So much has happened this past week that it is hard to decide what to address. I decided that it would be best to discuss various issues that may have been underreported.
Dr. Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman both testified at the impeachment hearing. Dr. Hill was the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council. Lt. Col. Vindman is the director of European Affairs for the National Security Council. They are both immigrants.
In her statement, Dr. Hill mentioned that “the men in my father’s family were coal miners whose family has always struggled with poverty.” “This country has offered me opportunities I never would have had in England. I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement. This background has never set me back in America.”
Vindman testified: “In Russia, my act of expressing concern to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions, and offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free, and free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”
There were 12 witnesses at the hearing, yet only Vindman’s religion was mentioned. Moreover, he was the only one where the idea of dual loyalties was hinted at. If one looks at some far-right-wing websites, you can understand why. This is the 2019 version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as Dr. Hill mentioned in her testimony relating to attacks on another Jew, George Soros.
Both political parties have their own agenda. Depending on how you feel about the hearing, you can consider Democratic Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff to be “Shifty Schiff” because of what Trump supporters perceive of sleazy conduct by him in the proceedings, and Republican Committee Chair Devin Nunes as “Nutty Nunes” for his continued promulgation of debunked conspiracy theories.
Dr. Hill tried to warn the Republicans about the danger of reliance upon such theories. “Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its Security Services did not conduct a campaign against our country, and that perhaps somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016…
“The impacts of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being turned apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career Foreign Service is being undermined. US support for Ukraine, which continues to face armed Russian aggression, has been politicized.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interest.
“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary and that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they’re deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”
The president’s reaction should not have surprised anyone. Instead of taking her comments to heart, he repeated the same theories that Dr. Hill stated were disinformation by Russian intelligence.
Dr. Hill made further comments that could be understood to be addressed to both parties. “President Putin and the Russian Security Services operate like a super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”
There was much discussion at the hearing about a perceived conflict of interest involving Hunter Biden as being a paid board member of Burisma while his father was vice president. Although there may be other members of Congress who have a conflict of interest, the one that may be the most important and has not gotten much attention is Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. His wife, Elaine Chao, is secretary of transportation. If articles of impeachment are voted by the House of Representatives, the Senate will have to hold a trial to determine whether to sustain the articles of impeachment. Senator McConnell as majority leader will be de facto in charge of the trial to decide whether to remove his wife’s boss from office.
As I have previously said, I think it is important that there should be new legislation to deal with a perception of conflict of interest. It should be tough and extensive. If certain individuals decide that they do not want to be involved in government service, good riddance; I doubt that any legislation will happen unless there is a groundswell by the public. The members of Congress from both parties are beneficiaries of the lack of strong conflict of interest laws, so they have no incentive to change them.
There are many challenges facing our country. However, we should remember the words of both Dr. Fiona Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman about how grateful they were to be able to come to America.