Army Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a National Security Council expert on Ukraine, testified Tuesday morning to the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. According to his opening statement, both he and former National Security Council member Fiona Hill immediately recognized that in a July 10 meeting with Oleksandr Danylyuk, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council for Ukraine, ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had crossed a red line. “I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push,” he said in prepared remarks. “Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.” Then-national security adviser John Bolton immediately and colorfully repudiated the suggestion as well. (“I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy [Giuliani] and [Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up,” he told Hill, according to testimony to the impeachment probe.)

Sitting like a lump on a log, meanwhile, was Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Did he not figure out something was amiss, or was he too scared to report it to the FBI or even the White House counsel?

He was not alone in failing to detect (or lacking courage to report what they detected) a betrayal of American democracy. In the July 25 call, Trump specifically raised the Bidens (“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great”) and linked U.S. help for Ukraine to digging up nonexistent dirt on Biden and pursuing the crackpot CrowdStrike conspiracy theory. (“I would like you to do us a favor though”).

Again, Vindman knew this was wrong. And yet, listening in on the call, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not think anything was amiss — or played dumb rather than defend the Constitution. Vice President Pence did not see anything wrong with Trump’s actions, although he has since been awfully cagey about denying a quid pro quo. (Maybe because he heard it on the call?)

The story is the same in Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to this day, cannot find anything wrong with the call. Trump’s lackeys in the Senate say they have not seen any impeachable conduct.

You do have to wonder what the heck is wrong with these people. Are their powers of moral discernment so diminished that they can no longer recognize that the mere request for a foreign power to intervene is grossly inappropriate, let alone tying U.S. aid to that intervention (the quid pro quo)? Perhaps they know all too well how grossly wrong Trump’s scheme was but still lack the moral courage to say what is in front of their noses.

They might consult their constituents. According to a Grinnell College poll released today, “81% of Americans say it is not okay for political candidates in this country to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help them win an election. This number includes large portions of the president’s base of support in 2016 — Republicans (81%), evangelicals (85%), and rural dwellers (87%).” Only 7 percent say it is okay. Apparently, a large subset of that 7 percent work in the White House or serve in Congress as Republicans.

Understand that what 81 percent of Americans regard as wrong (inviting foreign interference), these Republicans fail to recognize as such, and indeed fail to recognize that something much, much worse (quid pro quo) is wrong. There is no better evidence of the Republicans’ moral coma than this. They plainly cannot be entrusted with power. We have an 8-out-of-10 chance of randomly picking from the entire U.S. population more ethically astute leaders.

Fear-driven Republicans have been enablers of President Trump with their silence, argues Post columnist George F. Will. (The Washington Post)

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