Op-ed: Matter of fact- Thankful that, here, right matters

By Jay Brown

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, but some congressional staffers will be busy over the break distilling the findings from the impeachment inquiry that was just completed into a report they expect to provide to the House Judiciary Committee next week.

One of the fact witnesses who provided relevant testimony about the administration’s pressure campaign on the Ukraine was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, whose widowed father had emigrated to Brighton Beach with his three young sons from Soviet Ukraine in 1979.

In exchange for complying with a subpoena and testifying about what he knows, Lt. Col. Vindman was slammed by President Trump, attacked by GOP lawmakers, and has faced so many threats, the Army is prepared to move his family to living quarters on a military base.

Vindman said in his opening statement that his father had made the right decision, fleeing to the United States. He explained that in Russia, offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost him his life, adding, “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 of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”

It is unacceptable that anyone, especially members of Congress or the president of the United States, would denounce a decorated, career public servant and Purple Heart recipient, simply because he complied with a constitutionally mandated order and answered questions truthfully. Vindman swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not a loyalty pledge to one particular man.

Marie Yovanovitch, whose parents fled the Soviet Union and then the Nazis, and Fiona Hill, who was born in northern England before becoming an American citizen years later, also provided important testimony.

These three immigrants, who have spent decades serving the administrations of both Republican and Democratic presidents as nonpartisan, nonpolitical professionals focused on the national security of our country, exhibited their unbiased nature during their testimony.

They leveled not one personal attack. Their assertions stuck to the facts of what they knew, corroborated by documents and/or the testimony of others, and they were explicit when what they were relaying was an opinion. They also readily offered up instances where they agreed with the president or felt that a particular criticism of him was not warranted.

The manner in which they comported themselves demonstrates that they were simply doing their jobs, which required them to question actions that were not in the interests of U.S. national security, possibly illegal or unconstitutional, and then show up to testify truthfully before Congress when issued a lawful subpoena.

Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted a few days ago that, “After Mueller it should have been OVER.” The fact is, after Mueller, it was essentially over. Following the release of the Mueller report, more Democratic members of Congress came out in favor of beginning an impeachment inquiry, but they didn’t have nearly enough on board to begin any such process.

As a whole, the Democrats in the House knew how difficult impeachment would be, both on the country, and to carry out to the point of removing an American president for the first time in our history. They did everything they could not to go down the road of impeachment.

But the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress, when the consensus was that there would be no consequences for what had been detailed in the Mueller Report, President Trump got on the phone with Ukraine President Zelensky to talk about the congressionally approved military aid he had decided to put a hold on and said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” explaining that the money would be forthcoming if Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens.

In his remarks to members of Congress, Lt. Col. Vindman also said he told his father, “Do not worry; I will be fine for telling the truth.” When asked by New York Rep. Maloney why he had confidence he could tell his dad not to worry, he responded, “This is America. This is the country I’ve served and defended …and here, right matters.”

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