On Thanksgiving, I’m thankful my ancestors left Europe, and that America took them in

“I’ve got something I’d like to say.” That’s what I usually offer up as a preamble, as I try to get the attention of my kids and other family members gathered around the Thanksgiving table. It usually takes a couple of attempts, but once we’re all on the same page, I offer words of thanks for my ancestors. I talk about how brave they must have been to leave the communities of their birth—which were at least familiar, despite the hardship, discrimination, and all-too-common violence they faced—and come to a land where they didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the culture, and, in many cases, didn’t know a soul.

In this offering, I mention the family names of the people who came and the places they came from. We’ve done quite a bit of genealogical research—on my side and my wife’s side of the family—and are lucky to have as much information as we do. My goal is to give my kids a sense of who their ancestors were, and what they went through to give us a chance to have the life we do. One branch of my father’s family came from Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania; another from Riga, Latvia’s capital; another from Minsk, capital of Belarus; and the last from Odessa, now in Ukraine. Growing up, I had learned that all my father’s ancestors were “Russian.” It turns out none of them came from places that are now in that country (at least as of this writing).

The story is similar on my mother’s side. One branch was described to me as Austrian; in fact they came from Skole in today’s Ukraine. The other was Hungarian, and came from Sighet (Elie Wiesel’s hometown) in Transylvania, now a province of Romania. During my Thanksgiving meal talk, I also thank my wife’s family, who came from Vienna, Poland, and Russia. In reality, the primary point of identification in terms of culture and identity for all these people was not the country of origin on their passport, but the fact that they were members of the Jewish people, irrespective of any particular level of belief or religiosity.

In addition to being Jews, the family ancestors I’ll be acknowledging were also, of course, Americans. And that’s the other part of the thanks I’ll give on the holiday. I’m thankful that my ancestors had a place to go, that they could become Americans and make a life here.

The last of them got in just under the wire, arriving a few months after the First World War and only a couple of years before a series of immigration “reforms” severely limited the number of immigrants our country accepted from outside the British Isles and northwest Europe. My wife’s grandmother’s family got out of Poland in 1937—and only because the youngest child had been born here (it’s a long story), one of the oldest living “anchor babies,” I’d surmise. Very few Jews were able to find refuge here at that point and immediately afterward—during the years when they needed it most.

I make sure my kids know about these restrictions on immigration, as well as the fact that Asians had almost no chance to emigrate and become U.S. citizens until the early 1950s. We also talk about how—although their ancestors and other Jewish immigrants certainly didn’t have it easy—they at least had opportunities that America denied to the large numbers of African Americans and American Indians who had arrived long before our family. America didn’t treat everyone living here equally, either on paper or in practice. Certainly, we’ve still got room for improvement on that front as well, to say the least, although we have come a long way thanks to those heroes who fought and bled to get us as far as we have come.

Right now, the current occupant of the White House is making the process for coming here far more difficult, far more treacherous, for today’s refugees—from places like Syria and elsewhere—people who are so desperate to find refuge in our country, or at least someplace safe where they too can make a new home. He has made repeated attempts—resulting in the final version that took effect just under two years ago—to block those traveling to the U.S. from certain countries, attempts that have nothing at all, according to the undoubtedly sincere protestations of backers from Trump on down at least, to do with those countries being overwhelmingly Muslim.

Trump and his allies have also demonized the group of Honduran and Central American refugees who traveled across Mexico, fleeing the desperate straits they faced back home. Republicans placed this group of people at the center of their fearmongering in the days leading up to the 2018 midterms, only to forget about the so-called “caravan” once the polls closed.

On a more welcoming note, this Monday the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Pennsylvania organized a Thanksgiving event in Philadelphia specifically for immigrants—the 11th year they’ve done so. Over 100 people shared the holiday meal:

Vanessa, who declined to give her last name, says the event is exactly what she and her family needed after being under the threat of deportation.

"We couldn’t miss it today, because recently my parents were in deportation court," she said.

Vanessa says she's thankful her family can stay together just in time for the holiday.

If that organization sounds familiar, it might be because of the wonderful work it does on behalf of immigrants, or it might be because the terrorist who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh specifically mentioned HIAS in a post just a few hours before committing that mass murder:

A couple of hours before opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman, posted on the social network Gab, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and Bowers had posted about it at least once before. Two and a half weeks earlier, he had linked to a HIAS project called National Refugee Shabbat and written, “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?” Another post that most likely referred to HIAS read, “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!”

