Marie Yovanovitch and ret. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, both of whom participated as witnesses in the first impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump, recently once more spoke out about related issues as part of a virtual panel discussion moderated by James Hohmann from The Washington Post. Yovanovitch served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine until her removal from her post by then-President Trump, and Vindman, prior to his more recent retirement, served as part of the National Security Council.
Besides the baseless pushback that Yovanovitch faced from Trump and his allies, Vindman was, on a similar note, removed from his National Security Council post after his impeachment-related Congressional testimony. Vindman, as part of his job, listened in on a phone conversation in which then-President Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian president into investigating the Bidens — this pressure effort led to the impeachment. Trump and his political allies tried to characterize that phone conversation as — to use Trump’s terminology — “perfect.” Vindman knew the truth.
Yovanovitch commented as follows:
‘On the issue of how fragile our democracy is, I think we’ve discovered that it can be fragile. But when I look at January 6th, when I look at some of the other challenges that we faced in the last couple of years, in the end, we’ve come out okay. But I think these are wake-up calls that we need to be working together on to make sure we don’t go to that brink, to make sure that we are strengthening our institutions, strengthening our schools and leading the next generation with a stronger America. And that means a stronger democracy.’
In other words, Trump’s consistent lies about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election — which the rioters at the Capitol in January explicitly used as a pretense for their actions — pose a systematic threat to democracy in the United States, Yovanovitch noted.
Meanwhile, Vindman noted that there’s important work that remains to be done towards unearthing the full breadth of the abuses of power that unfolded during the Trump administration. As he put it:
‘I think we came through a very, very difficult period, maybe in certain ways, an unprecedentedly difficult period recently. And the effects of that are going to be long-lasting both within the public service workforce and U.S. standing in the world. Clearly, the abuses of the last administration in certain ways, at least with regards to the majority of the population, poisoned the well on public service and the effect of good governance. And it’s going to take some time to undo some of that damage… I see still a durable institution, but it requires a lot of work to undo the damage from the previous administration. We have not had a full accounting of all the abuses of the key leadership in the previous administration.’
Legislative options could help guard against future corruption like that which unfolded during the Trump era. As Vindman added:
‘We ideally will make sure that we harden our institutions against the range of abuse. It’s hard to do that against the president. And I don’t think our system was designed in any way to protect against abuse by the chief executive. But certainly we could make a lot of headway, but below that level with abuse within departments and agencies.’
Trump is already facing other forms of pushback thanks to ongoing criminal investigations conducted by district attorneys in Atlanta and Manhattan.