Quote of the Week: “Fiona!” – the civilized world
Guess what! Witnessing History is not always as fun and uplifting as we might imagine. We’re not exactly talking Moon Landing or VJ Day here, but nevertheless, it is history on our TV sets every day. For only the fourth time in 243 years, America is about to impeach a President, as serious and somber a duty as Congress can perform, removing a president from office for committing criminal acts.
Spoiling the serious and somber part, however, is the President in question, one Donald J. Trump, as completely ridiculous a person as can be imagined. Never mind that he is a thief, a cheat and most likely a traitor. What is truly historic is that not only is the President of the United States a criminal, but an inarticulate bigmouth, a humorless ignoramus, an insufferable braggart and a cruel, petty man-child with the attention span and vocabulary of an 8 year-old. Witnessing such history leaves more of a queasy feeling than a soaring spirit.
Even after 149 weeks of Trump being our President, there is just no growing accustomed to the constant scandals and endless bellowing, like a tornado that never winds down, an exhausting way to live. And it’s basically all over nothing. Life was not horrible in America before he came along to rescue us from imaginary bogeymen. Sure there were problems, but no real problems have been solved, only made much worse while creating a whole bunch of brand new problems. Driving all this chaos is one man, creating a situation so bizarre, so threatening and out of control, and so heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time. We are watching a madman destroy one piece of America after another before he is stopped.
Speaking of stopping Trump, Week #149 of the Trump Era began on Friday with the testimony of Ambassador Marie Yovanovich before the House Intelligence Committee. The topic was of course Trump’s blackmail of Ukraine and complicity in a scheme to frame a country and two individuals for false crimes. Ms. Yovanovich was the woman who Rudy Giuliani needed removed as Ambassador to Ukraine in order to implement the plan to exonerate Russia from their 2016 election hacking by blaming it on Ukraine, and to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter for nonexistent crimes, thus destroying Joe Biden’s chances in the 2020 election. Biden is of course the candidate Trump fears most, and turning to Slavic countries to attack his political opponents worked like a charm the last time.
Towards this end, Giuliani conducted both a covert and overt smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovich, who is by all reports one of the finest Foreign Service Officers America has produced. Such a person would never go along with Giuliani’s crazy caper, and would properly consider his unofficial meddling in foreign policy to be dangerous to America’s national security, and certain to prevent his attempts to plant a false narrative blaming Ukraine for Russia’s crimes against our electoral system.
So Trump had her summarily recalled and replaced by the more malleable Gordon Sondland, a political appointee with no prior diplomatic experience, thus clearing the way for Trump’s extortion of Ukraine, and then he subjected her to vicious slander and threats himself, even Tweeting threats against her in real time (!) while Ms Yovanovich testified before Congress, racking up a potential Witness Tampering charge as his threatening Tweet was read into evidence and the Congressional Record. In one bizarre attack Trump even blamed her for (!) ruining Somalia.
The world got to meet the beleaguered Marie Yovanovich on Friday, and see for ourselves what an outstanding, courageous and brilliant person she is, with an impressive array of knowledge at her fingertips, a steely reserve and an air of confident capability. Like virtually every other witness in these Impeachment Hearings, Ms. Yovanovich’s testimony described the events in question exactly as they happened, detailing her part in the story we all know by heart at this point.
You know, where the President blackmailed Ukraine by withholding $400 million in Congressionally approved military aid until the newly-elected Ukraine President Zelinskiy announced criminal investigations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and to (!!) investigate itself for interfering in America’s 2016 election, taking the fall for Russia. Yeah that story. Wait, it gets worse.
The hearing convened on Saturday to hear from Mark Sandy, who works in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, who provided the details of how the money for Ukrainian military aid was being held back through “irregular channels,” taking the decision out of the hands of the professionals in disbursing foreign aid funds, and explaining that, without Congressional approval, this is unprecedented, and a serious crime. For investigators, this had to be the easiest money trail ever.
Trump had some personal drama on Saturday when he was driven to Walter Reed Hospital for an unscheduled visit. No one goes to the hospital for unscheduled visits except the families and friends of people who are very sick, so it was widely assumed that the President was having some sort of health issue, prompting both grave concern and open jubilation, more of the latter than the former. Of course Trump and the White House spin doctors lied their asses off about it, then later forced the Veterans Administration to release a phony letter stating that Trump’s visit was part of his regularly scheduled checkups and would be continued in (!) Part 2 of his physical checkup in January. Most of us are trying to recall the last time our own physical exams were split into 2 sessions a month apart, but the mysteries of Presidentialism abound, as we leave it to the late night talk show comics to speculate on the real reason for Trump’s ER visit.
Sunday found Trump attacking yet another witness prior to her upcoming public testimony, a State Department Official and special advisor on European and Russian affairs to his own Vice President. She advises Mike Pence on Ukraine and was one of the many government officials who listened in on the Call Heard ‘Round The World last July 25th, when every single one of these official call monitors absolutely freaked out at what the President was doing (and these are people who don’t freak out for a living), and almost all of them immediately reported the crime to their superiors and/or filed strong objections. The elusive Whistleblower was only one of dozens of federal officials who filed formal complaints up their respective chains of command as a result of the Trump/Zelenskiy call, the files that White House personnel tried to bury in the deepest darkest electronic dungeon they could find.
There were no headline-stealing Impeachment hearings on Monday, but more bad news for Trump anyway when we heard that there is proof that Trump lied in his written answers given under oath to Robert Mueller during the Russia investigation, and that this evidence may lead to a new impeachment charge. To seasoned investigators, the giveaway that he was lying was that his lips were moving (Astounding, Holmes!).
