Week #146 of the Trump Era “Who are all these people and why are they saying such terrible things about the President?”

Turns out, they’re our people. You know, those quiet souls whose job descriptions entail actually running this place while the boss golfs, preens for the cameras, Tweets whatever nonsense pops into his head, and galavants all over the country speaking to arenas full of Monster Truck Rally people? Yeah those people, the ones who serve every president in critical jobs both military and civilian, men and women who are experienced, knowledgeable, supremely capable, loyal, and sticklers for rules, chains of command and scrupulous record-keeping. 

The terrible things they are saying about the President? That would be “the truth,” and a rare opportunity for Americans to be reassured that our government is still mostly manned by people of honor, ability and deep love for our country.

In the normal course of events you never hear of them, which means the government is running smoothly and according to the rules. With these times being as far from normal times as times can be, suddenly these people are household names. As it now turns out, these people are also witnesses against the President of the United States in an impeachment inquiry against said President. 

Lots and lots of them. West Point graduates, career Diplomats, skilled intelligence personnel, strategic planners, regional experts, attorneys, national security officials and decorated military commanders, mixed in with a ragtag band of inexperienced and opportunistic Trump appointees who openly admitted they aided and abetted Trump’s crimes. So far, exactly nobody has fallen on their sword for Trump and taken responsibility for his actions.

It’s been sort of a “She Said, He Said the Exact Same Thing” affair, because Trump has already admitted the crimes of extortion and treason repeatedly, as did his Chief of Staff and every witness who has testified before Congress so far. The only difference between Trump’s version and everyone else’s version and that he’s the only one who claims it was no crime. Everyone else in the Trump Administration, in every official capacity great or small, who either listened in personally or received official reports of the Trump/Zelensky phone conversation, flipped their lids over his “perfect conversation,” to the point where one White House lawyer buried any record of it in a Top Secret file normally reserved for the most sensitive of State Secrets.

This was the running narrative of Week #146 of the Trump Era, a week that began on Friday with a somber reminder of how much we have lost as a nation, not just the one great man Lying in State in our nation’s Capitol, but our priorities, our national dialogue, our optimism and our shared sense of purpose. The magnificent speeches at Elijah Cummings’ funeral were an uplifting reminder of what we can be again, and a celebration of our mutual journey as a people towards a better future.

Was it any wonder that Trump snubbed Cummings’ funeral? It was a reminder that our very best people are the polar opposite of Donald Trump. Democrats and Republicans alike praised Representative Cummings, and even rabid Trump partisan Jim Jordan found a suit jacket and paid his respects to his fallen colleague. 

Meanwhile, the grating rasp of Trumpism continued to get on our last good nerve as the attorney for the Whistleblower who exposed this treachery blasted Conservatives for their threats against his client, and we then learned that there is such a thing called the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, a coalition of Federal Inspectors General that is now urging the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to withdraw or modify its opinion on whistleblowers, what with their current aggressive position on whistleblowers being illegal and unethical, and all that annoying “rule of law” stuff.

Congressional subpoenas also reached into the Office of Management and Budget Director for one Russ Vought, OMB’s Associate Director of National Security Programs, and his subordinate Michael Duffey, and into the State Department to hear from Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl. What Donald Trump forgot is that there are entire departments and specific people in this government who actually handle and disburse the money that Congress approves, and there is no legal mechanism for overriding Congress and holding up the delivery of such money, so Congress is naturally curious who gave the illegal order to delay payment. 

Then word that the jilted and scorned National Security Advisor John Bolton will be testifying soon at the impeachment hearings shook Trump, adding fuel to his continuing vicious verbal and Twitter assault on Democrats, the impeachment process, truth, grammar, dignity, ethics and sanity. Donald Junior didn’t help things when he publicly announced “Trump family plans” to sell The Trump Hotel in Washington because of the controversy of having a president so obviously on the take that he runs an expensive hotel down the block from the White House where foreign interests constantly curry favor with the President by renting multiple suites. 

This alternately somber and infuriating Friday was not without it laughs, however, when Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a reporter (!) twice and left voicemails of him talking to an unknown 3rd party about needing “a few hundred thousand” for one of his clandestine overseas misadventures, this time mentioning Bahrain, possibly the next country we will see sucked into Rudy’s vortex of vexing venality.

