Donald Trump Versus ‘The Interagency Consensus’ by By Mark Hemingway for The Federalist
Trump’s presidency has been defined by senior government officials who are open about their loyalty to the administrative state, including criminal acts and abuses of power, over the imperatives of a democratically elected president.
This week there was an unfortunate blow-up on cable news where Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the witnesses against Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry, was accused of having loyalty to Ukraine over the United States, since he was born in that country. This argument was unfortunate on two fronts. One, it ironically echoed the absurd and unfair charges that Trump and his supporters — and heck, in the case of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, anyone who doesn’t express complete fealty to Democratic Party elders — must be Putin’s handmaiden.
Two, while antisemitism almost certainly didn’t motivate any of the people who made this argument, the “dual loyalty” canard was unfortunate considering that Vindman and his family were Jewish refugees to the United States escaping Soviet persecution. John Podhoretz wrote a commendable article explaining why this was hurtful to American Jews. So to be clear, I do not call into question Vindman’s service, integrity, or dedication to protecting America.
However, I do think the issue of loyalty to America in a narrow but important sense is at the crux of many of the debates about Donald Trump and his administration. Trump’s presidency has been unfortunately defined by the emergence of senior government officials who are quite open about demonstrating loyalty to the administrative state, up to and including criminal acts and abuses of power, over the imperatives of a democratically elected president.
The people doing these things may even sincerely justify what they’re doing as motivated by patriotism, but that doesn’t mean these abuses aren’t being done at the expense of a vision of America at odds with what the people want. Even if you don’t like Trump, this is a huge threat to the rule of law and the legitimacy of federal governance in the eyes of American citizens.
A Bureaucrat ‘Consensus’ Versus the Elected President
With that in mind, an aspect of Vindman’s testimony against Trump did raise alarm bells. “In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency,” Vindman said in his opening statement. “This narrative was harmful to U.S. government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.”
What are the “consensus views of the interagency” in this context? Trump is accused of withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine investigating the (quite obviously shady) business dealings of a political opponent’s son. However, the aid in question was military aid to the Ukraine, including weapons, to help combat Russia.