So while I’m thankful to our country for taking in my family, and so many others, I am aware that not everyone approves of America’s generosity. There’s another person, whose family is also Jewish from Eastern Europe, who expressed a sense of gratitude that reminded me of my own. This person did so in the context of coming forward to testify in an impeachment inquiry focused on Donald Trump. He has faced anti-Semitism from Trump and his allies in retaliation for stepping forward and telling the truth. Here are the words of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, words that make me proud to share my heritage with this man:

Next month will mark 40 years since my family arrived in the United States as refugees. When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s story in America.

I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.

Dad, my sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.

Thanksgiving—at least in the form we celebrate in this country—is an American invention, and also a holiday about each of our relationships to America, and to our fellow Americans. It means different things to different people, depending for some on how their ancestors were treated. For me, America is my home, the only one I’ve got. It is the place that made my life and my family possible. My membership in the American people, the American national community, is central to my identity.

We are living in a time when, once again, demagogues are playing on our deepest fears to argue against taking in people fleeing oppression in their homelands, just as was the case in 1939. Demagogues are also casting doubt on the loyalty of Jewish Americans who were born elsewhere, just as was the case in the Dreyfus Affair over a century ago. I am truly grateful for what America did for me—taking in my ancestors when they needed a place to go. I know there are many others who will end up being far less fortunate. They are the ones we have to fight for now.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity (Potomac Books).

This is an updated version of a piece I have posted the last couple years on Thanksgiving.

Millennial ex-Republican ‘pretty damn sure’ he’s not only one fed up with Trump

At least one former Republican has finally had enough of his party after almost three years with President Donald Trump leading the nation to filth.

Twitter user Ryan Hussey, a self-described “older” millennial from suburban Kansas, penned a letter over the weekend to his congressional representatives, informing them that he is “relieved to say” he no longer considers himself a Republican. “To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” Hussey said in his opening paragraph.

He said that he had been a Republican since the day he cast his first ballot 17 years ago and that he thought that meant standing for “limited government, fiscal responsibility, market based policies,” a strong national defense, and support for free democracies around the world. “But in 2016, I witnessed my party begin the slow degradation of casting aside those values for the sole purpose of capitulating to the ego of a reality television host,” Hussey said.

Hussey wrote that Trump “boasted of the utility of trade wars, touted empty promises of curbing budget deficits, incited rising nationalism, and regularly elevated the declarations of authoritarianism over the voices of democracy.” With not a single lie told so far, Hussey explained that he’s registering as an unaffiliated voter and participating in the Democratic primaries moving forward. He called Republican congressional members’ handling of the impeachment probe into Trump the “straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.”

At the center of the probe is a July phone call in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden. Hussey was particularly disturbed by day three of the public impeachment hearings, during which Republicans attacked witness Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, who testified that he thought Trump’s demand was “inappropriate.” In turn, Republican counsel Steve Castor implied that Vindman couldn’t be trusted because he had received a job offer from Ukrainians.    

“I was disgusted to hear members of my former party challenge the patriotism of a career military veteran and intelligence officer simply because his testimony did not subscribe to their shallow narrative,” Hussey said. “I was enraged to hear conspiracy theories of ‘Ukrainian interference’ proffered like scripture, willfully ignorant of the fact that our intelligence community has debunked that theory as textbook Russian disinformation.”

Hussey wrote that his problems with the current administration started long before the impeachment probe and stem from Trump’s “refusal to condemn white nationalism” and “his expansion of policies permanently and intentionally separating children from their families immigrating through our southern border,” among other things. ”While the metaphorical straw of these past few weeks was not insignificant, in fairness, my camel was already carrying a particularly heavy load before the impeachment inquiry began,” he said.

He ended his letter by directly addressing the congressional members he voted for, Rep. Jerry Moran, Sen. Pat Roberts, and Rep. Sharice Davids, and by telling them he would no longer vote for Republicans who support the direction their party is going in. He concluded with a mic drop of sorts and a word to staff members who might read his exclamation of disapproval. He predicted that to those staff members, his opinion probably doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

“I would tend to agree with that assessment, except for one, slight, inescapable consideration—“ Hussey wrote. “—I am pretty damn sure that I am not the only one.”

