Writer’s Lounge 10-31-19, Lt. Col. Vindman, Kseniya Kirillova, Jack Dorsey
Thursday Evening Greetings.
Are you going to go tricking or treating or planning on a little of both?
What do you know? What do we know? What do you want to know?
Well, we can only tell you what we know and since the beginning of the week, it’s a lot. That’s partially because, the hearings on Capitol Hill on the Impeachment inquiry were the building of a foundation, a rock solid one, for the next phase of construction on a body of evidence that warrants the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Last week, Ambassador William Taylor testified before investigators that he was personally aware that Trump made the receipt of damaging information on the Bidens, the condition under which further defense related assistance to Ukraine would hinge upon. There were other witnesses in committee hearings that bolstered Taylor and the original whistleblower.
In response, GOP lawmakers in both chambers, snugged up their horse blinders and either staged hysterical tantrums or caterwauled about the House process being “unfair” or denying Trump “due process”.
This week, it all became more nuclear. Witnesses this week on the Hill buttressed even further the fact pattern that has been established about the president’s actions and behavior. Most striking was the appearance of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
Fox News and other players in the Trump media circus responded with rage and contempt of Vindman – a veteran with a stellar record of service and a host of military decorations including the one he received for sustaining a serious injury in the field of combat.
If your sensibilities are delicate and likely to be disrupted by the term, “chickenshit”, then probably don’t view this video in which MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace – a woman who has no idea how hopelessly I am in love with her, tells it like it is about the likes of Fox nightly agit prop purveyor, Laura Ingraham. Actually, the expressions I would use in characterizing Ingraham’s ilk and that of her network, would make Nicolle’s term almost seem complimentary in comparison.
I was pleasantly surprised and delighted at learning that our superstar resident analyst of Russian propaganda and soft power dictatorships, Kseniya Kirrilova, who submitted a report and participated in a conference at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on “The Prospects Of The Russian Protest Movement”, is personally acquainted with Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.
I’ll let her explain her association with Lt. Col Vindman, herself:
“I was shocked to hear accusations in the American media that the US Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is guilty of “double loyalty” and, even more so, that he might be a “double agent”.
I knew Mr. Vindman personally back when he worked as a deputy military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and after our personal conversation at the end of July 2014, I had no doubt that this man was truly an American patriot. I was struck by the tenacity with which he defended US foreign policy in the most difficult conditions in Russia, at a time when the “patriotic boom” and the persecution of American diplomats escalated in Moscow.
Moreover, when we talked about the Russian-Ukrainian war, Lieutenant Colonel (then Major) Vindman emphasized that the lives of American soldiers were more important to him than protecting Ukraine. This left no doubt about his priorities.
Then we corresponded for about a year: I shared with Alexander my own analysis of the Russian mentality, propaganda and soft power. At that time, I was already in the US, and Alex worked in Moscow. In his response emails to me, he demonstrated not only a high level of American patriotism, but also amazing professionalism.
I never asked him to share information, but, nevertheless, in one of his letters in November 2014, Mr. Vindman specifically emphasized: “I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, I want to apologize for the brevity of my e-mails. I am reluctant to share my thoughts over e-mail. You may recall, I was far more open when we met and spoke in person.”
Thus, it is clear that Lt. Col. Vindman has always been very cautious with information and would have never made public any facts without really significant reasons. He was even afraid to write his own impressions and opinions, suspecting that the communication channel might be unsafe.
Even though I was safe in America, Alexander emphasized that my safety was his priority. He was openly interested in my analytics, but at the same time noted: “Please do not share anything with me that makes you at all uncomfortable”, thereby putting my safety above his personal interests.
In short, during the period when we kept in touch, Alexander impressed me as a true professional, extremely responsible for his every word and deed, as well as for the issues of national security and the security of the people with whom he had dealt.
Based on what I know about him, I’m sure that he decided to testify at the Congressional hearings only because he was convinced that this was fully in the interests of the United States.”
An odd voice from a previous impeachment era, Robert Livingston, emerged as a player in Trump’s shadow foreign policy machinations on Ukraine. Livingston, you may recall, was Newt Gingrich’s designated replacement as Speaker of the House-elect, on the eve of the debates over the GOP’s intended impeachment of then president, Bill Clinton.
