December 25, 2019


In aftermath of Ukraine crisis, a climate of mistrust and threats (Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, Dec. 24th, 2019, Washington Post)

The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., returned to Kyiv after his Nov. 14 testimony only to watch Trump's lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, arrive weeks later to resume his quest for dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani's sojourn while filming a documentary for a right-wing television network made clear to officials in Ukraine that Taylor and the U.S. Embassy had no standing with the U.S. president.

Taylor has since announced that he will step down by Jan. 2, clearing out of the Ukrainian capital on an accelerated schedule in part to spare Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- scheduled to visit Kyiv next month -- from having to appear in pictures alongside a diplomat Trump branded as disloyal.

The ambassador had taken the job only after Pompeo promised him that U.S. policy would remain firmly grounded in fighting Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, an assurance that now seems uncertain at best.

Veterans of the Foreign Service are bewildered. "These attacks -- I've not seen anything like this since I joined the Foreign Service," said John Heffern, a former senior State Department official who entered the department when Ronald Reagan was president. "Our work is promoting international universal values -- freedom of the press and rule of law. Considering what's happened in the United States, it undermines our ability to project that message to our foreign counterparts."

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top adviser on Ukraine at the National Security Council, has continued to work at the White House since testifying that he was so disturbed by Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky that he reported his concerns to White House lawyers.

"Vindictive Vindman is the 'whistleblower's' handler," Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a Nov. 22 tweet. The baseless charge was a sign of how Trump has influenced his party's tactics and illustrated the intense pressure on Republicans to back the president.

In 2017, Blackburn chastised Trump for his fixation on score-settling and petty insults, writing on Facebook that "civility in all our interactions -- both personal and digital -- is not only proper but fundamental to a respectful and prosperous society."

Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser at the White House, has endured obscene phone calls to her home phone, according to people familiar with the matter, and vicious assaults from far-right media. Alex Jones, the conspiracy monger who operates the Infowars website, devoted much of his Nov. 22 broadcast to smears against Hill. "I want her ass indicted," Jones said. "I want her indicted for perjury. Today. Indict that whore."

For Hill, the attacks were a continuation of an astonishing level of hostility she witnessed during the two years she served in the White House. Trump loyalists drafted internal "enemies" lists, co-workers were purged, and NSC security teams logged hundreds of external threats against Hill and other officials, all fueled by a steady stream of far-right smears.

Hill, a former U.S. intelligence official and co-author of a biography of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, was little known outside foreign policy circles when she joined the White House. Within weeks of joining the administration, she faced a wave of internal and external efforts to discredit or neutralize her.

A former Republican congressman, Connie Mack IV of Florida, approached aides of Vice President Pence's, warning that Hill was tainted by her prior work for an organization funded by George Soros. A billionaire financier and Holocaust survivor, Soros has used his fortune to fight the spread of authoritarianism and bigotry. He has also become associated with a "globalist" agenda opposed by many on the right, and his name is frequently invoked in anti-Semitic slurs.

At the time, Mack was working as a paid lobbyist for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an autocratic leader seeking to shut down a Soros-funded international university in Hungary. Orban was concerned that Hill might use her position at the White House to object.

Posted by at December 25, 2019 12:52 PM