Vindman will say that he views his testimony as an act of patriotism, because he saw Trump’s corrupt conduct as damaging to U.S. national security. So, naturally, Fox News figures are already questioning Vindman’s loyalty to our country — or, more precisely, to Trump himself.
Evidently, placing country before Trump is the ultimate act of supreme betrayal.
Vindman’s testimony will be important. As a member of the National Security Council, he’ll be the first White House official to testify that he listened in on Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky — and was profoundly disturbed by it.
On that call, of course, Trump corruptly pressured Zelensky to validate conspiracy theories undermining the confirmed fact of Russian sabotage of the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, and to help Trump rig the 2020 election by smearing Biden.
In his opening statement, Vindman says he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen.” Vindman is a decorated lieutenant colonel, so when he delivers this message once the inquiry moves into its public phase, it could be very compelling.
What’s more, Vindman will blow a big hole in one of Trump’s most important defenses.
Vindman discusses a key meeting on July 10 with Ukrainian officials, who expressed their desire for a Trump-Zelensky meeting. Vindman then says Gordon Sondland — the ambassador to the European Union — “started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President.”
That further nails down part of the quid pro quo. But there’s more. Sondland’s demand prompted then-national security adviser John Bolton to “cut the meeting short.” Then Vindman testifies that this happened:
Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. 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.
Vindman adds that Fiona Hill, the White House’s former Russia adviser, also informed Sondland that this was inappropriate.
All of this comports with Hill’s own testimony that Bolton was so irate about what he’d heard that he referred to it as a “drug deal” that Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were “cooking up.”
What’s notable here is Vindman’s assertion that in that subsequent debriefing, they discussed the demand for an investigation into the Bidens in particular. As Ryan Goodman notes, this contradicts Sondland’s own testimony that he didn’t recall any discussion of the Bidens, so Sondland may be legally exposed now.
Here’s why this matters. One key Trump defense has been to claim that all he wanted was for Ukraine to investigate generic corruption. That’s belied by the fact that Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani repeatedly and publicly called on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens going back to at least May — and that Trump named Biden on the July 25 call — but put that aside for now.
One big revelation from William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, is that he testified that Sondland had privately noted internally that Trump was demanding that Zelensky publicly announce an investigation of the Bidens.
So here we have Vindman, a sympathetic witness, offering further corroboration of just how well understood it was that the Bidens, not generic corruption, were the real target of the “investigations” Trump wanted. Trump again just raged that there was nothing wrong with his call, but this defense is collapsing.
Which brings us to Fox News’s smear of Vindman.
The Fox smear
Fox’s Laura Ingraham unleashed a diatribe against Vindman on Monday night that focused on the fact that Ukrainians privately solicited Vindman’s help in navigating difficulties created by Giuliani running this shadow policy toward Ukraine. Watch:
"Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interests,” Ingraham railed. Former George W. Bush administration lawyer John Yoo called this potential “espionage.”
Note here Ingraham’s frank admission that Vindman was working against the president’s interests.
You see, Giuliani’s shadow policy toward Ukraine was not in the interests of the United States. It was in Trump’s interests. Giuliani himself declared in May that this scheme would be “very helpful to my client.”
Ingraham is unwittingly admitting the obvious here: In trying to keep our foreign policy aligned with our own national interests, Vindman was operating against those of the president. And this is the real betrayal for which Vindman must be destroyed.
Trump isn’t operating in our interests
Along these lines, note Vindman’s testimony that the “false narrative” at the core of the Trump-Giuliani effort was “harmful" to the United States, because it undermined U.S. efforts to “expand cooperation with Ukraine” and “lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory" as a bulwark against Russia. The narrative, and the use of Ukraine as a pawn to serve Trump’s political interests, is good for Trump (and Russia). But it’s bad for the United States and Western liberal democracy.
Vindman, then, will join numerous long-serving government professionals who have stepped forth to declare that Trump’s interests and those of the United States have vastly diverged — and that Trump and his ringleaders have perverted and manipulated our foreign policy to serve his interests, and not ours.