By Danny R. Johnson/ Washington, DC Correspondent
WASHINGTON–President Donald J. Trump denounced U.S. Envoy Bill Taylor and suggested it was a mistake for the secretary of state to have sent him to Kyiv, after the diplomat testified before the House Intelligence Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry that Trump directed that aid to Ukraine to be contingent on the country announcing investigations that Trump sought.
Speaking to reporters on the south lawn of the White House, Trump said of Taylor: “He’s a ‘Never Trumper,’ and his lawyers are ‘Never Trumpers,’ ” using a term that gained traction in the 2016 campaign among Republicans who opposed Trump. The president declined to answer a question about the credibility of Taylor, who is an American diplomat, former government official and former soldier.
Taylor is a former commander in the United States Army; served in the Vietnam War and earned a Bronze Star. He proceeded to work in the United States Department of Energy and then the Department of Defense. From 1992 to 2002, Taylor carried out diplomatic work for the United States with firstly Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, secondly Afghanistan, thirdly Iraq, and fourthly the Quartet on the Middle East. From 2006 to 2009, Taylor served as the United States ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009 under the George W. Bush administration and the Barack Obama administration. He continued diplomatic work in the Middle East from 2011 to 2013.
In 2019, Taylor served as chargé d’affaires for Ukraine under the Trump Administration leading to his involvement in the Trump–Ukraine scandal about which he testified to the House of Representatives.
Trump also attacked another witness in the Impeachment inquiry. Before he even testified before Congress on why he was concerned after listening to President Trump’s now-infamous July 2019, phone call with the Ukrainian president, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s motives were questioned (with no evidence) by conservative pundits and Trump.
· In one of his numerous tweetstorm, Trump decried Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, as a “Never Trumper witness,” and asked, “Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call[?]” (There is no evidence that Vindman identifies as a “Never Trump” conservative.)
· Sean Duffy, a Republican and former Wisconsin congressman, said, “I don’t know that [Vindman is] concerned about American policy,” because “he has an affinity for the Ukraine” during a morning CNN appearance — though Duffy gave no evidence of Vindman’s “affinity for the Ukraine.”
· Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade appeared to echo the same talking points as Duffy, saying Vindman “tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine” in a segment, without offering any proof.
Vindman is a United States Army lieutenant colonel who serves as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council (NSC). Vindman came to national attention in October 2019 when he testified before the United States Congress regarding the Trump–Ukraine scandal.
Commissioned in 1999 as an infantry officer, Vindman received a Purple Heart medal for wounds he received from an IED attack in the Iraq War in 2004. Vindman became a foreign area officer specializing in Eurasia in 2008, and assumed his current position as Director for European Affairs with the NSC in 2018.
As American celebrates Veterans Day 2019, it is sad to say that none of the leading nationally recognized Congressionally chartered and Department of Veterans Affairs sanctioned Veterans Service Organizations (Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Americans Ex-Prisoners of War, AMVETS, Marine Corps League, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, USA., Inc., Veterans of Foreign of Wars of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America) have yet to publicly condemn or criticize Trump for the continuous disparaging remarks and smear campaign being orchestrated by the Commander in Chief against two highly decorated military officers – one who is retired – Taylor – and the other one, Vineman, who is currently still on active duty serving his country.
We reached out to the presidents of each of the listed Veterans Services Organizations (VSO) for an interview to discuss their silence, but none of them returned our repeated phone calls.
Christin Harrison, a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq, is an American Legion member at Nonantum Post 440 in Newton, MA, but is not active because of commitments at home. The 41-year-old Newton firefighter said there’s definitely a problem when Trump went after Taylor and Vineman.
“I voted for Trump because I thought he would be good for veterans, but I was mistaken,” said Harrison, a husband and father of a young son, who has been involved with nonprofits serving military families. “But when you start attacking Gold Star families and a Purple Heart and a Vietnam combat veteran, you have gone too far.”
A USA Today Op-Ed piece by Alan Pitts, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient from Colorado, announced formation of the Defend American Democracy group. He zeroed in on the criticism aimed at White House National Security Council member Vindman, who was among people who listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader, and testified about that call.
“Lt. Col. Vindman and I served in Iraq at the same time,” Pitts wrote, “he as an infantry officer, I as a combat engineer. He was born in Ukraine; I was born in New Jersey.”
He said in 2004, “we bled in the same sand. I was shot in an ambush, fracturing both hips and herniating two discs in my lower back. That same month, Lt. Col. Vindman was wounded by a roadside bomb, earning him the Purple Heart he wore at his deposition…”
“To see the way he was treated for his decision to comply with Congress’ request for testimony, with the president’s allies accusing him of being disloyal to his country and even a foreign spy, was eye-opening and gut-wrenching to me and many of my fellow veterans,” Pitts said. “It isn’t our veterans whose loyalty we should be concerned about, it’s members of Congress.”
Three veterans who served with Taylor, a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry who has come under attack by the President, defended him as a “man of honor,” “public servant” and “role model” in interviews with CNN.
Retired Col. Bob Seitz, retired Maj. Gen. Robert St. Onge and retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry spoke to the character of a central figure in the impeachment probe who testified before Congress. They describe their longtime friend — the top US diplomat in Ukraine — as someone with integrity who has served his country faithfully.
Eikenberry, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said he has known Taylor since 2002 when they served in Afghanistan together, adding that the pair “worked closely together under difficult circumstances.
“How could anyone in the White House make such terrible remarks about a veteran that has done so much for our country?” Seitz said.
Seitz and Taylor were rifle company commanders of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne — the same regiment from the World War II book and mini-series “Band of Brothers” — with their motto “Currahee,” meaning “We stand alone.”
“He’s a man of honor,” Seitz said, “a courageous man who has the endurance to go through all of this.” Seitz said Taylor is the embodiment of the US Military Academy Cadet Prayer, which says: “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”
St. Onge was also a West Point classmate of Taylor’s, and was in the same battalion as him in Vietnam. They were high school classmates, and Taylor was St. Onge’s best man at his wedding.
“I don’t know anything about his politics, I just know that he has served his country faithfully as long as I have known him,” St. Onge told CNN in a recent interview. St. Onge said he would characterize Taylor’s service as the motto of the military academy: “Duty, Honor, Country. I think that’s what motivates him.”
“The Bill that I know is extraordinarily intelligent, he is articulate, he cares about his soldiers,” St. Onge said. “He’s been a public servant all the way through. I have the utmost respect for him, and count him among my dearest friends.”