Giuliani also made the first headlines on Saturday morning when he went after Hunter Biden with false charges again, this time about his dealings with (!!) Romania, where Rudy alleges he “did the same thing he did in Ukraine and China.” Being that Ukraine has repeatedly exonerated the Biden family from any wrongdoing and China publicly scoffs at the absurdity of it all, Giuliani was not technically lying since the Bidens did nothing wrong in Romania either, confident that the subsequent disproval of his Romanian Rhapsody will be buried by a new Trump scandal in the next news cycle. 

Speaking of buried stories, lost in Saturday’s news avalanche was a story about The Forgotten Trump, the President’s brother Robert, being awarded a $33 million Federal Contract. Purely on merit of course, nothing to see here, it’s those nepotistic Bidens you gotta watch! Move along now… 

Then came the news of such stunning importance that it actually brought Trump off the golf course a bit earlier than usual on a Saturday afternoon. A US military operation was underway in Syria to kill the elusive leader of ISIS, Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, a mission that was flawless and successful, but still a secret matter until the troops were safely returned to base. This tense and riveting mission was a somber and deadly serious matter which would be announced to the American people on Sunday morning, but Trump’s media-driven impatience would having him Tweeting out several Reality Show commercial teasers in the wee hours while committing flagrant exclamation point abuse, things like “Big announcement tomorrow morning!!!” and “something very big has happened!!! Stay tuned!!!!” 

The media, Trump’s favorite pretend “enemies of the people” and ever the spoilsports, figured it out and reported the story well before the President’s big announcement on Sunday morning, but Trump would not be denied his victory lap, complete with gory details, shameless boasts and false claims. His first impulse was of course to one-up his predecessor Obama, saying “Bin Laden was big, but this was bigger!” 

Funny he brought up Obama, who immediately announced to the nation that Navy Seals had just taken out Osama bin Laden, a grim and sober 9-minute announcement appropriate to the gravity of the matter. No gloating, no lurid schoolboy descriptions of gory details, no mocking of the last moments of a slain adversary.

Trump, as well we know, suffers from no such inhibitions, and was thrilled at getting to watch the live video feed of the operation, “as though you were watching a movie!” Trump could not get enough of making up graphic descriptions of Al-Bhagdadi ”dying like a coward,” and ”crying and whimpering as he ran away,” details none of the other witnesses to the attack could corroborate since there was no audio feed, only video. That of course was no impediment to Trump, who waxed (in)articulate all day long about his best ever, biggest in history, like no other president ever military raid. 

Trump was gracious enough to thank Vadimir Putin and Recep Erdoğan for use of their air space, both of whom he briefed on the mission beforehand. Who he did not brief beforehand, however, were those he was supposed to inform; the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the chairmen of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as has always been the practice in such operations for reasons of National Security. Trump said he broke this crucial protocol because he (!!) could not trust these people not to leak the mission and tip off Al-Bhagdadi, even though those in question have never once been suspected of leaking anything, of compromising National Security in any way, or violating their oaths of office, unlike Trump himself, who has done all three.

The real reason for cutting the legislative branch out of the loop is of course Trump’s petty personal revenge for the impeachment hearings in progress, done at the expense of the country’s interests, which only reinforces the necessity of these impeachment hearings. Trump not only compromised our government by this omission, he slandered the people who are entrusted with the very highest security clearances, and who routinely handle sensitive information responsibly. 

Trump was on a delusional roll, however, with an almost stream-of-conscious verbosity, again claiming “I destroyed 100% of the Caliphate,” then a moment later threatening to destroy (?) the remaining ISIS fighters and their leaders, then (!) praised ISIS for “using the internet better than anybody but Trump.” He thanked the Kurds for “not helping,” then rubbed salt in their wounds when he said “it was easier to deal with Kurds after 3 days of fighting,” that fighting being the deadly military attacks by Turkey on the Kurds that Trump had okayed just a week prior.

He praised the Army Rangers who conducted the mission, the Army dog wounded in the action, the Army commanders, and even the intelligence agency that provided the information on Al-Baghdadi’s location and were instrumental in planning the operation. It seems Trump trusts the CIA to coordinate a complex raid on a fortified position, but is prosecuting them anyway for making a mistake and picking Russia instead of Ukraine in the 2016 Election Heist. 

