Liz Cheney: Shame on those who are questioning Vindman's patriotism for testifying against Trump

*Sniff sniff* You smell that?

Smells like a Never Trumper to me.

And Never Trumpers tend not to do so well in Senate primaries, as Jeff Flake might tell you.

No, I’m kidding. She’s not a Never Trumper (publicly, at least). And she’s right here, of course. It’s pitiful that what she says even needs to be said, although it does.


Ed already flagged one example of a Republican, Sean Duffy, suggesting that Alexander Vindman might have a special “affinity” for Ukraine that renders him a less than reliable witness. Brian Kilmeade echoed the point this morning on “Fox & Friends,” citing Vindman’s birth in Ukraine (the Soviet Union at the time, Kilmeade reminded viewers) and insisting that he “tends to feel simpatico” with the country.

John Yoo appeared to go further than either on Laura Ingraham’s show last night after the news about Vindman’s testimony broke, wondering about “espionage” because Ukrainian officials apparently asked him for advice on how to deal with Rudy Giuliani. This is a guy who’s lived 41 of his 44 years in the United States, joined the U.S. Army, advanced to the rank of colonel, and received the Purple Heart after he was wounded by an IED during a deployment in Iraq. A Twitter pal noted this morning that he’s basically the Trumpian ideal of what a refugee should be apart from the inconvenient fact that he’s made life difficult for Trump, which now requires him to be smeared. There’s nothing alarming about Ukraine asking him about Rudy under the circumstances: Vindman is a member of the National Security Council with expertise involving their country, so go figure that they’d consult a U.S. official with whom they were familiar to say, “What’s up with this Giuliani guy who keeps leaning on us?”

Whether you believe Cheney is speaking from the heart or speaking strategically is a matter of your own estimation of her, but the two options aren’t mutually exclusive. The Cheneys are, of course, famously hawkish and know many veterans; Cheney may feel sincerely indignant on Vindman’s behalf. But I suspect she also sees a disastrous messaging offensive gaining momentum and is rushing to stop it, especially before you-know-who gets behind it. Trump hasn’t insinuated anything about Vindman’s loyalties yet but his is a conspiratorial mind, and he likes to draw blood when he lashes out. The prospect of the commander-in-chief dropping a “dual loyalty” smear on a decorated officer who had a problem with his Ukraine quid pro quo is a real one. And Cheney doubtless knows that that the Matt Gaetzes and Jim Jordans in her caucus will dutifully carry that message forward once the word comes down from on high.

So here she is doing her best to signal to them, and to Trump, that they should change course. They’re already taking a beating in the media today from anti-Trumpers for Yoo’s and Duffy’s comments. Those two and Kilmeade can be dismissed as irrelevant: They’re not members of Congress, right? But as soon as someone in the House or the Senate starts wondering idly about Vindman’s true allegiance, the “Republicans smearing veterans” storyline will explode in the press. The GOP is already scrambling as it is to find a productive counter-message while Pelosi and Schiff work through their impeachment process. That one would … not be productive.

In fact, Yoo has put out a statement this afternoon emphasizing that he didn’t mean to accuse Vindman of “espionage” on Ingraham’s show last night, rather to suggest that maybe Ukraine was running some sort of espionage operation. Whether that’s true or not, one wonders if Cheney or some other influential Republican dialed him up this morning and told him to help them put out this fire about questioning Vindman’s “affinities” before it spreads.

Here’s some representative commentary on the matter from CNN, the same network that gave Duffy a platform. Lost amid the criticism of questioning Vindman’s patriotism is the fact that his testimony is likely to make life harder for the White House generally and for Gordon Sondland in particular. Sondland, after all, testified earlier that no one ever raised any concerns with him about the administration’s Ukraine policy. Vindman, however, claims in his opening statement that he told Sondland personally that it was “inappropriate” for him to bring up Burisma and the 2016 election when the Ukrainians told him how eager they were to meet with Trump. We’ll see if Sondland “clarifies” his testimony after this.