Heroes

Cowardice and graft are abundant. As the Republic weathers an existential crisis unlike anything in our history, we are flooded each day with new examples of once-trusted figures selling their souls. Those charged with representing us are compromised, and turn to protect themselves at our expense. It is easy in the moment to identify the traitors, the grifters, the weak, sniveling sycophants. They fill our vision.

Difficult times also produce heroes. It’s important to recognize them when they emerge.

Over the past two weeks as the House impeachment inquiry has moved into its public phase, we’ve been treated to a spectacle of courage. Career public servants, sworn to protect us, have lived up to their oath at great cost and under significant threat. In particular, Marie Yovanovitch and William Taylor have placed their careers on the line to protect the American Republic in a powerful demonstration of integrity. Their example gives us hope.

Marie Yovanovitch is a career diplomat who was serving as the US Ambassador to Ukraine until earlier this year. Trump abruptly removed her from office over her refusal to cooperate with a scam orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted Ukrainian business associates. Their goal was to buy the support of Ukrainian officials in a smear campaign against Joe Biden. As their bizarre project fell apart, they went so far as to attempt to extort the new Ukrainian President.

Yovanovitch had long been a thorn in the side of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko. She had pressed the Prosecutor to meet with FBI agents who wanted to share evidence regarding money laundering and other crimes committed by powerful Ukrainian officials. The Ambassador repeatedly urged Lutsenko to end his efforts to silence and punish former prosecutors who had attempted to clean up the country’s investigative agencies. The Ambassador’s campaign did not serve the interests of the Trump Administration, because it undermined Russian goals in Ukraine.

At the hinge of Giuliani’s original plan was an effort to buy the cooperation of a discredited former Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. Giuliani wanted to bring Shokin to the US for a publicity tour in which he would accuse Biden and other US officials of seeking to block Ukrainian investigations of powerful Americans. There is no evidence for these claims, but the Trump Administration needs sound-bites, not evidence.

Administrators declined Shokin’s visa application over his history of corruption, asking for clarification of the applicant’s purpose (a 221G denial). Since the applicant’s purpose was to come to the US to commit a crime, he was reluctant to submit further details.

Giuliani went around the State Department, getting the White House to intervene. However, even under pressure from the President, neither State nor the Ambassador would budge.

Next Giuliani began a domestic campaign among right wing media collaborators to get the Ambassador removed. This past spring, he arranged for the embattled, then-current Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko to grant an interview with John Solomon, an editor at The Hill. Solomon is a former Fox News and Washington Times contributor and enthusiastic purveyor of Clinton conspiracy theories. In his tenure at The Hill he’s turned the site into another fake news outlet.

In March Solomon published a now-infamous interview with Lutsenko in which he repeated outrageous claims against the Ambassador without seeking a single element of corroborating evidence. That interview was then promoted among the right wing fake news infrastructure, with star turns on Hannity and Ingraham’s shows.

When Yovanovitch sought support from the State Department in fighting the false claims, no one would risk the inevitable retribution from the White House. EU Ambassador Sondland, a wholly unqualified billionaire donor to the President urged her to express public support for Trump or see her career ended. She refused.

In April, Yovanovitch was recalled to Washington where Secretary Pompeo told her he could no longer protect her. She resigned as Ambassador, but the Republican campaign of harassment against her wouldn’t stop there.

After a new President was elected in Ukraine in March, Lutsenko was fired. Now all of the work Giuliani had invested in the country was in danger of being lost. He cooked up his Hail Mary, a plot that National Security Advisor John Bolton derided as a “drug deal.” Trump himself would lean directly on the new Ukrainian President, threatening to withhold critical military aid unless the President would announce an investigation of Biden.

William Taylor, the new interim Ambassador to Ukraine was horrified by what he saw unfolding and refused to cooperate. Taylor is a West Point graduate who served in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, where he earned the Bronze Star. He has served an number of diplomatic posts, including tours in Kabul and Baghdad. Taylor was previously appointed Ambassador to Ukraine by George W. Bush. He became a noisy nuisance inside the State Department when he learned of the President’s extortion campaign against the new Ukrainian leader.

Taylor immediately began to document the corrupt “irregular channel” of diplomacy being pursued by figures like Giuliani, Secretary Perry and Senator Johnson, exploring means of profit and extortion available in this wobbling young democracy. He battled internally against the extortion scheme, seeking to get aid for Ukraine released. And as soon as Congress began its investigation, Taylor cooperated against resistance from the State Department.

