By: Jeffrey Winograd
The second week of the impeachment inquiry by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence kicked off with both morning and afternoon (extending into the evening) sessions that produced no bombshells.
However, some continuing trends were apparent, a few interesting facts were revealed AND, in the view of this reporter who served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, a poignant and unfortunate situation befell an honorable man.
So, here is my list of the key takeaways in the order to which I attach importance:
#1 Adam Schiff protects the provocateur (and himself).
It was into the third hour of the morning session that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the ranking member of the committee, had his first chance to question the witnesses and he honed in on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs on the National Security Council.
Nunes wanted to know who Vindman spoke with in the aftermath of the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, The Army officer said he spoke with several people in the White House who had a need to know, but he also spoke with two individuals in other agencies who, he said, had the proper security clearance and the appropriate need-to-know.
The first was George Kent, the State Department official who testified at the first hearing last week.
Who was the second person? asked Nunes. The answer was someone in the intelligence community. At this point Schiff intervened in the questioning and, with a don’t-defy-me look on his face which was directed at Vindman, pronounced:
“I want to make sure that there is no effort to out the whistleblower through these proceedings. If the witness has a good faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, that is not the purpose that we’re here for. I want to advise the witness accordingly.”
The colonel’s lawyer instructed Vindman not to identify the person in the intelligence community and he followed his attorney’s lead and Schiff’s dictate.
Unfortunately, in the minds of many, Vindman will now be seen as a leaker when if, in fact, the anonymous member of the intelligence community had a proper need-to-know, that individual abused the trust place in him by the colonel and was the lead provocateur and the leaker in the impeachment spectacle.
#2 Lt. Col. Vindman is no longer an “unwitting” victim of the Democrat’s impeachment plot.
By most accounts, the colonel has had a distinguished military career. His many accomplishments and performance in a combat zone, as well as linguistic skills (English, Russian and Ukrainian) earned him a coveted stint at the National Security Council.
There can be little doubt that Vindman genuinely was worried about President Trump’s comments to Zelenskyy about former Vice President Biden and his son, CrowdStrike (which reported that the Russians had hacked the computer server of the Democratic National Committee) and Burisma (the Ukrainian private gas company).
However, as became clear during his testimony, Vindman made a serious error in judgment for a military officer – he sidestepped his chain of command and instead of directly reporting his concerns to his immediate boss he chose to go directly to the legal counsel for the National Security Council. By doing so, he unexpectedly became a centerpiece in the events that followed and had to face harsh but proper questioning from some Republican members of the committee.
And now, according to fresh news reports, the Army may be taking measures to ensure the safety of the colonel and his family.
While Lt. Col. Zindman may have been naïve, he has earned my respect … Duty, Honor, Country.
#3 The Democrats on the committee continue to signal that the “quid pro quo” charge is out and “bribery” and “witness tampering” are very much in.
The day was sprinkled with references to bribery and other matters. For example, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D- NY) inquired of one witness if anyone on the National Security Council expressed anything about the possibility of “some crime or bribery.”
Also, a quick glance at the Democratic majority site on the committee’s webpage reveals more of what we can expect and was evident from the onset of the proceedings.
Certainly, Rep. Schiff’s remarks at the opening session tells us a lot about his and, one presumes, Nancy Pelosi’s intentions, to wit: “If the President abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the Presidency.”
#4 Both Republicans and Democrats can focus on the same particular fact and turn it to their own advantage.
For those who are unable to watch the televised sessions, this can be kind of tricky to fully grasp. But here is one example that sticks in my mind.
FACT: Vice President Pence did not attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.
THE ISSUE: Why didn’t he attend?
The Democrats contended the possibility of Pence attending was used as a form of pressure on Zelenskyy to publicly announce a probe of Burisma and the younger Biden.
The Republicans countered that it was not meant to express displeasure or to apply pressure of some sort.
The points made by both sides merited some thought.
In the end, it turns out, thanks to the testimony of Jennifer Williams, a career Foreign Service Officer detailed to the Office of the Vice-President and responsible for European and Eurasia issues, that the May 20 date for the inauguration was decided on May 16 (after parliamentary elections) and Pence only had a brief window of opportunity to travel (May 30, May 31 and June 1) due to other major commitments. The inauguration was held on May 20.
Ms. Williams also explained that due to such short notice, it would have been impossible to send an advance team of Secret Service and other personnel.
#5 Delivery of additional Javelin anti-tank missiles.
My apologies to readers but I have been unable to confirm with 100% certainty what I thought I heard. If I can do so, I will report on this topic.
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