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Right-wing hypocrisy run amok: Lt. Col. Vindman, Rep. Omar, and the anti-Semitic ‘dual loyalty’ slur

Shameless. Republican hypocrisy this week reached a new level of shamelessness. That was true on multiple fronts—how shameless do you have to be to pretend that Trump saying “I want no quid pro quo” after he already knew he had been caught demanding one means he’s in the clear? However, the hypocrisy I want to focus on here relates to Republicans and anti-Semitic rhetoric, in particular the use of the anti-Semitic slur of “dual loyalty” against Jewish Americans.

One of the most powerful witnesses to appear this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Vindman, who is Jewish, was born in Soviet-era Ukraine, and fled for the United States with his family at the age of three. For weeks now, Republicans and their allies have been attacking Vindman, hurling charges of disloyalty.

John Yoo, a high-ranking attorney in the George W. Bush Administration who helped draft the so-called “Torture Memo,” actually accused Vindman of “espionage,” and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham claimed Vindman was “advising Ukraine,” and working “against the president's interest.” During his House testimony, Vindman faced similar charges of disloyalty from Steve Castor, the Republican lawyer who questioned him—in other words, from the people officially charged with defending The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote in the impeachment inquiry.

In sum, Republicans and their right-wing allies in the media have been claiming that Vindman is somehow more loyal to Ukraine than to the United States, the country he has served as a soldier—earning a Purple Heart in Iraq in 2004—and a high-ranking security official for decades. This slander falls under the category of “dual loyalty,” and is a particularly notorious form of anti-Semitism. Rightfully, many have called out those who perpetrated it.

One of the most powerful condemnations came from GQ journalist Julia Ioffe. Like Vindman, she is a Jew born in the Soviet Union (Moscow, in her case) who fled that country for the U.S. as a child. Her insights and experience are thus particularly relevant here.

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Here’s more from Ioffe:

While Trump has a history of attacking anyone who questions his power, there is a particularly insidious history to questioning the loyalty of Jewish émigrés. According to a source who knows the family, Vindman’s grandfather died fighting for the Soviet Union in World War II. After the war was over and the state of Israel was founded, Stalin unleashed a bloody and ruthless campaign against Soviet Jewry. He called them “rootless cosmopolitans,” a wandering people who had no real roots in the Russian soil, and therefore no loyalty to the Soviet state. The campaign continued even after Stalin died, with harsh quotas imposed in universities. Politically sensitive jobs were closed to Jews because their loyalty could not be trusted. In everyday life, Soviet Jews, whose ancestors had been living in Russia for centuries, were told to “go to your Israel” or to return to their “historic homeland.”

This constant harassment and discrimination, combined with Western pressure, triggered a mass exodus, with millions of Jews leaving the Soviet Union because it had decided that they were second-class citizens and not to be trusted. The Vindmans were part of that exodus. [...]

Then 2016 came around, bringing to power [in the U.S.] a set of people all too eager to remind us of a thought we’d left in the old country: No matter what you do for this country, even if you give it your life and limb, you will always be foreign, suspect. And if, like Alexander Vindman, you dare to flag the president’s deeply problematic behavior and talk about it to congressional Democrats trying to impeach him, none of your service to your country will matter. There will be an effort to discredit you—you won’t be suspected of being secretly loyal to Israel, as your parents once were in the Soviet Union, but to Ukraine—any country but the one you actually serve.

The “dual loyalty” attacks on Vindman evoke an earlier episode in history, namely the Dreyfus Affair. Here’s Matthew Rosza at Salon making that connection and more:

There is a long history of accusing Jews of being disloyal to the countries where they reside, which is a form of anti-Semitism. In the 1890s, a French captain named Alfred Dreyfus was accused of being a German spy and publicly disgraced despite exculpatory evidence. The dual loyalty slur appeared more recently when Trump claimed that American Jews who vote for Democrats, whom he in turn claimed were anti-Israel, were “disloyal.”

