Throughout this impeachment charade we’ve been told by the media and House Democrats that a cadre of unelected career bureaucrats in the State Department and the National Security Council who are cooperating with the impeachment inquiry are heroes, patriots, and paragons of virtue and self-sacrifice for defying President Trump and proclaiming the truth about Trump corruption and self-dealing in Ukraine.
Last week, the media portrayed former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as a courageous martyr recalled from her post by Trump for no reason and then viciously attacked by him on Twitter while she was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. Trump’s attack was immediately characterized as “witness intimidation” by House Democrats and the media, who played up the notion that Yovanovitch was a victim being punished for nothing more than her commitment to the truth.
We heard the same sort of praise for William Taylor and George Kent, the State Department officials who also testified last week, just as we’ve heard praise for all the career bureaucrats who have testified in closed-door sessions so far. Democrats and the media gave special praise to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC Ukraine expert who told impeachment investigators he was alarmed by what he heard on the July 25 phone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. As one of the only officials to have heard the call first-hand, Vindman was immediately hailed as a “star” witness in the impeachment probe, treated to glowing profiles in the New York Timesand the Washington Post, which said the Soviet émigré escaped to America with his family as a small child and grew up “determined to be as American as can be.”
But of course the truth is more complicated. We learned last week, for example, that the Obama White House knew Hunter Biden’s lucrative appointment to the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma less than a month after his father was made the administration’s point man in Ukraine looked bad—looked like corruption. The administration was concerned enough about it that it coached Yovanovitch on how to answer questions about the Bidens and Burisma that might come up in her 2016 Senate confirmation hearing. This only came out under close questioning by Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.
And yet earlier in the hearing, Yovanovitch claimed that no one in the Obama administration “ever raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me.”
Then over the weekend we got a different perspective on Vindman. Transcripts of the closed-door testimony of Tim Morrison, former Russia and Europe director at the National Security Council, released Saturday by the House Intelligence Committee, reveal that Morrison had reservations about Vindman. He was concerned Vindman would “not exercise appropriate judgment as to whom he would say what,” and that when Morrison informed Vindman he wouldn’t be included in a trip to Ukraine, he made sure to have a witness in the room for that conversation.
Morrison: 'I had concerns that [Vindman] did not exercise
appropriate judgment as to whom he would say what.' But Republicans not allowed to pursue; might reveal hints about whistleblower. pic.twitter.com/rzIBaOrfP9
— Byron York (@ByronYork) November 17, 2019
Morrison further testified that Vindman was apparently concerned that not being included on the trip would make him less effective “because he would be seen by the interagency as not being relevant.”
In his closed-door testimony last month, Vindman had made reference to the “interagency consensus” about Ukraine policy—specifically, that the policies President Trump was pursuing through Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland and others related to corruption in Ukraine ran counter to the “interagency consensus.”
But here we need to pause and ask whose policy priorities should count, the president’s or the career bureaucrats of the “interagency”? State Department diplomats and NSC experts serve at the pleasure of the president, not the other way around. What’s emerging in these hearings is an unmistakable attitude and ethos among career officials that their opinions and priorities about U.S. foreign policy should matter more than those of the president of the United States.
At the very least, House Democrats and the media should spare us the sanctimonious narrative that every impeachment witness is a selfless hero whose credibility is above questioning and whose every statement must be taken at face value. After all, we need look no further than the appalling display of other “deep state” bureaucrats connected to the Russia collusion hoax—former FBI director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, and the sneering former FBI agent Pete Strzok—for examples of craven, dishonest “deep state” bureaucrats who despise Trump and will seemingly do anything to undermine his administration.
Let’s not be surprised if some of the interagency figures now testifying in the House impeachment probe turn out to be just as dishonest, self-dealing, and contemptuous of the president’s authority to set U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine and determine what’s in the national interest.