But none of this mattered to Trump; not bothersome facts, not fusspot Democrats insisting on their precious rule of law, not dead Kurds, not nervy reporters asking pointed questions, not even his imminent impeachment, this was to be his shining moment, his moment of triumph, praise and cheers! And it just might have been too, if not for 3 things: himself, his big mouth, and his Reality Show instincts, all of which conspired to ruin any approval this might have gotten him a time when he needs it most.

So sure that this would be a breakout moment for him, Trump did the unthinkable for him, he left the cocoon of official functions and MAGA rallies where his unconditional approval is assured, and kept his appointment to attend the 5th Game of The World Series in Washington on Sunday night. His introduction to the crowd shrewdly followed their wild cheers for a military unit in attendance, and here was to be Trump’s biggest moment as President, winning over a non-Trump crowd, America’s rank and file watching the national Pastime. 

Immediately following the announcement of his presence and the image of Trump, the First Lady and their entourage on the Jumbotron screen, Trump indeed did get a very passionate response from baseball fans, with the entire stadium spontaneously booing him lustily before breaking into a prolonged chant of “Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!” 

Small wonder the owner of the Washington Nationals demurred sitting with the President of the United States, and the 94 year-old Ted Lerner wound up celebrating his team’s first-ever World Series Championship on Wednesday, and the first World Series champs in Washington since 1924 when Walter “Big Train” Johnson led the Washington Senators to their only Word Series title. The Nationals will be honored with a ticker-tape parade in Washington, but don’t look for President Tump to venture out of his bubble again to support the home team, or to witness them drawing a larger crow than his inauguration for that matter. 

Monday brought us the news that the Department of Justice is appealing a ruling of Robert Mueller’s grand jury as part of Attorney General William Barr’s continuing campaign to reverse the findings of the FBI, the Mueller Report and his own Department in order to frame Ukraine for the 2016 election hacking and the Bidens for all manner of imaginary crimes. The fact that the entire world is aware that this is an insane development coming from a once highly-respected Justice Department doesn’t seem to bother Barr a bit, which may or may not have something to do with his being an avid, but terrible bagpipe player.  

Monday also gave us Speaker Pelosi granting President Trump his wish, a full vote on impeachment procedures in the House of Representatives, which Madame Speaker announced would take place on Thursday. Ms. Pelosi has no history of bringing anything to a vote in the House without full confidence it will pass, so perhaps this is one wish Trump should not celebrate being granted.

But he was still on his adrenaline high from the Al-Baghdadi killing, thoroughly oblivious to anything else going on around him, letting us know that canines are “dogs, as I call them.” Okay, we’re all on there same page here, they’re dogs, that’s what everyone calls them. We will take any common ground we can get with this eccentric maniac, and as these things usually go, “canines are dogs” was about the only accurate thing he said in a rambling press briefing. 

Indeed, Trump would set a personal record on Monday with 96 documented lies in a single day, which to a laymen might seem a waste of perfectly good lies about a topic he had no reason to lie about, a military triumph against a dangerous enemy that achieved all its objectives without American casualties. This story was made for the truth! It was success, it was legal, it was a popular decision and the bare-bones facts alone made for a riveting story, with zero embellishment. It was also a good presidential decision to green-light this mission, something as rare for this President as an apology. 

But leave it to the man who screwed up ending a war we didn’t lose to ruin a genuine success by lying 96 times, blaming other presidents for “not getting him,” describing the armed defenders of the compound as (?) “random people that just don’t like to see helicopters,” defending his decision to keep Congress out of the loop and Putin in it, heaping scorn on the slain ISIS leader and lavish praise on himself, and finally managing to say a few kind words about the Amy Rangers who flawlessly executed this dangerous mission.

There was one soldier he was not praising that day, however. That would  be Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, the ranking Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who released his opening statement to Congress for his scheduled testimony before Congress the next day, a devastating statement for Trump. Colonel Vindman, in his capacity as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, listened in on the Trump/Zelensky call, and was appalled for all the obvious reasons, and some reasons that only Ukraine experts know, and immediately relayed his strong objections up the chain of command, twice, then saw his corrections to the publicly-released transcript get erased before it saw the light of day.

