February 3, 2022

It's been long overdue: Former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has filed a lawsuit against a host of top Donald Trump allies, accusing them of attempting to intimidate him, then retaliating against him for his testimony in the first of Congress' two Trump impeachment investigations. Vindman was a key witness in the investigation, one of the few in the White House who witnessed Trump's conversation with Ukraine's president in which Trump asked the Ukrainian government to give public credence to a hoax targeting his expected election opponent, Joe Biden. It was a hoax promoted by pro-Russian oligarchs and Trump fixer Rudy Giuliani. It was also part of a broader revealed effort in which Trump's team promoted those pro-Russian interests, removed a United States ambassador who was seen as an impediment to them, and stonewalled congressionally approved military aid to the country while pushing its leaders to provide the Trump-demanded election help.

Vindman is suing Giuliani, along with then-Deputy White House Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, staffer Julia Hahn, and Donald Trump Jr. for their roles in the attacks against him. The lawsuit charges the Trump allies with an "intentional, concerted campaign of unlawful intimidation and retaliation."

There's zero question that Vindman was both publicly threatened and had his career cut short as an act of retaliation, because nobody in Trump's orbit even bothered to hide it. Donald Trump repeatedly posted public tweets threatening those who testified against him, and both Vindman and his brother were summarily removed from their White House duties immediately after Senate Republicans scuttled further investigation and backed Trump's international extortion. Trump's team followed up with a widespread purge of government watchdogs who were seen as insufficiently loyal to Trump's schemes. Republican lawmakers, pundits, and hosts all joined the effort to demonize Vindman for agreeing to testify.

The same dynamic would occur during and after Trump's second impeachment, as Republicans have done everything within their power to stonewall House and federal investigations of a Trump-organized violent coup. (Many of those Republicans are themselves accessories to the seditious acts.) Trump allies have again threatened those who willingly testify. Trump has again floated pardons for those who committed crimes on his behalf. The fascist party again settles into backing even violence by the party's leader, rather than abide election losses.

The Vindman case will be yet another test as to whether the nation's laws still mean anything when they run up against the petty whims of the powerful, but the evidence Vindman's team has provided isn't really disputable. The only remaining question is whether political hacks working on behalf of a president are allowed to intimidate and retaliate against witnesses simply because it was in service to a Dear Leader figure who wanted those things done. Unless Republicans retake Congress and write up a new law specifically prohibiting lawsuits against Giuliani and his accomplices—which could happen, after all—it's difficult to imagine the defense offering up any justification of Vindman's treatment that wouldn't be laughed out of the courtroom.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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