As a candidate in 2015, Donald Trump said that he’d “surround myself only with the best and most serious people.”
On Nov. 15, Trump’s longtime friend and personal confidante, Roger Stone, was found guilty of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.
Stone is only the most recent in a long line of Trump cronies to go to jail. Earlier this year, Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, was convicted of multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star. Cohen is now behind bars. So is Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, will be sentenced in December. Trump’s former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty and served time for lying to investigators.
This list doesn’t even include the “Star Wars” cantina dredged up by Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom were recently arrested on corruption charges.
Not to mention Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, whose just-uncovered emails reveal the warped mind of a racist nationalist.
But in recent weeks, others in the Trump administration have shown themselves to be among the best and most honorable public servants in America — although Trump doesn’t see them that way.
I’m talking about the career officials who have come before the House Intelligence Committee and, with dignity and restraint, confirmed Trump’s abuses of power.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman explained that he reported Trump’s July 25 phone call seeking Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden “out of a sense of duty” because it was “improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent.”
National Security Council officer Fiona Hill detailed how Trump’s team carried out a “domestic political errand” that helped Russia and warned that Republicans play into Russia’s hands by denying its role in the 2016 election. Russia is “right now” seeking to interfere in the 2020 election, she said, and “we are running out of time to stop them.”
Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch spoke of “a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling.” State Department official Jennifer Williams, foreign service officer George Kent and acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor sounded similar alarms.
All of these men and women have distinguished records of public service. Some are highly decorated military officers. In coming forth, they have shown remarkable courage and patriotism. Yet true to form, Trump and his lackeys attack them.
The contrast could not be starker. On one side are dedicated public servants seeking to protect America. On the other side are Trump and his thugs seeking to protect Trump.
Those who put loyalty to Trump above their duty to the United States are contemptible. Even if they don’t end up in prison like other Trump toadies, they have dishonored themselves and the nation.
But those who have devoted their lives to this country and are now risking everything by telling the truth are among America’s best. They deserve our deepest gratitude.
To me, a passage from Vindman’s opening statement said it all:
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry — I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Robert Reich’s latest book is “The Common Good,” and his newest documentary is “Saving Capitalism.”