The Trump cult re­duced to fab­ri­cat­ing al­ter­nate re­al­ity

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robinson opin­[email protected]­ald on­ (Emailed let­ters are pre­ferred) Opin­ions, Times-Her­ald, 420 Vir­ginia Street, Suite 2A, Vallejo, CA, 94590 — eu­gen­er­obin­[email protected]­post. com.

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.

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