Let’s keep the focus where it belongs: On the Trump-Giuliani abuse of power, conspiracy, and subordination of US interests to Trump’s personal interests

Most of the attention yesterday went to Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman’s testimony before House committees investigating impeachable offenses by the president.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

There were two areas of focus. First was on Vindman’s direct witness of Donald Trump’s extortion of Ukraine’s president for political gain. Second was on Vindman himself and whether a decorated Ukrainian-American combat veteran is trustworthy.

I’ll get to why the second point is bosh in a minute. Meanwhile, there is a third area of focus that’s not getting the attention it deserves. One of the reasons Vindman came forward against the wishes of the White House was because he was worried about the president and his allies outside of government working to establish a “false narrative” about what happened in 2016 to undermine the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

That “false narrative” was about Ukraine. Vindman believed, per the Times, that it was “counter to the consensus view of American national security officials, and harmful to United States interests.” Moreover: “Vindman was concerned as he discovered that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was leading an effort to prod Kiev to investigate Mr. Biden’s son, and to discredit efforts to investigate Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business dealings in Ukraine.”

This false narrative is something we have been seeing a lot lately. It’s what the Washington press corps keeps referring to as a “conspiracy theory.” But as the Editorial Board has regularly noted, there’s conspiracy theory that goes nowhere and there’s conspiracy theory that rulers use to supplant the truth, paralyze public opinion, and dominate the minds of those they rule. Trump is not engaging in conspiracy theory as much as making war against the truth so nothing is left but loyalty to The Leader.

What is the false narrative? That it was the Ukrainians who attacked our sovereignty in 2016, not the Russians, and that it was the Democrats, including Joe Biden and everyone in the Obama administration, not Paul Manafort and others on Trump’s campaign, who conspired with foreign leaders to undermine the will of the people. As a result, Donald Trump lost the popular vote, and few people came to celebrate his inauguration. He is the original victim and ultimate hero of this false narrative.

Where did this false narrative come from? Well, the whistleblower knew. He or she cited a series of interviews and columns in The Hill conducted and written by American journalist John Solomon. The subject of the interviews and a source for Solomon’s columns was Yuriy Lutsenko, the former top prosecutor in Ukraine.

Lutsenko told Solomon, per the whistleblower complaint, that unnamed “officials” had evidence that Ukraine’s government “interfered” in the 2016 US election in collaboration with the Democratic National Committee; that Barack Obama’s ambassador to Ukraine obstructed corruption cases by providing a “do not prosecute” list; that Obama blocked Ukrainian prosecutors from delivering “evidence” to America about the 2016 election; and that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine’s former president to fire the prosecutor investigating the energy company that Biden’s son worked for.

Sound familiar? It should. This is the “conspiracy theory” the president keeps talking about, and it’s the “conspiracy theory” that has gripped Trump’s media allies and pretty much the whole of the Republican Party. It is, in other words, a big lie akin to Obama being a secret Muslim and tax cuts fueling economic growth. It is a big lie that would have gotten bigger had not patriots like Alex Vindman said enough is enough.

One last question. How did Solomon find Lutsenko? Hold on to your butts.

Solomon’s attorneys connected them. His attorneys are Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. DiGenova and Toensing appear regularly on Fox News, echoing Trump’s false narrative. DiGenova and Toensing also represent Dmitry Firtash. Firtash is a Ukrainian oligarch—that is, a mobster—who’s fighting extradition to the US.

Now, Firtash wanted to get Trump’s attention probably to get out of the conspiracy charges against him. So he dug up dirt on Joe Biden! His associates cajoled a statement out of Ukraine’s former top prosecutor saying Biden “tried in 2016 to sway Ukrainian politics to help his son.” That, according to Bloomberg News, got Giuliani’s attention. Giuliani, of course, is Trump’s attorney. Giuliani also did business with Lev Parnas.

OK, so Lev Parnas worked for DiGenova and Toensing’s law firm. He arranged the interviews between Yuriy Lutsenko and The Hill’s John Solomon, according to documents reviewed by Pro Publica. (Indeed, Parnas watched the interview between them; he was later arrested on federal charges of campaign finance fraud.) From there, you have the creation of the “false narrative” that Alex Vindman said hurts America. Meanwhile, Lutsenko has recanted, saying everything he told Solomon was bogus.

I told you to hold on to your butts.

There’s more to this, more layers, but I won’t burden you with them. For now, the focus shouldn’t be on Vindman’s loyalty. The focus should be on the fact that he came forward, risking his reputation and even his life, to say the president seems to be parting ways with America. In one direction awaits the truth. In the other, lies.