There’s been even more right-wing anti-Semitism on display during this whole Trump Ukraine scandal, as numerous figures have brought up the supposed mastermind behind everything: George Soros. We heard some discussion of this Thursday, during Fiona Hill’s House testimony:

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On Dr. Hill directly, here’s Trump loyalist and convicted felon Roger Stone from two years ago speaking on Infowars, hosted by Alex Jones: “We here at Infowars first identified Fiona Hill, the globalist, leftist, George Soros-insider who had infiltrated [Former United States National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster’s staff.” Globalist is another term with strong anti-Semitic connotations.

I began this post talking about the shameless hypocrisy on the right regarding anti-Semitism and “dual loyalty.” Earlier this year, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar or Minnesota made statements that employed the “dual loyalty” canard about American Jews and Israel, and I called her out for it here. However, a couple of weeks later Omar wrote a piece for the Washington Post that showed she had learned a great deal from the previous incident, and I praised her for what she wrote:

Omar explicitly endorses a two-state solution, which means she acknowledges the right of Israel to exist as a state alongside a Palestinian state. She speaks of the need for “self-determination” and a “sanctuary” for each of the two peoples, and speaks of “the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland,” as well as recognizing their need for “security,” while noting that Palestinians have similar rights, needs, and interests, as well as their own connection to the land.

Omar also shows real empathy for Jews by highlighting the “urgency of establishing a nation” after the Holocaust and “centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it.” This is not the language of someone who hates Israel, or who denies the right of Jews to have a homeland in the land of their forefathers. One can, without question, call out Israel when it is wrong and advocate for the right of Palestinians to have their own state, yet still show respect for the rights of Jews as individuals and their collective rights as a self-identified national group. That’s exactly what Rep. Omar does here.

Furthermore, Rep. Omar has refrained from using language that connects to anti-Semitic tropes in the months since. She made real progress in convincing folks that her intent was not to inflame hate against Jews.

And let’s get something else clear, Jews in our country face far more danger from hatred coming from the right than anything coming from the left. To take just the most blood-filled example, the Pittsburgh terrorist murderer who killed 11 Jews in a synagogue hated Jews because, in his mind, they were helping immigrant “invaders.” This is hate inspired by the right-wing, not the left.

Regarding the dual loyalty language, the right-wing harshly criticized Rep. Omar. Most of their criticisms left little room for the possibility that she was anything but a through-and-through Jew hater. This did not change even after her Washington Post article. As I wrote then:

From the right, however, the reaction to her Washington Post piece was a different story. Right-wing media published attacks (see here and here, for example) that, in sum, argued that Omar is a liar, and still an anti-Semite: “Omar has already shown us who she is.” Why do they make these claims? Because for much of the right wing, including, of course, Individual 1, the issue is not sincere concern about anti-Semitic rhetoric but rather fostering division among Democrats. The difference between the response from Democrats and Republicans to Rep. Omar’s Washington Post article speaks for itself.

This is the larger point, the larger hypocrisy. If Republicans actually cared about anti-Semitism, and they actually believed it was wrong to throw the charge of dual loyalty at Jewish Americans without any real evidence to back it up, they wouldn’t be doing it themselves.

It is fitting, but hardly surprising, that this hypocrisy rears its head in relation to the defense of President Individual 1. We have all watched, shaking our heads or screaming at the television, as his Republican defenders shred any notion of truth or principle in the name of defending their chieftain. Anti-Semitism is one of the most important problems we face in America. For the Ever-Trumpers, however, it’s just another tool in their bag of dirty tricks.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (foreword by Markos Moulitsas).

Lt. Col. Vindman would have protected the children and athletes who ‘Gym’ Jordan ignored

Convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky recently sought a lighter prison sentence for his 45-count conviction in 2012. The former Penn State assistant football coach still vehemently declares his innocence to the increasingly-limited number of people who will listen, but while a new trial was denied by a state court, this challenge was allowed, based on changes in sentencing minimums. Unfortunately for Sandusky, and only Sandusky, he was resentenced to the exact same 30-60 year prison term; at 75, with a minimum of 23 years to go, that’s an effective life sentence.

Maybe Sandusky figured that, with Donald Trump in the Oval Office and Ohio’s Jim Jordan in the House, sexual abuse has been given a pass. Heck, maybe he even thought he could run for Senate and get Trump’s endorsement?

Thankfully, that was not the case. Sandusky walked away in disgrace—and in handcuffs—and hopefully that’s the last we’ll hear of him.

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Oh, and in case I haven’t said it already, fuck Joe Paterno too.

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This is not a story about Jerry Sandusky, though watching him on the news really made drove home for me how far the GOP has fallen. The Republican Party has become so bereft of morals that they’ve decided to feature a man like Rep. Jordan front and center on their impeachment defense. A former wrestling coach at Ohio State, Jordan is alleged to have allowed 177 student athletes to be violated by now-disgraced school doctor, Richard Strauss. The doctor drugged and raped students, including several underage boys who participated at events on tOSU’s campus. One boy was allegedly threatened with a scalpel during the rape. Another time, a professional referee—an adult man—complained that Strauss masturbated in front of him while showering. The referee claims that Jordan replied ”Yeah, that’s Strauss.”s That wacky molester!

In fact, all reports indicate that chipper response was Jordan’s M.O. for his entire time at Ohio State. Students would complain, and he’d ignore them. Strauss was never reported, fired, or even moved to a position where he’d deal with older patients. He just continued raping the students, and those students report that Jordan just kept on betraying them. To me, Jordan isn’t just a jacketless ranting lunatic who screams nonsense at witnesses. To me, Jordan is a monster.

Which is why I was so livid this week when the Ohio Rep. had the utter audacity to attack Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart after an IED attack in Iraq. (Unlike certain people, Vindman actually earned his.) LTC Vindman has dedicated his life to this country, and he has stepped forward to risk his career, and now he, and others, now see their lives threatened—all to speak out against the crimes that Rudy Guiliani and Trump were committing. Vindman is the definition of a patriot. 

Yet Jordan actually had the chutzpah to criticize Vindman for failing to alert the authorities in the “proper” manner. Then he criticized Vindman’s character and judgment.What the hell?  It is long past time for people to start putting Jordan in his place. I never wanted to be in a  witness chair so badly. I would have politely asked, “Do you really think that you are the person to be asking me this?”

LTC Vindman, of course made quick work of Jordan, and his performance evaluation move was brilliant. Yet I wonder why this had to be a thing at all. Why isn’t every Democrat and witness not calling  Jordan out for being a enabler of sexual predators? LTC Vindman has already thrown himself in harm’s way for this nation, and if those poor children in Ohio had confided in someone like him instead of Jordan, Vindman would have acted. That’s what adults are supposed to do. The bare minimum, even for a sniveling coward like Jordan, is to bring such allegations to someone less cowardly ... so that they can take action.

Yet Jordan didn’t do that; and in fact is not only exactly who Republicans want representing them, but is a perfect representation of all of them. Jordan is doing what he’s done his whole life: Ignore, and even defend, blatant wrongdoing to help out very bad people whom he’s personally close to.   

Witnesses getting attacked shouldn’t think it at all improper to call him out. It’s the GOP’s fault for putting him on the House Intelligence Committee, which he has no business being on.The GOP doesn’t seem to think sexually abusing children is a very big deal. Jordan isn’t even the first wrestling coach turned Republican congressman to be caught up in such a scandal

Jordan, of course, rules over a comically gerrymandered, 14-county district known as “the Duck.” The Duck skews +14 for the Republicans, but Jordan’s getting hit from all sides. A PAC launched solely to recruit an opponent able to defeat him, and there is a viable challenge in the Ohio courts to fix the gerrymandered districts before the 2020 election. Next, former chair of the Shelby County GOP Chris Gibbs, recently announced that he's considering a run as an independent in response to his farm being destroyed by Trump’s trade wars. Multiple Democrats are also vying for the opportunity to replace Jordan.

People in this convoluted district are conservative, but many feel they can be better served by someone who doesn’t have Jordan’s despicable background, nor mimic his buffoonery. If a strong Democrat wins the primary, they could have a real shot—not only would the vote be split with independent voters, but the GOP’s gerrymandered districts, even if they’re allowed to stand through 2020, aren’t working as well as planned. The GOP purposefully carved themselves out the suburbs, but those voters have been leaving the GOP in droves … in no small part because of behavior from Trump and people like Jordan.  

No matter your political affiliation, no one wants to be represented by someone who stood by and allowed students children in his charge to be sexually assaulted. Standing up for young people isn’t just the bare minimum for a politician, but for a goddamned human being.

Impeachment witness Lt. Col. Vindman demands Fox News retract violence-stoking claims against him

The Donald Trump Screaming Monkey Carnival of Daily Grievances, aka Fox News, has followed Trump's own strategy of attacking and belittling each impeachment witness as news of their testimony is published or leaks out. This is because the executives and hosts of Fox News are (extremely rich) garbage. As usual, the Fox talking heads feel no apparent need to pull back their attacks even as their targets are, predictably, subjected to death threats and other threats of violence; this has been true since the days of Bill O'Reilly and his attacks on a single, specific Kansas doctor who would soon afterward be executed by a far-right gunman.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified on Tuesday that he was so concerned about the Trump team's actions towards Ukraine that he reported them to National Security Council officials, was attacked by the network after his private testimony in October. Host Laura Ingraham claimed during her program that Vindman was "advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest." Bush-era legal enabler of war crimes John Yoo (remember: garbage) escalated further, saying "Some people might call that espionage."

At least one of the human trash cans in question soon realized they had oozed over a line of discourse they should not have, leading actual war criminal Yoo to hastily pen an op-ed days later insisting he did not call Vindman a spy, he was merely suggesting that Ukraine were engaged in "espionage" against us in their conversations with him.

But Fox itself never bothered to correct the record, and as the military now contemplates steps to keep Lt. Col. Vindman and his family safe from violence instigated by the widely-broadcast Trump and conservative attacks, Vindman's lawyers are now demanding Fox News issue a retraction for Ingraham's segment. The letter also notes other instances of the network attacking Vindman, and that Donald Trump and offspring Uday both used Fox to amplify their attacks.

It is not likely that Fox News will grant Vindman that retraction, because everyone in the Murdoch family is garbage, everyone they have ever hired is garbage, and Laura Ingraham is one of their most cherished of odiferous piles, willing to use her network post to attack each of Trump's declared enemies based on nothing more than one of his public tweet-burps against them. Vindman's lawyer David Pressman is at the least, however, putting the network on notice that they consider Fox News to be in large part responsible for the physical threats Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman now faces.

If Fox wants to refuse to correct the record—insulting someone is, after all, constitutionally protected speech, something even fossilized bag of Hitler-loving whale pus Laura Ingraham and top national child torture fetishist John Yoo are aware of—that is fine. But the Murdoch family, sitting very compostly on the fruits of decade of their own garbageness, has an absolute mountain of money and could easily pay for whatever security measures the military and Lt. Col. Vindman feel his family now need.

So step up, trashbags.

Vindman under 24-hour security monitoring after impeachment testimony

The U.S. Army has placed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his family under 24-hour security monitoring after the key Ukraine expert on the National Security Council gave a less-than-favorable account of President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings. Those dealings, specifically Trump’s July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requesting an investigation into Democratic political opponents, are at the center of the impeachment probe into the president.

"The Army is providing supportive assistance to help Lt. Col. Vindman with the public attention," Col. Kathy Turner, an Army spokeswoman, said in a media statement Tuesday. "As a matter of practice, the Army would neither confirm nor deny any safety or security measures taken on behalf of an individual; however, as we would with any Soldier, the Army will work with civilian authorities to ensure that he and his family are properly protected."

Vindman listened in on Trump’s controversial call with Zelensky, and he testified during the House impeachment hearing Tuesday that the U.S. president’s ask for Zelensky to look into Joe Biden and his son was “inappropriate and improper.” 

The White House apparently didn’t appreciate the decorated Iraq War veteran’s account of what happened, and, as is often the president’s knee-jerk reaction to unfavorable news, a certain top government official took to Twitter from the official White House account.

"Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman's judgment," the official tweeted Tuesday. That tweet was one of several efforts the White House launched to discredit those even approaching disparaging remarks about Trump.

Vindman, however, seemed to be less worried about the threat of retaliation at the start of his hearing. He said in an opening statement addressing his father, who immigrated to the United States, "Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth."

Social media slams attacks on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s loyalty as rooted in anti-Semitism

On day three of impeachment hearings, Republicans spent considerable time attacking Lt. Col Alexander Vindman. During Tuesday’s questioning, Vindman, who is the top Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council, expressed steadfast loyalty to the United States, in spite of the fact that Republicans tried to obscure his answers and attack from all sides—including thinly veiled suggestions that he, as a Ukrainian-born (when it was still the Soviet Union) immigrant, can’t possibly be loyal to the U.S.

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First, as covered at Daily Kos, Vindman took a moment to speak to the audience—and specifically, his dad—about why he’s doing what he’s doing. “Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol,” Vindman said during his opening statement Tuesday morning, “talking to our elected professionals, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” 

At one point, Republican counsel Steve Castor brought up that Vindman has received job offers from Ukrainians. The implication, here, being that Vindman’s loyalty might have been compromised.

After a bit of back-and-forth, Castor asked this pretty directly, saying, "Did you ever think that possibly, if this information got out, that it might create at least the perception of a conflict?" to which Vindman replied, "Every single time, I dismissed it. I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler. I immediately dismissed these offers, did not entertain them," Vindman continued, adding that the "whole notion is rather comical." “Comical” puts it politely!

Job offers aside, what was Castor trying to achieve here? He was seemingly trying to instill doubt about whether or not Vindman (who is, for the record, a decorated Iraq war veteran) is actually loyal to the U.S. Which is not only ridiculous but as social media users were quick to point out, a harmful trope often rooted in anti-Semitism, as well as clearly being xenophobic. Implying that a person whose family left the Soviet Union (which was rife with anti-Semitism) is somehow more loyal to Ukraine is not only offensive but disturbing. It’s also not the first time this unfounded accusation has come up: pundit Laura Ingraham has also accused Vindman of being a double agent.

Later, Democratic Rep. James Himes called out Republicans for trying to smear Vindman based "only on the fact that your family, like many American families, immigrated to the United States.”

First, here’s that emotional opening statement from Vindman:

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Many are calling out the subtle (or, really, not-so-subtle) anti-Semitism in the attacks on Vindman:

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Matthew Simkowitz and Yelena Biberman of The Washington Post have a thorough deep dive into the history of Jewish people fleeing the Soviet Union, which is absolutely worth a read. Julia Ioffe also wrote an excellent analysis on Vindman and this bizarre and anti-Semitic attack over at GQ.

Here is Vindman’s full opening statement:

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Republicans claim to be happy with their morning of smearing witnesses and dodging facts

In the morning hearing before the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, both vice presidential adviser Jennifer Williams and NSC official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman expressed their concerns about the July 25 call that Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Both of them were the kind of firsthand fact witnesses that Republicans had repeatedly demanded. Republicans responded to their presence and the availability of firsthand testimony by simply ignoring their statements and often by asking no questions at all.

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Williams described the call as “unusual” because it contained “what appeared to be a domestic political matter.” At several points, Republicans attempted to use Williams as a lever against Vindman, trying to get her to state that she did not share his alarm over the call or over how policy was being handled inside the White House. When Williams refused to join Republicans in their statements, they went ahead as if she had anyway—a tactic that only became clearer as the day wore on. 

Vindman faced more questioning from Republicans, but not on the subject of his statements. Instead, Republicans spent the entire day smearing Vindman. That began in the opening questioning from Republican counsel Stephen Castor, who spent a large portion of his time planting the idea that Vindman had mixed loyalties because he was offered a job by the Ukrainian government—a job offer that he turned down and reported to his superiors. Over the course of the day, Republicans made a point of asking Vindman why he was wearing his uniform, of trying to diminish his service in the military, and of painting him as someone who is generally disloyal to his country. 

Democratic representatives, particularly Jim Himes and Sean Maloney, did a very good job of not just countering the Republican narrative, but also pointing out the baseless nature of the claims and the ugliness of what the Republicans were trying to do. Maloney’s five minutes with Vindman in particular ended with the only genuine applause of the day, as Vindman expressed his confidence that “this is America” and he could testify to the truth without fear of consequences. Vindman made this statement even though the Army is now considering moving his family onto a military base to guard against a wave of threats made against them.

Several Republicans worked to make VIndman seem disloyal and “above himself” by taking brief phrases from his earlier testimony and attempting to make it seem as if he had gone around the chain of command. But through much of the morning, Republicans avoided dealing with facts by simply not asking any questions. Instead, representatives such as Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan simply spent their entire allotted time railing against the process, or talking about the Russia investigation, without ever addressing a question to either witness. 

