As acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor wrapped up a lengthy day of testimony on Capitol Hill – testimony that appeared to destroy the Republicans’ defense of Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a written statement that read in part:
“President Trump has done nothing wrong – this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution. There was no quid pro quo.”
The fact that the White House is going after those with damaging information about the president’s alleged misdeeds is not surprising, but given the relevant details, that doesn’t make Grisham’s statement any easier to defend.
There is, for example, all kinds of corroborated and uncontested evidence pointing to Trump’s wrongdoing. There’s also all kinds of corroborated and uncontested evidence pointing to a quid pro quo with Ukraine. For that matter, the idea that those following the law are “waging war on the Constitution,” even as the president ignores the parts of the Constitution he doesn’t like, is indefensible.
But let’s not brush past the White House’s assertion that dedicated public servants like Bill Taylor should be seen as “radical unelected bureaucrats.” In this case, we’re talking about a man who’s dedicated his adult life to serving the United States – as a West Point cadet, as an infantry officer in war, on Capitol Hill, in NATO, and in multiple cabinet agencies, including the State Department. Taylor has served honorably in Democratic and Republican administrations.
In fact, Taylor was chosen for his current position by Mike Pompeo – Donald Trump’s secretary of State.
For the White House to publicly insult Taylor and public servants like him is outrageous. For Pompeo to sit idly by may actually be worse.
R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran American diplomat, marveled via Twitter at the White House’s reference to “radical unelected bureaucrats,” adding, “That is what the White House called Ambassadors Bill Taylor, Mike McKinley, Masha Yovanovitch and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent. Secretary Mike Pompeo must repudiate this statement. That’s what a leader would do.”
Similarly, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, explained that career foreign service professionals “swore to defend the Constitution, and they are doing just that.” He added that it’s “long since time for [Pompeo] to defend his troops.”
That would be an honorable step, to be sure, but it seems unlikely. Part of the problem, of course, is that Pompeo appears principally concerned with serving Trump, not the State Department.
The other part of the problem is that Taylor testified yesterday that he sent a cable directly to Pompeo in August, explaining to him that it was “folly” for the White House to withhold military aid to a vulnerable ally. Taylor knows that Pompeo received the message, but the secretary of State did not respond, and there’s no public evidence of Pompeo doing anything about Taylor’s concerns.
I suspect those waiting for the secretary of State to step up and do the right thing will be waiting for quite a while.