President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey witness in impeachment investigation asks federal judge to rule on testifying Pompeo voices support for work of diplomat criticized by Trump Biden, Sanders defend themselves over questions of age MORE has attacked Ambassador Bill Taylor, a very experienced and respected professional member of the U.S. Foreign Service, for presenting the facts as he saw them in Ukraine to the House committee conducting the preliminary impeachment investigation.
Trump accepted Taylor as acting ambassador to Ukraine but is now smearing him as a “Never Trumper” without providing any evidence to support his claim.
I know Bill Taylor, a Vietnam veteran. He is anything but a political hack, as the president claims. I do not know Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump earlier ousted as Ambassador to Ukraine, but I do know that she is a respected, experienced and capable American diplomat. Taylor and Yovanovitch understand vastly more about U.S. diplomacy and national security than this president, who appears to know much more about stiff hairspray options than foreign policy.
These attacks on professional career members of the Federal Government are an outrage and a real threat to rule of law in the nation. These professionals have shown the courage to see wrong-doing and expose it. They raised their concerns inside the government without effect, then reported them through a legal process of congressional testimony and whistle-blower reports. Those accused of improper behavior hate credible whistle-blowers; those who oppose corruption and mismanagement in government see great value in them.
The president’s personal attack on a career professional falls in line with the wacky right-wing theory — again without evidence — that a “Deep State” opposition to Trump exists among career Federal employees.
Career government employees are restricted by law and regulation in the participation in many political activities. Like every American, they have personal political views, but a career civil service employee will destroy his or her career if he or she becomes an active political zealot for one political party at the expense of responsibilities to support the legal policies of the elected officials. Can an individual employee go politically rogue? Sure, but a broad conspiracy against the president is a fantasy. Unfortunately, many Americans believe the conspiracy nonsense being promoted by Republicans in Congress, right-wing television and radio pundits, and Russian internet trolls.
Career Federal employees are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They are responsible for implementing the legal policies of the political authorities elected or appointed over them. When they cannot support the policies of those above them, they have institutional means to raise their objections within their chain of supervision or as a whistle-blower. They also can resign from government in protest and go public, as many experienced professionals have done.
In the case of Taylor, he made his objections well known in a cable to the Secretary of State and to others involved in Ukraine policy within the government.
Trump’s frantic concern with the ongoing impeachment inquiry caused him to appeal to Republicans to “get tough and fight.” Shortly thereafter, two dozen Republican members of Congress stormed the secure impeachment investigation hearing room to disrupt the procedures. They should have been wearing jack boots in their tawdry stunt to block what is essentially a grand jury hearing with Republicans present to participate. The hearing procedure is established in precedent and procedure — approved, and used, by the former Republican House majority.
Allies of the president criticize process and attack witnesses — without evidence — to refute what is being revealed in public by the written testimony and transcripts.
Trump apparently developed his tactics of deny, deceive, deflect and attack at the knee of his legal mentor, notorious New York attorney Roy Cohn. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Trump famously asked after Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSanctuary city policies are a threat to decent people Trump attacks Sessions: A ‘total disaster’ and ‘an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama’ Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her ‘high-dollar hairdo’ MORE recused himself from the Russia probe, according to the New York Times. Cohn is famous as Chief Counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the red-baiting Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. After McCarthy was discredited, Cohn became a lawyer in Manhattan known for his aggressive intimidation of opponents. For Trump, Cohn was a lawyer and advisor. Cohn was disbarred by the New York Supreme Court for unethical behavior and died of AIDS in 1986.
With Cohn in the grave, Trump turned to Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSenate Dems: Barr must recuse himself from Ukraine, Russia probe investigation White House official to corroborate diplomat’s version of Ukraine events: report Giuliani accidentally calls reporter, leaves voicemail about needing ‘a few hundred thousand’ dollars MORE to help with his Washington adventures.
Now that Trump has severely damaged American leadership in the world with his unilateralist and incoherent foreign and national security policy, he is now moving to destroy public confidence in the civil service. Putin and other enemies of the United States must be ecstatic with the chaos created by Trump’s frantic domestic fury.
The desperate attacks by an increasingly unstable president to stop investigations into his potential abuse of power and illegal activities will continue and probably increase.
The one thing Trump has not been able to stop is the credible information provided to investigators by courageous career professionals who saw wrong-doing and reported it. In doing so, these professionals are placing their oath to the Constitution and the rule of law in the United States above some shallow personal loyalty to a flawed president.
Bill Taylor and others like him who see abuse and expose what they see within the existing Federal laws and procedures are American heroes. Hopefully, more of them have the courage to come forward.
James W. Pardew is a former US ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO and is the author of Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans.