Good Evening
Good Evening

Trump is already having a bad week

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in, Lexington, Ky. on Monday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump is not having a good week.

Released transcripts of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's testimony got at how the president was "threatening" her and that she was ousted because she knew that Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were looking for dirt on the Bidens. 

Another transcript of testimony by senior foreign adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's explains why a 37-year veteran of public service at the department resigned in disgust over the Ukraine decisions. 

And now the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland, has "updated" his initial testimony before congressional investigators. He now says he, in fact, told Ukrainian officials that their much-needed U.S. military aid was tied to Ukraine's commitment to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter. In other words, a quid pro quo to help Trump's political fortunes in 2020.

Against that backdrop is the Nov. 19 release of "A Warning" by Anonymous.

It’s the biggest guessing game in Washington: Who is the anonymous author of the book? All we know is that it is the same anonymous author who wrote a New York Times op-ed last year that began with the phrase: “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump Administration,” and went on to describe the commander in chief as “impetuous, adversarial and ineffective.”

For Republicans, this is not exactly the moment they were expecting: a book that suggests Trump is incompetent, an intensifying investigation prompted by a whistleblower, and testimony by senior administration officials contradicting the president on a Ukrainian quid-pro-quo deal. All 12 months ahead of the presidential election. Ouch.

Most important about "A Warning" is that it might likely fuel Trump’s conspiracy theories about a so-called deep state — a conspiracy theory that harkens back to Cold War days, when America accused Russian Communist Party members of being unelected officials secretly running a shadow totalitarian government. The phrase, popularized in old movies, is now finding its way back into our lexicon. Trump’s obsession with the deep state has led him to cut advisers out of the policy process, or to fire them. We can see the results in the systematic reductions in the number of advisers shaping policy. Indeed, the attempts by this administration to weed out national security public servants led to his decision to pare down the National Security Council from 174 foreign policy experts to 123. It believes that fewer knowledgeable people are easier to control. 

We also see the weeding in Trump's move to assign political cronies rather than career foreign service officers to embassies — people who work all their lives to protect America overseas. According to the American Foreign Service Association, 45 percent of the 166 ambassadors serving under Trump are political appointees chosen based on loyalty and campaign contributions, the highest rate in history. Also discouraging are the ongoing disparaging comments by the president and those in his echo chamber against the public officials who courageously have testified in the impeachment inquiry about Trump's attempt to pressure Ukraine into gathering dirt on the Biden family. Ironically, we are here because of a “shadow government” of people like Giuliani who interfered with the normal process of oversight and national security policy.

The result is a brain drain that could leave America with a deficit of public servants. According to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan organization, the Trump administration lost nearly 1,200 senior career service employees in its first 18 months — roughly 40 percent more than during President Barack Obama’s first 18 months in office.

Sadly, I fear that "A Warning" will unleash new attacks on officials, including those who work in intelligence gathering and cannot — and should not — be named.  

Tara D. Sonenshine, a former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy in the Obama administration, advises students at The George Washington University.