“In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life. … Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

— Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, in his opening testimony before the House Intelligence Committee

This was either a lovely, inspiring reminder of the great hope that America has to offer, or a statement laced with deep, bitter irony! Stay tuned for which! After this lovely statement about how our system differs, at least in theory, from an autocratic regime, Vindman and vice-presidential aide Jennifer Williams faced approximately these lines of questioning:

CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF (D): I will begin by detailing the honors and plaudits these witnesses have received, just as a contrast to the way they have been described so far (as a “Never Trumper” and “maybe a secret Ukrainian asset seeking to undermine this country from within, which you can tell because he has dedicated his entire lifetime to the service of our country, something President Trump would never do, and thus an act that is inherently suspect,” respectively).

RANKING REPUBLICAN DEVIN NUNES: [Blowing a ring of smoke.] Welcome to the other side of the looking glass. Nothing that you see is real. Words have no meaning. I’m suing an imaginary cow. This Secret Ukrainian is wearing some sort of a fancy jacket with an arcane symbol on it, which I bet reflects a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.

VINDMAN: This is my U.S. Army uniform, and the symbol I think you are talking about is a Purple Heart.

NUNES: Sounds fake, but, okay. Isn’t it true that if Democrats were serious about hating corruption, they would be impeaching Hunter Biden? Please tell me whom you told about this call so that I can identify who the whistleblower was.

SCHIFF: To be clear, Lt. Col. Vindman, you don’t have to do that.

NUNES: Ah, but Chairman, how can you tell that I am trying to identify the whistleblower, if you have not spoken to him? Game, set, touchdown!

MOST OF THE DEMOCRATIC QUESTIONERS: Unfortunately, we are limited to nonfiction questions. Is it true you were on a disturbing call where President Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden as a “favor”?

VINDMAN: Yes.

DEMOCRATIC QUESTIONERS: And you were disturbed by that?

VINDMAN: Yes.

DEMOCRATIC QUESTIONERS: Why?

VINDMAN: Because it was obviously disturbing.

DEMOCRATIC QUESTIONERS: See, again, this is — if people don’t get why this is bad, I don’t have a ton of options here. Uh. Now I will deliver a beautiful eulogy of your years of service. My question is: How did you come to be so brave, and has the country been grateful enough to you?

VINDMAN: You are welcome, and, I would have said yes until very recently.

JOHN RATCLIFFE (R): BOMBSHELL ALERT! I have done a word search through all of the testimony, and I have not found the word “bribery” in it one time! Not one time! Pretty sure that means there was not bribery.

SCHIFF: Uh.

RATCLIFFE: [Confidently but with an underlying nervousness.] First they used the term “quid pro quo,” then they used the word “extortion,” now they’re saying “bribery.” But those words can’t all be talking about the same thing, can they? Right? I mean, is that how words work? Can two different words be talking about the same thing? That can’t be right, can it?

VINDMAN: Someone help this man.

REPUBLICAN QUESTIONER: When you were offered the position of King of Ukraine, were you very tempted, because of your deep corruption?

VINDMAN: No.

REPUBLICAN QUESTIONER: Is it true that everyone who worked with you said you were bad and untrustworthy, a garbage employee, a bad man with the wrong shape of hands who is like the vile goose of the office, who stinks in the nostrils of heaven and leaves smelly things in important places?

VINDMAN: I don’t know about that. Here is a positive performance review I received, though.

SEAN MALONEY (D): Say that thing about your dad again, if you would, Lt. Col. Vindman. Why do you not feel worried for your safety?

VINDMAN: This is America, the country I have served and defended. And here, “right” matters. [Staring directly into camera.] Right?

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