Tuesday wasn’t shaping up as Trump’s favorite day either when we were treated to the news that the White House knew last May that Giuliani was creating a huge problem in Ukraine by being the worst secret agent ever, surrounding himself with mob thugs and throwing the president’s name around to get people to listen to his and Trump’s crazy conspiracy schemes about Ukraine being the real culprit in the 2016 Election Heist and the Biden family running what ultimately sounded (they both keep adding new and bizarre details) like a world-straddling James Bond villain operation, siphoning the wealth out of unsuspecting countries.  

Congress didn’t help Trump’s mood when the House Rules Committee released the text of the resolution Tuesday that the House would vote on later in the week to formalize the impeachment proceedings, and several Senators called on Attorney General Barr to recuse himself from Ukrainegate due to his own Giuliani-style sleuthing in foreign capitals in a fruitless effort to get anyone anywhere to entertain the outlandish alternate narratives to crimes that have already been solved. Then in a poke in the eye to both Trump and Erdoğan for the slaughter of our abandoned Kurdish allies, the House passed a long-overdue Official Resolution, recognizing Turkey’s 1915 genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, something everyone knows happened but Turkey has vociferously denied for over a century.

Then Colonel Vindman testified for 10 hours before the joint House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees, those three bodies being the ones conducting the Impeachment proceeding, with the Colonel answering detailed questions about the phone call, about Ukraine and about the President’s crimes. 

Almost immediately Trump, some of his more venal GOP henchmen and the usual suspects among his Fox News apologists began to accuse Col. Vindman of treason and being a double agent because he (!) speaks fluent Russian and Ukrainian (pretty much a requirement for being a “Ukraine expert”), and was born in Ukraine before arriving in America with his family at age 3, getting educated in Cornell and Harvard, then serving this country with distinction for 20 years, a wounded combat vet who rose through the ranks to an important post in the White House. 

With a President who belittled and taunted a Gold Star family and dismissed the late John McCain’s 7 years in captivity as trivial and a bogus claim to heroism, Colonel Vindman probably knew going in that he would be viciously attacked and his brilliant career put in serious jeopardy, but he did the right thing anyway, because that is what Americans are taught to do, and what Colonels in the United States Army are trained to do; what is right for the country they took an oath to serve at all times no matter what the personal cost, not what is expedient for their careers or pleasing to a dishonest superior.

As if the cast of characters implicated in Ukrainegate wasn’t already unmanageably large, on Wednesday we learned that former Republican Congressman turned lobbyist Robert Livingston repeatedly urged White House aide Catherine M. Croft to remove Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch for “association with Democrats,” something that Trump made happen fairly swiftly, even though the State Department repeated numerous times that Ambassador Yovanovitch “has done nothing wrong.” Apparently it was her stubborn refusal to do wrong is what got her fired from this Administration. Where Livingston fits into Giuliani’s Maltese Server Tour in as yet unclear, but we can rest assured it will be both ridiculous and irritating.

On Thursday we heard from more high-level government functionaries eager to distance themselves from Trump’s illegal plots, most notably one Tim Morrison, the (almost certainly soon to be former) National Security Council’s Russia and Europe Director, who added the new wrinkle of stating that although hell yeah, Trump did it exactly like everyone including Trump himself says he did, but I agree with the President that is was not a crime for him to seek foreign help in subverting our elections by framing American citizens for imaginary crimes, then getting that country to (!) take the fall for Russia, a country with whom it is currently at war. If that was Mr. Morrison’s idea of pleasing his boss and keeping his job, it was perhaps a realistic assessment of his future prospects since he’s not a famous enough Disgraced Ex-Trump Official to become a Fox News anchor, and even becoming a contestant on Dancing With the Stars is a long shot at best.

Then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, perhaps seeking forgiveness for being the one who recruited Colonel Vindman for his White House posting in the first place, suddenly hopped on the Trump/Giuliani Crazy Train by giving at least halfhearted credence to their Bond Villain Biden theory, yet one more sign of a U.S. State Department dragged further and further down into the mud by their own political hack appointments to sensitive diplomatic positions, their transactional approach to foreign policy, and the weight of the sinking Justice Department dragging them and the whole government down a rabbit hole.

The end of Week #146 of the Trump Era saw the House of Representatives, as promised, vote to end the Trump Era once and for all as they approved the impeachment proceedings. Before the month is out we will be in full impeachment hearing mode, and not a moment too soon. The Phone Call Heard All Over the World won’t stop ringing. Pass the popcorn.

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