So its the1920s and you are an Italian immigrant with a family running your “latticini freschi” business out of a storefront in Little Italy. You sell fresh dairy products to the locals; milk, cheeses, mozzarella. You and your family live in a small apartment behind the store. Things are pretty good; better than they ever were in Sicily.
You run the store 12 hours a day; there is food on the table. Your children are in public schools. You have a small bank account. Your wife helps in the store as well as the children in their spare time.
One day two gentlemen enter ordering some cheeses and mozzarella. The are well dressed, top coats and fedoras speaking the dialect Italian of Sicily.
Pleasantries are exchanged.
“You know there is a lot of crime around here. Businesses get robbed, broken into, fire bombed. Families get hurt. Maybe you should think about insurance against such events. We can provide it. Think about it. It’s good to feel safe from bad things happening.”
Our good store keeper knew a quid quo pro when he heard one – as well as the inference if he were to decline the “insurance.”
This week in the halls of Congress we heard witnesses to just such inferences.
Yesterday the nation heard the testimony from Maria Yovanovtich, the former American Ambassador to Ukraine. She served the United States at the highest levels of the diplomatic service in the State Department for 30 years.
While ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch was subjected to a conspiracy-driven smear campaign, amplified by President Donald Trump and his allies. In May 2019, Trump abruptly recalled Yovanovitch from her post following claims by Trump surrogates that she was undermining Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former vice president and 2020 U.S. presidential election candidate Joe Biden.
Yovanovitch’s removal preceded a July 2019 phone call by Trump in which he attempted to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden. Following revelation of a whistleblower complaint about the phone call and attempts to cover it up, an impeachment inquiry against Trump was initiated by the House of Representatives.
Trumps campaign to remove Yovanovitch is well documented calling her “bad news” and stating to a foreign head of state that “bad things are going to happen to her.” Yovanovitch testified that she felt “intimidated”
Indeed, during her testimony, Trump attacked her via Twitter. The tweet was read live during the hearing to all in attendance.
How would you feel if attacked by the President of the United States if you were not a a political rival but simply someone who served both Republican and Democratic Presidents with honor and distinction over 30 years – then lost your high level job because you were in the way?
But of course, the President has the right to appoint anyone he likes to be his ambassadors abroad. And who did he replace her with?
He replaced her with a political hack completely without experience – Gordon Sondland – a donor who gave a million dollars to the Inaugural Committee. Political appointments too a fairly commonplace. Usually as figureheads; rewards for political loyalty. No one expects them to be real diplomats.
Gordon Sondland seemed to feast on his new-found political power when he first snagged a plum ambassadorship and landed in Brussels as America’s top diplomat to the European Union.
Appointed to the post by the President after he donated big bucks to the president’s inaugural committee, Sondland had a direct line to the Oval Office. And he wasn’t shy, or even careful, about using it.
He apparently flaunted his ability to dial Trump’s phone number at will and told more seasoned administration officials to move aside as he usurped their portfolios – particularly when it came to Ukraine, even though it’s not part of the EU.
Now one would think that a novice like Sondland would rely on the seasoned professionals in country to at least try to learn the ropes and make himself credible both to State Department staff the new Ukrainian government. So who did he rely on to carry out his mission?
Rudi Giuliani. We Italians are so proud.
Sondland and Giuliani only had one job – advise the new President of Ukraine that the Trump wanted an investigation to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter who sat on the board of Burisma, a gas company.
The wealthy Portland hotelier has already told lawmakers he relayed a quid pro quo to a top Ukraine official, telling him U.S. military aid to Ukraine was likely contingent on a public statement by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, committing to the investigations Trump wanted. These included one into former Vice President Joe Biden and another into a debunked theory about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016 election interference even though U.S. intelligence has publicly stated that Russia did it.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, (no left wing commie librul!) likened Sondland’s diplomatic agenda to a “drug deal.” Bolton’s deputy, Fiona Hill, portrayed him as a dangerously uninformed and unconventional diplomat.
The President then unilaterally shut down the flow of much needed military aid which had been approved by Congress in view of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
No investigation – no aid. No investigation – no photo op in the White House.
“No quid quo pro!” – no less so than the Black Hand thug deal in the latticini freschi.
Sondland was overheard talking by phone with the President in a Kiev restaurant and then heard commenting that Trump didn’t give a (expletive deleted) about Ukraine; he only cared about the investigations. Sondland is schedule to testify before the House; it remains to be seen if he will throw Trump under the bus.
This week Roger Stone was convicted on all charges relating to his wrong doing in the last Presidential election. That makes 7 Trump associates who have been convicted and are in prison or will be soon for activities uncovered by the Mueller investigation. Starting to sound like the crew of Dapper Don.
Two other high level State Department quiet voices testified in addition to Maria Yovanovitch last week; non-partisans who have served this republic for decades in far away places. More will come this week. They were the faces of decency, honor and courage.
Decency showed itself when Maria Yovanovitch, whose family escaped from both Nazi and Soviet tyranny, finished her long day of questioning, attacks by the President and insults from Republicans.
The public in the gallery rose and cheered her in a sustained standing ovation as she departed.
Republicans and the President first characterized the impeachment hearings as a witch hunt. He didn’t do anything. Then the process was attacked with no mention of guilt or innocence. Later it was “well maybe he did do something.” Then “OK he did something, but it doesn’t rise to a level of an impeachable offense.”
After all, as for Maria Yovanovitch, Trump has a right to appoint or fire any ambassador he wants and doesn’t have to give a reason.
As for attacking her Friday during her testimony he replied “I have freedom of speech and can say anything I want.”
I am an Italian New Yorker, Mr. President, and I can recognize a thug when I see one.
You Mr. President are a thug.
You will be impeached but the Republicans in the Senate will ensure you are not removed claiming what the President has done does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. It will be left up to us to rid ourselves of him if we can.
Party before country.
Meanwhile two teens were killed at a California school this week and several others wounded by a teen gunman who then committed suicide. The NRA took ads that day boasting of increased gun sales. No Republican in Congress gives a shit. They are too busy carrying water to the thug in chief.
It there was any justice in the world these tragedies would befall the ammosexuals.