Meanwhile, the campaign against Yovanovitch was heating up. The President even mentioned her directly in his notorious call with the Ukrainian President, explaining:

The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. She’s going to go through some things.

Defamatory claims against Yovanovitch were amplified on conservative news outlets by Giuliani and the President’s idiot son. Groundwork was being laid for a bureaucratic lynching, like the one unleashed on FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, which could threaten her pension.

Yovanovitch and Taylor have given us a gift. If the Trump Administration survives, they’ll pay for their courage with their careers, and possibly their livelihoods. They know that this Administration, and its compromised Justice Department, will seek to destroy them professionally and financially. Yet they put themselves on the line to protect their country, to protect us.

Amid this national outbreak of calumny and greed, we have to celebrate our lonely heroes. A courageous few have risked everything to protect us. If we’re fortunate, others will join them. We can honor them by doing everything in our power to fight this menace and build a better future.

21 Comments

  1. It looks like Ambassador Sondland decided that he didn’t want to perjure himself for Trump. Smart move. Vox.com has a series called “The best $__ I ever spent”, where guest writers recount why it was totally worth it to spend $2K playing bingo or $1.16 for loaded D&D dice or $80 for TSA PreCheck. I propose a bookend series, which Sondland can kick off with “Worst $1 million I ever spent.”

    1. And I ask again…so what? The vote on the House will be along party lines, with zero members of the fascist party breaking ranks, while a few Dem’s will indeed break ranks, regardless of the evidence.

      Then the Senate will spike the process, and the tyrant will have a new talking point as I have stated before, a powerful one that the less sophisticated will understand.

      Has this process actually swayed any of the 3-5% of the electorate that may actually be swing voters? I truly doubt it. Everyone knows how much a sleaze the tyrant was going into this thing. This entire process is a sham, because the electorate is polarized already, and the fascist party is no longer a party with anything resembling integrity, which, once again, we knew years ago.

      1. Dins, I am afraid you are correct. My only hope is that because for Republican Senators, any vote on the Articles of Impeachment will be a lose-lose proposition, that some who still have some integrity left will vote for conviction, but I do not think there will be the nearly the 20 required for conviction. For the others, I hope they pay the price at the polls. But, cultists have long stopped processing information rationally. I hope this is like 1865, when every single Republican who voted for acquittal, never held elective office again.

  2. Here’s a thoughtful piece under the National Review banner. I did not agree with the author’s statement of Jim Jordan boxing in Yovanovitch, nor would I give any credibility to anything Giuliani says. I believe Ambassador Yovanovitch came across as modest, truthful and human. Her testimony put a face on what was being perpetrated in Ukraine. That may not move the needle for the republican base, but I believe it resonated with the American public.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/11/breaking-down-the-fallout-from-marie-yovanovitchs-testimony/

  3. Bobo, I’ve no Idea where you are located, but in my area I have no question how the precinct feels. Several months ago the NY Times mapped how every precinct in the US voted in the 2016 election. My precinct (central Seattle) voted 92% for Hillary. The nearest Trump precinct was approximately 20 miles away. The link to the NY Times map is:

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/upshot/election-2016-voting-precinct-maps.html

    1. Thanks for that link! I had lost track of it. It 2016, it shows Clinton over tRump by 9 votes in my precinct.

      Red precincts are on all sides of it.

      In last year’s state elections, our Dem candidate for Tx State Rep lost by 47 votes; the incumbent R won’t be running in 2020.

      If voting for Rs counts as support for tRump, the precinct overall appeared (and felt) a little redder last year (in state elections).

      So I take nothing for granted.

      Many times I’ve heard it said that it’s a numbers game, that getting out the vote — getting more people to the poll — pretty much guarantees a Democratic win, that if voters turn out, Democratic candidates win.

      A non-issue in Seattle?

      1. That is basically true. Pretty much all of Seattle and the inner suburbs are blue. Some are light blue – those areas are high income, old line gated communities, that at one time were Republican (like in the 70’s, 80’s and up through the 90’s). We generally have high turnout, even for local elections. Even the low income, minority areas normally get good turnout by national standards.

        In some respects we have the opposite problem, that is some of the politicians are way out in LEFT FIELD.

    1. EJ

      And because I am apparently an idiot who forgets to add important people:

      Danya Ruttenberg
      Colin Kaepernick
      Joshua Brown

      (This list is incomplete. Please add those Americans who you think should be on it. My rule of thumb is that if you have not pissed off Nazis enough to have your life credibly threatened by them, you don’t belong on a list of heroes in the present day.)

