Why so long for Trump in­sid­ers to obey their con­science?

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robinson opin­ion@timesher­ald on­line.com (Emailed let­ters are pre­ferred) Opin­ions, Times-Her­ald, 420Vir­ginia Street, Suite 2A, Vallejo, CA, 94590 Fol­low and send tweets to Leave com­ments at

WASH­ING­TON >> Why didn’t they say some­thing sooner?

The ded­i­cated and prin­ci­pled pub­lic ser­vants who are now telling the na­tion about Pres­i­dent Trump’s gross fail­ings and im­peach­able crimes are do­ing the right thing, fi­nally. But the truth is that they should have come for­ward long ago, rather than wait for a cri­sis or a sub­poena to com­pel them to speak.

“I no longer share the same un­der­stand­ing with the [pres­i­dent] who ap­pointed me, in re­gards to the key prin­ci­ple of good or­der and dis­ci­pline,” for­mer Navy Sec­re­tary Richard Spencer wrote Sun­day in a let­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing his dis­missal. One won­ders when they ever did share such an un­der­stand­ing. Thanks to Trump, we are now a na­tion that gives spe­cial treat­ment to crim­i­nal sol­diers.

Spencer was ousted be­cause he could not “in good con­science obey an or­der” from Trump to halt dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against a Navy SEAL who had been con­victed of pos­ing for a photo with the corpse of an en­emy com­bat­ant. I com­mend Spencer for do­ing the right thing, but I can’t look past the fact that he had served in his post for more than two years. Was this re­ally his first inkling that Trump lacked a moral cen­ter? Was it his first hint that Trump was un­fit to be com­man­der in chief? If not, why did he re­main silent?

Like­wise, I of­fer the high­est praise to for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of­fi­cial Fiona Hill, whose steely eyed tes­ti­mony last Thurs­day be­fore the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee pre­sented a riv­et­ing nar­ra­tive of Trump’s Ukraine bribery scheme. She also gave us the per­fect phrase to de­scribe what Trump’s lit­tle helpers were try­ing to carry out: a “do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal er­rand” that worked against U.S. for­eign pol­icy goals.

But Hill had heard her boss, then-na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton, de­scribe the Ukraine ma­neu­ver­ings as a “drug deal” that he wanted no part of. She un­der­stood that Trump and his min­ions were try­ing to co­erce Ukraine into man­u­fac­tur­ing dirt on Trump’s po­ten­tial op­po­nent in the elec­tion, Joe Bi­den. She had told Am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean

Union Gor­don Sond­land that the whole en­ter­prise was go­ing to “blow up.” Why did she wait to be sub­poe­naed? Why didn’t she raise the alarm?

I could ask the same ques­tions about the other wit­nesses who have tes­ti­fied in the im­peach­ment in­quiry. I ap­plaud their will­ing­ness to ap­pear de­spite or­ders from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion not to do so. I ap­pre­ci­ate their care in keep­ing records of the events and con­ver­sa­tions they de­scribe. I salute their can­dor.

But I won­der why it took a still-anony­mous whistle­blower to launch the process of hold­ing Trump ac­count­able. I won­der why it took a no­to­ri­ous war­crimes case to fo­cus at­ten­tion on Trump’s dis­re­gard for the rule of law. I won­der why it took so long for ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sid­ers to be­gin telling us what they know.

And I won­der about all of those who have yet to speak. I mean Bolton, for one. We know from the tes­ti­mony of Hill and oth­ers that he was ap­palled at Trump’s Ukraine deal­ings. How can he, in con­science, refuse to share what­ever per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion he has with the im­peach­ment in­quiry? Does he re­ally want his legacy to be that he cared more about sell­ing books and rak­ing in big speak­ing fees than about serv­ing the na­tion?

Any­one with rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about Trump’s con­duct in of­fice no longer has the op­tion to re­main silent. Re­fus­ing to tes­tify or speak pub­licly may not vi­o­late any law. But his­tory, I am quite sure, will take a much harsher view.

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