- The nonpartisan career officials who blew the whistle on President Donald Trump and testified against him are Time magazine’s 2019 “Guardians of the Year.”
- Among those named in the profile are the whistleblower who first sounded the alarm on Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine for political gain; Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine; Bill Taylor, the US’s chargé d’affaires in Ukraine; Fiona Hill, the former White House Russia expert; and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House’s top Ukraine expert.
- “For each, the decision to step forward came at a cost,” Time reported, adding that as some agreed to share their experiences with the magazine, they “became emotional when speaking about what they described as the most difficult weeks of their careers.”
- Since testifying, the witnesses have gone back to living their lives – with some notable differences.
- Time reported that Hill received a flood of letters of support after she testified, while Yovanovitch received a standing ovation when she was recognised at a jazz club in Washington, DC.
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For more than two months, the magazine said, the president “attacked the public servants as ‘traitors’ and ‘human scum.'” And in September, at the US Mission to the United Nations, he “suggested the proper response to the whistle-blower’s complaint was the punishment historically reserved for ‘spies’ and for ‘treason’: the death penalty.”
.@GretaThunberg is @TIME's Person of the Year but check out the Guardians of the Year: The Public Servants. Pictured: Former Ambos to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch and Bill Taylor, and former and current NSC officials Fiona Hill and Alex Vindman, respectively. https://t.co/tgacaoV0v2 pic.twitter.com/t9B41e0Sxj
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) December 11, 2019
Among the people named were:
- The whistleblower who first sounded the alarm on Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt on a rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for vital military aid and a White House meeting.
- Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out of her position for refusing to go along with Trump’s and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s scheme.
- Bill Taylor, the career diplomat who replaced Yovanovitch and testified about the extent of the quid pro quo Trump and Giuliani were engaged in.
- Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, who witnessed and reported what she described as the “domestic political errand” that had hijacked US foreign policy.
- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC’s top Ukraine expert, who witnessed the July 25 phone call at the centre of the impeachment inquiry and reported his concerns up the chain of command.
- David Holmes, a member of Taylor’s staff who overheard a July 26 phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the European Union, directly discussing Trump’s effort to dig up political dirt on Biden.
- Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget who struggled to understand why Trump withheld military aid after Congress approved it, and who raised concerns about it to his superior.
Yovanovitch, Taylor, Hill, and Vindman are featured on Time’s cover.
The majority of concerns these officials raised were buried by political forces higher up in the hierarchy. Still, when Congress called on them to testify – with the exception of the whistleblower, who has remained anonymous amid concerns for their safety – they stepped forward to break their silence in direct defiance of the White House’s orders.
“For each, the decision to step forward came at a cost,” Time said, adding: “And though each followed the rules and used the proper channels, some have found themselves vilified online, their decades of government service impugned and their background questioned. Several have been assailed publicly by the President.”
Vindman in particular was singled out for his background as an immigrant. The Purple Heart recipient, whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a toddler, found himself the target of attacks from Trump’s conservative allies who suggested that because Vindman was an immigrant he was disloyal to the US.
Yovanovitch, meanwhile, was attacked by Trump while she was in the middle of testifying. After Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she felt threatened by Trump’s comments about her in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the president used Twitter to smear Yovanovitch’s decades of foreign service, an action she described as “very intimidating.”
Trump has slammed others who testified against him, like Taylor, Sandy, and Hill, as “never Trumpers” and “radical unelected bureaucrats,” characterizations they have all disputed while stressing that they were not there to advocate any particular outcome but to be fact witnesses.
The whistleblower, without whom Congress and the public might never have learned of Trump’s scheme, has been the subject of some of the most virulent attacks from Trump and his loyalists, who have accused the person of treason and espionage, both of which are punishable by death.
Time said that initially none of the people named in its article would speak to it for fear of retribution and to protect their and their families’ safety. Eventually, as some agreed to share their experiences with the magazine, they “became emotional when speaking about what they described as the most difficult weeks of their careers.”
Since the officials testified, Congress has moved ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump. House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming and uncontested,” adding that his actions threatened US national security and undermined the country’s interests in favour of personally benefiting Trump.
The witnesses, meanwhile, have gone back to living their lives. Time reported that Taylor, Holmes, and others who testified were in Kyiv trying to steer the ship back on track even as Giuliani continues to try to hijack Ukraine policy. Vindman and Sandy still work at the NSC and the OMB.
But there are some notable differences.
Yovanovitch and Hill are out of public life but not out of the spotlight. The magazine reported that Hill received a flood of letters of support after she testified, while Yovanovitch received a standing ovation when she was recognised at a jazz club in Washington, DC.
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