    1. Thanks, Fly. I was happy Edwards was able to pull this off. Edwards is not a true Democrat, but he has found a way to thread the needle in a dark red state….which was dark blue not so many years ago. His position on abortion is harsh and his support of second amendment rights difficult for me absent support for expansion of gun safety laws. Still, Edwards inherited a $2B state deficit from Republican Governor Bobby Jindal which was challenging to address given the state’s poor economy (especially after Jindal finished gutting its few remaining assets). Edwards also brokered legislative support for expansion of Medicaid, which has helped many Louisianians obtain health care and helped the state’s economy. He earned the win he got and the respect of a majority of the voters in the state. trump visited LA 3 times prior to the election. Just as in KY, his visits served to fire up the democratic base. My hope is trump will hold more rallies for republican candidates because he’s 0 for Two right now.

      Here’s a good article about Edwards.

      https://www.nola.com/opinions/stephanie_grace/article_f470577c-08d7-11ea-9f6b-73b8fdeb502d.html

  4. You should write copy any of the major news outlets, as you summarize so wonderfully. Your prose is far superior and succinct that anything else I read. Of course, you would be sued, but only because it is all true.

    But I ask again, exactly what benefit does any of this have when the Senate spikes it, and the tyrant claims he is fully exonerated? The average person can’t possibly understand the nuances and only looks at the bottom line, when the tyrant skates away free.

    1. Insofar as the Senate’s concerned, if Republicans feel they have to ditch Trump (and there’s absolutely no question they want to), they really *could* just vote on a secret ballot to kick him out. There’s no question it’s the most chickenshit way out for these cowards, but it just might work.

      https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/11/12/path-to-removing-donald-trump-from-office-229911

      That said, we’d be better off if all we had to worry about was the Senate, because the alternative is likely to be far worse. All this recent spat about Trump’s health has me indulging Angry Staffer’s (@AngryStaffer, fyi) theory that he’s been prepping a medical resignation for a while now, and that he’s going to strike a non-prosecution deal with state authorities in NY before he does it.

      If he does that and resigns, there’s precisely zero doubt our new Bootlicker-in-Chief President Pence would issue a federal pardon on top of that and Trump really would walk away scot-free and the precedent that the president truly is above the law would be set in stone forever more.

  5. Let me also congratulate Chris on an excellent summary of the morass in the Ukraine that led up to this impeachment effort.

    I am also beginning to have some hope that there will be an impeachment trial. I’m beginning to thing it is likely. Regarding the outcome, I think that the Senate will likely acquit, but that will be at significant cost to the individual Republican Senators – for each Senator the vote at an impeachment trial is a lose-lose proposition. There is still a great likelihood of Trump resigning prior to a vote being held. There may be a grand bargain of some kind allowing him to escape in some way.

    However, the power of Pence to pardon may be restricted depending on when the resignation might occur. The Constitution states that the President does not have the power to grant a Reprieve or Pardon in “Cases of Impeachment” (Article II, Section 2, first Paragraph). As interpret that, if Trump was to resign following the passage of Articles of Impeachment, Pence could not pardon him.

  6. I totally concur with you Fly. As I’ve written before most of the professionals in the military, Department of State, Department of Justice, etc. take their oaths of office seriously. Unfortunately much of the political leadership, particularly in this Administration, does not. We are now seeing the integrity of those professionals.

    The American people appreciate the sacrifices of those professionals and support them. My firm belief is that the 2020 elections will be a major rebuke to the corruption and grift that surrounds us. The rebuke will be so great that all the gerrymandering and voter suppression activities of the Republican Party will be swept away. When the American people are aroused they can do great things and I believe they are aroused now.

  7. John Bolton, history is calling you.

    Also how heartwarming it was to see and hear all the applause for Ambassador Yovanovtich at the end of the hearing. There is patriot and a fine role model, especially for young girls. And how disgusting of the GOP to play dumb about the rules they agreed to. I could ask who is dumb enough to fall for that fake outrage, but I already know. I hope that Rep Stefanik pays a very dear political price for her dishonesty. Don’t grow up to be like her, children.

      1. It’s not enough that the world is watching the shameful destruction of our Democracy; now with the impeachment hearings underway, people get to watch the self immolation of the Republican Party. To think yhat Jim Jordan was deliberately added (temporarily) to the Intelligence Committee expressly to harangue and denigrate a constitutional process. His disrespectful behavior is reinforced by his disrespectful dress. How embarrassing.

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