Before that process commenced, it was learned that Livingston himself had a series of extra-marital activities and rather than have them aired publicly, he backed out of the Speaker role and resigned from Congress.
Catherine Croft, a State Department Foreign Service Officer, in her opening statement and testimony to the House committee conducting the inquiry, that:
“During my time at the NSC, I received multiple calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston, who told me that Ambassador Yovanovitch should be fired. He characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as an ‘Obama holdover’ and associated with George Soros, It was not clear to me at the time — or now — at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch.”
Apparently, Livingston, who after leaving Congress in disgrace, did what most of them typically do – launched a second career on K-Street, lobbying his former colleagues. This is the caliber of individual we have consistently seen Trump employ in an operation that NSC Russian staffer Fiona Hill, quoted former National Security Advisor John Bolton as likening it to a “drug deal”.
Republicans in and out of Congress and the president’s spokesholes have complained about the process employed by House Democrats, while brushing off the patently criminal behavior of the president. The original objection was that no formal vote was taken to launch the inquiry. Despite the fact that this argument has no merit, Republicans are incredibly comparing the proceedings as reminiscent of the Soviet Union.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R., LA.) said in a press briefing that, “That might be what they do in the Soviet Union, not the United States of America. We can’t stand for this, the American people are being denied equal justice.”
Scalise was joined by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-OH) in decrying hearing procedures, including complaints the GOP members of the panels were thwarted in attempts to question interviewees. Scalese said that the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee presiding over the depositions, Adam Schiff (D-CA), “started telling witnesses not to answer questions by certain Republicans.”
What they didn’t disclose is the nature of the questions. The Republican panelists asked Lt. Col. Vindman to disclose the identity of the whistleblower – an action that would have violated the legal rights of that individual and at the same time broaching the federal laws that protect them.
Trump himself, has implied violence against the whistleblower and has complained that he believes that it is unfair that he is not entitled to confront his accuser. “Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called ‘Whistleblower,’ represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way,” Trump tweeted.
What Trump actually meant is that he is being deprived of the ability to launch a smear campaign against the individual – it’s that simple.
Now that the House of Representatives just voted along party lines, to approve specific procedural rules that will provide a blueprint for the conduct of the public hearings, the GOP’s prime complaint would seem to be resolved.
But they will not be pacified by this. That fact has been signaled by the objections that the private hearings have already unalterably corrupted the inquiry and as you will see, Republicans are going to constantly repeat a mantra that this inquiry and the likely impeachment vote that will result from it, is nothing more than Democrats attempting to “overturn the will of voters” in the 2016 election.
Speaking of Republicans that have formalized their process of divorcing reality, former House member and erstwhile darling of the social conservatism movement, Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann has emerged from whatever alternate universe she’s been living in.
The reason for the sighting? It was to tell America that, in her estimation, Trump:
“is highly biblical and I would say to your listeners [that] we will, in all likelihood, never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.
So we need to be not only praying for him, we need to support him, in my opinion, in every possible way that we can.”
Duly noted, Michelle, now – back to your alt-Right bunker.
Yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that as of next month, the social media giant would cease to permit political advertisements on its platform.
A final note. This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
No one, including journalists whose beat is the massive impact of social media, mistook who Dorsey was aiming his comments and this policy toward. Mark Zuckerberg stuck to his guns on political ads, saying, “I think there are good reasons for this. I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians and the news.”
It’s no real secret that Zuckerberg has no intention to change course, even though his office was sent a letter from a representative contingent of Facebook employees, decrying the publication of political propaganda. These ads are revenue generating and the stage was set for more of them in meetings Zuckerberg had with owners of alt-Right, fake news websites in July, of which Politico described as:
The dinners, which began in July, are part of Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged “bias” against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.
Zuckerberg will pollute Facebook with conspiracy theories and false claims emanating from the likes of Q-Anon and no one, not even his own employees will dissuade him from doing so.
And to finish things off with a kick, BBC World News announced this morning that longtime House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, is retiring after a long, colorful tenure.
The man, famous for his roaring phrase, “Orderrrrrrrrrrr”, in bringing proceedings of the House to attention, is one of the funniest, most amusing political figures I have ever witnessed in operation.
We wish him a jolly, National Compass send off and I hope you will enjoy this short segment of his “greatest hits” as much as all of us did.