What is the official policy — today — of the United States in respect of Ukraine and the Bidens? Is it that Ukraine should investigate the Burisma energy company’s employment of the son of Vice President Biden? The veep’s son was pulling down something like $80,000 a month while his father was vice president. Is it the policy of the United States that Ukraine’s government should look into this?
We pose the question because of the reassignment of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindmam. He was an aide on the National Security Council who testified during the Trump impeachment that he was uncomfortable with the President’s request that Ukraine undertake such an investigation. On Friday, the colonel was cashiered from the NSC as part of what the press is calling a “purge.”
Fair enough. Purge is a classical word. What, though, about the policy question? In considering whether Lieutenant Colonel Vindman should have been fired, it would help to know whether the matter he is uncomfortable with is official American policy. If asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens is official policy and the colonel can’t support it, what claim would he have to serve on the National Security Council?
One can see where we’re going with this. You might say, of course it wasn’t official policy. That, after all, is what the impeachment was all about — the House concluded that it was a high crime or misdemeanor for President Trump to pressure a foreign country to investigate the son of a political opponent for taking 80,000 spondulix a month from a foreign company looking for influence here.
Yes, but what about the acquittal? The House may have reckoned it was a high crime or misdemeanor, but the President said otherwise. And when it was examined by, in the Senate, the body with the sole power to make a decision, the President was acquitted. The Senate discovered that he was not guilty. The transcript made it clear that the President asked for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. It just wasn’t a high crime or misdemeanor.
So where does that leave the request for an investigation? Is it or is it not an official policy of America? Here the thing to keep in mind is a difference between, on the one hand, the executive branch and, on the other hand, the legislative and judicial branches. In the latter two branches, the power is parceled out among many individuals — 535 members of congress, say, or 870 United States judges.
In the executive branch, by contrast, power is vested in one individual, the president. All the others — secretaries of defense and state, the surgeon general, even lieutenant colonels in the Army — serve under the president. So it seems that a request made by the President for Ukraine to undertake an investigation of the Bidens stands as official policy of the United States.
It looks to us from a distance — the Sun is no insider — that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman might have salvaged his situation at the NSC. He could have said, “I accept the decision of the duly constituted body to decide high crimes and misdemeanors, and now that the Senate has spoken, I’m okay with the President asking Ukraine for an investigation. Sorry for the trouble.”
Instead, the hapless colonel seems as uncomfortable as he always was. Hence his removal from the NSC. Let it be a reminder to our young people dreaming of helping to formulate policy in Washington. The Constitution to which you’ll be sworn is a stern taskmaster. When you help launch a constitutional process (a trial, an impeachment, an election) you’re bound to accept the constitutional conclusion — or you risk being purged.