Trump did get some good news that day when the Internal Revenue Service decided that his tax returns should be stored in Fort Knox from now on, and if Congress or any of those nosey parker State District Attorneys wants to see them, by God let them try! This mess will land in the Supreme Court’s lap shortly, which will affect multiple ongoing criminal investigations into the activities of the sitting President of The United States.
The President also had time to berate his aides by demanding of them about the witnesses against him; “Who are these people and how did they come to work for me?” Well, “these people” are the cream of the crop, impressive examples of the world class experts in every imaginable field who are at every President’s disposal. Too bad for us that Sean Hannity outranks them in policymaking decision input.
These are the people left to deal with the real consequences of an unstable President’s disastrous foreign policy decisions, and forced to work around the bloated egos of blundering political appointees like Gordon Sondland and rogue foreign policy operatives like Rudy Giuliani and his Slavic henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. We should be grateful that we have in our foreign service and intelligence field some of the most competent people on the planet doing a lot of very important work.
We learned that Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Booby Prize to attend his inauguration was Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, after Trump refused to attend because Zelenskiy hadn’t complied with his demands, and sent Vice President Pence on an unnecessary errand to Canada. Not only did this send a message to the world that Ukraine was a low priority to the USA, but Perry wound up strong-arming Zelenskiy to award a (!) 50-year oil and gas exploration contract to one of Perry’s oil-rich Texan political backers, for millions less to Ukraine’s Treasury than the next bidder.
The White House official Twitter account made sure on Tuesday to attack Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another White House employee scheduled to testify beside Ms. Willams. To all of which Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi shook her head and said “at least Nixon cared enough about the country to leave office before his impeachment.”
On Tuesday we got to hear testimony from two of Trump’s smear campaign victims, the aforementioned Jennifer Williams, and Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council, both of whom listened in on The Phone Call. Once again, it would be hard to find two more outstanding people to represent America’s interests, embodying the exact opposite traits assigned to them in the vicious lies directed against both of them.
On Wednesday we got to hear from Gordon Sondland again, the bull in the Diplomatic China Shop, testifying before Congress to “amend” his earlier testimony (perjury), who proceeded to throw everyone under the bus on national television, starting with Boss Trump and his sidekick Rudy “How Is This Helping?” Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Vice President Pence, who he testified “were all in the loop,” after saying unequivocally that yes there was most definitely a (look out, here it comes again, Latin for “blackmail”) quid pro quo.
Only Tump could cause all this drama to erupt in the notoriously undramatic Foreign Service, leading to rumors that Pompeo might resign as Secretary of State “to preserve his reputation.” Which was a big surprise. Who knew Mike Pompeo had a reputation worth salvaging? One guy who is resigning Trump’s Cabinet ASAP is Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who still has crumbs on his face after raiding the Ukrainian cookie jar.
Trump’s only headline traction in a news cycle once again maddenly not dominated by news of Donald Trump was him taking credit for the opening of an Apple Computer factory in Texas that opened in 2013, not even a notable lie as far as Trump lies go, just one those lies he tells for practice.
Thursday Trump got taken to the doctor again, this time in the person of Dr. Fiona Hill, a British immigrant and Naturalized Citizen who became an instant America icon on Thursday, the final day of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings. Dr. Hill, who was appointed by Trump himself as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on his National Security Council, testified beside counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, David Holmes, another outstanding Foreign Service Officer finding himself in the unaccustomed position of being in the spotlight.
Dr. Hill led off by completely demolishing the false Ukrainian narrative promoted by Trump and Giuliani, branding them “dangerous fictions that put America’s national security at risk,” and then calmly answered everyone’s questions, defended her fellow immigrant Colonel Vindman and the dedicated foreign service officers serving in high stress positions, and essentially recounted the events exactly as had all the other witnesses, including David Holmes, who also witnessed Gordon Sondland speaking to President Trump about “investigations” on a non-secure private cell phone in a Ukraine restaurant, a country where all American personnel assigned there are told to assume that Russia is monitoring their cell phone calls at all times. But her emails ‘n shit…
Mr. Sondland did not neglect to tell the entire dinner party after the call that “Trump doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine,” and “cares only about the big stuff,” then pulled a Giuliani by adding “and the big stuff is what benefits him personally, like the investigations of the Bidens.” Reading you loud and clear, Ambassador! Dr. Hill also identified the source of the Ukrainian Diversion theories, as confirmed by America’s and our most trusted allies’ intelligence agencies: a gentleman named Vladimir Putin.
Just as Fiona Hill was destroying Putin’s Ukraine smokescreen, Trump issued a press release promoting this transparent frame-up, at about the same time we were finding out during the hearings that Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R) of the House iIntelligence Committee that is conducting these Impeachment Hearings, has been an associate of the aforementioned thug Lev Parnas since 2018, when Parnas “arranged for Nunes to travel to Ukraine” with his staff (on the taxpayer’s dime) to “investigate” the Ukrainian cover story pushed by Giuliani, Trump and Vladimir Putin, and the imaginary crimes being cooked up against the Biden family. Parnas is currently out on bail after being arrested by Federal authorities on election fraud charges resulting from his intercontinental Odyssey of Intrigue with Rudy Giuliani. Small wonder Representative Nunes is doing his best to sabotage the hearings before more of his dirty laundry spills on the Floor of the House.
The bonus of the week has been the education about the inner workings of the State Department, the Foreign Service and the National Security Council, and a welcome introduction to some of the finest men and women we could ever hope to meet, and the reassurance that they will outlast this aberration of an administration. We can only hope that our government will continue to attract and train the best and brightest among us to represent us globally and implement US policy.
Where the Impeachment Process goes from here is the House Judiciary Committee, which will conduct (so far, anyway) private hearings during Week #150. No one is quite sure of the next step, but it will be historic, dramatic, utterly exhausting and more than a little bit bizarre. This is, after all, the Trump Era. You expected maybe order and tranquility?