Several other Republicans spent their time attempting to bolster the conspiracy theories at the heart of Trump’s demands to Ukraine. That included Rep. Chris Stewart directly lying about the status of an investigation into the company Burisma at the time Joe Biden visited Ukraine.

Shortly after the hearing ended, Trump expressed his praise for Republicans’ fact-free morning. Which is appropriate, because facts are the last thing he wants.

Congressman asks Vindman why he told his dad not to worry. ‘Because this is America’

Republicans spent the morning and early afternoon trying to obscure the basic facts of what Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams were testifying to in the impeachment hearing. Rep. Sean Maloney took his time to clear away the dust he said Republicans had kicked up, saying “Let’s do it again. Let’s do the substance.”

Maloney ran through the facts: Williams heard Donald Trump say “unusual and inappropriate” things to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about investigating the Bidens. Vindman was in a meeting in which Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland talked about conditioning White House meetings on Ukraine launching the investigation Trump wanted, and he reported it to the National Security Counsel lawyer. He, too, heard Trump’s voice on the call. Vindman “couldn’t believe what I was hearing” and worried about national security implications, so he reported that, too.

These are the facts as presented by these fact witnesses, people who, as Maloney emphasized, were listening to the Trump-Zelensky call.

Maloney also returned to the Republican efforts to smear Vindman, askying “Why do you have confidence that you can do that, and tell your dad not to worry?” 

“Congressman, because this is America,” Vindman replied. “This is the country I've served and defended. That all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.”

Well, we hope so. As, apparently, do some of the people in the hearing room—Vindman’s words were met with applause.

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The latest in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump: Vindman and Williams testify #4

Welcome back to another day of impeachment hearings. Tuesday morning brings us the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a Mike Pence aide pre-emptively attacked by Donald Trump as a “Never Trumper.” Both Vindman and Williams were listening in on the July 25 call in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig for dirt on his political opponents if he wanted U.S. help.

Vindman raised the alarm internally about the call’s inappropriateness, while Williams told House investigators that she found the call “unusual and inappropriate.”

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:44:00 PM +00:00 · Barbara Morrill

The testimony of Williams and Vindman has concluded. Next up, Kurt Volker, and Tim Morrison. 

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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 5:54:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Castro gets some of the few chuckles of the day by greeting Vindman as a fellow identical twin and saying that he “hopes your brother is nicer to you.”

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 5:57:08 PM +00:00 · Barbara Morrill

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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 5:57:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Castro nicely gets the phrase “trump up charges” into discussion with how Trump’s demands to Ukraine could influence legal system there.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 5:58:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Ratcliffe up again attempts to get Williams to say that Trump’s “I want you to do me a favor, tough” was not a demand. Williams refuses to say what he wants, but Ratcliffe doesn’t let that stop him from going ahead with his pre-scripted narrative as if she did.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:02:40 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:03:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And now Jim Jordan is determined to misstate Vindman’s statements without allowing objections to affect his statements. He and Ratcliffe really could have just written up their statements without bothering to have the witnesses, since the answers don’t matter to them.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:08:23 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jordan up again to snarl and ignore the evidence, the process, the testimony, the witnesses, and the law.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:14:36 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Jordan demonstrates that he can fill five minutes of “questioning” without ever asking anyone a question. That’s how you avoid having to deal with any answers.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:20:06 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Maloney does a good job of making it clear that Republicans have done nothing all day but try to smear Vindman and accuse him of divided loyalties.

Then goes on to make it clear that both Williams and Vindman are fact witnesses who directly heard Trump’s call to Zelensky and expressed concern.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:23:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Maloney’s five minutes was genuinely masterful, both in drawing out statements from Vindman and Williams and in countering the Republican statements. Genuine applause breaks out in the room for the first time today.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:30:58 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rep. Krishnamoorthi does a good job of landing on the other side of Vindman’s immigrant story, and also finds time to ask some questions — including tying back to the sorry, discredited source behind those Solomon articles Nunes was bragging about in the morning.

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 · 6:39:31 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Schiff sums up the morning testimony by pointing out two critical issues:

1) What Trump was asking wasn’t for Ukraine to limit corruption, it was to engage in corruption.

2) Republicans only remaining position seems to be that Trump didn’t get what he wanted — because he got caught.