The truth shall set you free. Free of your job, that is, if you work for Donald Trump. This president has a well-documented aversion to telling the truth and anyone who has the temerity to do just that, especially in front of Democrats or the media, will be set free.
That’s what happened this week to Joseph Maguire, the now-former-acting-director of national intelligence the morning after one of his top aides told the truth to a congressional committee. Shelby Pierson, who is in charge of combating foreign attempts to interfere in American elections, briefed the full House Intelligence Committee that the Russians are at it again. She was quoted saying Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump. They’re already meddling in the 2020 elections in an effort to help reelect Trump, she said.
Trump’s favorite snitch, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), quickly informed the president. Not only had she uttered an inconvenient truth but she did it in front of the man Trump considers his arch enemy in Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Californian Democrat who is chairman of the intelligence committee and the lead prosecutor in Trump’s impeachment.
The full committee, Republicans and Democrats were present, for the closed briefing, including Nunes. But Trump may have gotten the wrongful impression from someone that this had been a briefing for Chairman Schiff alone. Outraged, the president chewed out Maguire the next day and shortly afterward announced he’d been replaced by Richard Grenell.
Grenell has zero experience for overseeing the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, but he is apparently qualified by blind loyalty to Trump, which he demonstrated in his pre-government days as a Fox News commentator. He will keep his job as ambassador to Germany until a new DNI is named. Trump said he is considering naming Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, another sycophant who was a leader of the anti-impeachment forces in the House.
Trump reportedly claimed the Democrats should be denied such briefings because they would “weaponize” the information. Trump has consistently worried that evidence of Russia’s history of election meddling would raise questions about the legitimacy of his election. He has taken Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia never interfered in the 2016 election, but no one else believes him. Instead, Trump continues to insist, without a shred of evidence, that he was the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy led by the intelligence agencies and Hillary Clinton.
Grenell’s job will be to make sure Congress is kept in the dark, and to turn the focus away from foreign election interference. A Washington Post editorial suggested “he has convinced Mr. Trump he can be counted on to put the president’s personal and political interests above those of national security,” unlike his predecessors.
Revenge firings have become a fixture in this administration. Notable truth-tellers given the boot include Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council (his brother Yevgeny’s removal was collateral damage), Gordon Sondland from his ambassadorship to the European Union, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood who told the truth that Ukraine had made progress on fighting corruption, and Amb. Marie Yovanovitch, whose fight against corruption in Ukraine earned the wrath of Trump’s henchman Rudy Giuliani.
Conversely, liars and cheats are rewarded by this president. Maybe it’s because he can relate to them so easily. Fresh in the wake of a string of presidential pardons of celebrity criminals comes a startling story out of London.
Edward Fitzgerald, a lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting U.S. extradition to face espionage charges, said in a London court that then-Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-CA, dangled a presidential pardon in front of him in exchange for helping Trump.
Rohrbacher “confirmed” to Yahoo News that he “told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.” The White House has denied that a pardon had been offered.
Rohrbacher, who apparently shares Trump’s admiration for Putin and has pushed debunked theories about the election hacking, was defeated for reelection in 2018
All federal employees, starting with Trump, must take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, but what’s more important to this president is intense loyalty to him personally. The oath he wants to hear is, “You lie, I’ll swear to it.”