The list of government professionals President Donald Trump might see fit to demonize has swelled.
If the past is a guide, the president will find a way to impugn the motives of any or all of the congressional witnesses John Bolton, Fiona Hill, Gordon Sondland, Marie Yovanovitch and others who have run foreign policy operations in his executive branch.
The very fact that they are cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry could be taken as a rebuke to an overwrought president who views the entire Democratic Party as in cahoots in a "coup" attempt.
Of the crew, ex-national security adviser Bolton seems the most suitable target for presidential invective. He is said to have regarded Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's interventions in Ukraine as filthy on the level of a "drug deal" and Giuliani himself as a "grenade."
Since Bolton comes out of a rival GOP faction, the Bush-era neoconservatives, some administration insiders were surprised when Trump decided to hire him.
The other witnesses are more relevant, now that they're telling Congress how they went through proper channels to warn against Trump's self-serving political dealings on the Ukraine front.
Most presidents would be expected to take responsibility for the fact that officials who so objected to orders such as Trump's held their posts so far into the second half of the term. For a commander in chief who offers and engenders little loyalty, however, the only explanation left is treachery, but how to prove it?
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Tuesday was reportedly ready to testify that he was fine with Yovanovitch's job performance as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, even though Trump denounced and ejected her.
Sondland wouldn't make a good suspect for deep-state subversion. He's founder and chairman of Provenance Hotels, co-founder of the merchant bank Aspen Capital, and a big donor to Trump's campaign, which is often how diplomats of both parties get these jobs.
Hill, Trump's former top Russia adviser, testified Monday that a July meeting with Ukrainian and American officials about "investigations" left her and Bolton so worried that he directed her to alert a lawyer in the National Security Council, Fox News and other outlets reported.
Hill's political pedigree is pretty clear. At Harvard, her doctoral adviser was Richard Pipes, the ardent anti-communist. She'd been an intelligence officer as well as an academic, and also nobody's version of a liberal Democrat.
The bloody battles that have followed an abrupt American withdrawal in Syria also were preceded by relevant warnings to Trump from White House aides.
Will the president start "counterpunching" at GOP senators, Pentagon insiders and soldiers in the field who have denounced his Syria decisions as a disaster? Or will Trump find that too risky an escalation of his well-worn public-blame strategy?
Maybe Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, has a solution. She sounded creative when she tried this week to link the Democrats' impeachment hearings to what she sees as a mistake in Syria.
“I think that what we’re seeing happen is going to have ramifications — not just in the Middle East but around the world," Cheney said. "If our adversaries begin to see weakness, if our adversaries begin to think we won’t defend our allies, that we won’t defend our interests, that’s provocative.”
Cheney then said on "Fox & Friends": “But I also want to say that the impeachment inquiry proceedings that are going on and what the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this president is part of this.”
Watch for Trump to also try to make his challenge from impeachment "part of this."