The Trump cult reduced to fabricating alternate reality
WASHINGTON >> After this week’s impeachment testimony, if Republicans continue to insist that Dear Leader President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong — and they may do just that — then the GOP has surrendered any claim to being a political party. It would be a fullfledged cult of personality.
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who gave hours of riveting testimony Wednesday, clearly was determined not to be the fall guy for Trump’s Ukraine bribery scheme. He saw the danger of being portrayed as some sort of rogue actor, and he was having none of that.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he testified. And in defining “we,” he implicated Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, among others, as knowing of or participating in the attempt to coerce Ukrainian officials into fabricating dirt on Trump’s potential Democratic opponent in the coming election, Joe Biden.
There was an actual rogue actor orchestrating this outrageous shakedown attempt — Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. From Sondland and other witnesses, we learned that the officials whose job was managing relations with Ukraine resented having to follow Giuliani’s lead. But they did so anyway.
Sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee has revealed a clear quid pro quo that amounts to bribery: Newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would not get the release of nearly $400 million in military aid or a White House meeting with Trump unless Zelensky announced an investigation of Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The most devastating part of
Sondland’s testimony, for me, was when he said that Trump wasn’t actually interested in having the Ukrainians unearth any new information. He just wanted Biden smeared.
“I never heard … anyone say that the investigations had to start, or had to be completed,” Sondland testified. “The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form.”
Arms for dirt. That was the exchange Trump demanded, using as leverage taxpayer funds that had been appropriated to buttress U.S. national security. Explain to me how anyone can honestly believe that is an appropriate use of presidential power.
“The Republicans are in denial about the facts,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday, in what had to be the understatement of the year.
The fact is that Republicans in the House, at least publicly, have performed heroic gyrations and contortions to remain in lock step with the president. As devastating fact after devastating fact has emerged in the testimony, Trump’s defenders are reduced to arguing, essentially, that Trump can do no wrong.
Republicans were unable to challenge the testimony of the witnesses called before the committee, so instead they tried to question their character and even their patriotism. They questioned Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Tuesday in such a way as to imply, but not come out and allege, that his loyalty was to Ukraine rather than the United States. They tried to portray career diplomats such as George Kent and Bill Taylor as part of the mythical and oh-soscary “deep state.”
They continue to pretend that Trump is somehow infallible — that because of his vast presidential powers, or perhaps because of some imagined mandate of heaven, what he did must have been not just acceptable but entirely justified.
How glorious it was to send Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy! How noble to be so concerned about corruption in a faraway land! How brilliant to squeeze Zelensky to besmirch a “rabid dog” like Biden.
Oops, sorry, it was North Korea’s Kim Jong Un who said Biden was a “rabid dog,” and it was Trump who said he wasn’t. Forgive me, but it was an honest mistake. Sometimes I get my “Dear Leaders” mixed up.
After this week’s testimony, if Republicans continue to insist that Dear Leader did absolutely nothing wrong, the GOP has surrendered any claim to being a political party.