John Kelly is speaking out about Donald Trump. I can’t know Kelly’s motivations, but anyone who cares about the military can contrast Trump’s threats to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Trump in the impeachment proceedings, to Trump’s pardon of scumbag war criminals, and conclude something is very wrong.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said that Vindman is blameless and was simply following the training he’d received as a soldier; migrants are “overwhelmingly good people” and “not all rapists”; and Trump’s decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden upended long-standing U.S. policy.
Vindman was rightly disturbed by Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Kelly suggested: Having seen something “questionable,” Vindman properly notified his superiors, Kelly said. Vindman, who specialized in Ukraine policy at the National Security Council at the time, was among multiple U.S. officials who listened in on the call. When subpoenaed by Congress in the House impeachment hearings, Vindman complied and told the truth, Kelly said.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the audience at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
. . . .
When Vindman heard the president tell Zelensky he wanted to see the Biden family investigated, that was tantamount to hearing “an illegal order,” Kelly said. “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”
(Kelly doesn’t say this, but there’s a very good argument that Trump’s threats to discipline Vindman further violate the Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988, which protects military members from retaliation or threatened retaliation (as Trump has clearly done) for various contacts with members of Congress, explicitly including testimony.)
Contrast the treatment of Vindman with that of lowlife cretin Eddie Gallagher:
Responding to questions from the audience, Kelly faulted Trump for intervening in the case of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was convicted last year of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter. Trump reversed a Navy decision to oust Gallagher, in a chain of events that led to the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
“The idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do,” Kelly said. “Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it.”
The audience applauded.
When a woman in the crowd said that Trump had “elevated” Gallagher, Kelly looked out at the crowd.
“Yep,” he said.
Trump is inevitably going to tell us today, or soon, how awful Kelly always was. In preparation, here is a stroll down Twitter memory lane for some more contemporaneous (but pre-criticism of Trump) opinions from Trump about Kelly:
I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction. Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2018
Thank you to General John Kelly, who is doing a fantastic job, and all of the Staff and others in the White House, for a job well done. Long hours and Fake reporting makes your job more difficult, but it is always great to WIN, and few have won more than us!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
The Fake News is at it again, this time trying to hurt one of the finest people I know, General John Kelly, by saying he will soon be…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
General John Kelly is doing a great job as Chief of Staff. I could not be happier or more impressed – and this Administration continues to..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2017
General John Kelly is doing a fantastic job as Chief of Staff. There is tremendous spirit and talent in the W.H. Don't believe the Fake News
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017