The nonpartisan career officials who blew the whistle on President Donald Trump and testified against him are Time magazine’s 2019 “Guardians of the Year.”
For more than two months, the magazine said, the president “attacked the public servants as ‘traitors’ and ‘human scum.'” And in September, at the US Mission to the United Nations, he “suggested the proper response to the whistle-blower’s complaint was the punishment historically reserved for ‘spies’ and for ‘treason’: the death penalty.”
The majority of concerns these officials raised were buried by political forces higher up in the hierarchy. Still, when Congress called on them to testify — with the exception of the whistleblower, who has remained anonymous amid concerns for their safety — they stepped forward to break their silence in direct defiance of the White House’s orders.
“For each, the decision to step forward came at a cost,” Time said, adding: “And though each followed the rules and used the proper channels, some have found themselves vilified online, their decades of government service impugned and their background questioned. Several have been assailed publicly by the President.”
Vindman in particular was singled out for his background as an immigrant. The Purple Heart recipient, whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a toddler, found himself the target of attacks from Trump’s conservative allies who suggested that because Vindman was an immigrant he was disloyal to the US.
Yovanovitch, meanwhile, was attacked by Trump while she was in the middle of testifying. After Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she felt threatened by Trump’s comments about her in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the president used Twitter to smear Yovanovitch’s decades of foreign service, an action she described as “very intimidating.”
Trump has slammed others who testified against him, like Taylor, Sandy, and Hill, as “never Trumpers” and “radical unelected bureaucrats,” characterizations they have all disputed while stressing that they were not there to advocate any particular outcome but to be fact witnesses.
The whistleblower, without whom Congress and the public might never have learned of Trump’s scheme, has been the subject of some of the most virulent attacks from Trump and his loyalists, who have accused the person of treason and espionage, both of which are punishable by death.
Time said that initially none of the people named in its article would speak to it for fear of retribution and to protect their and their families’ safety. Eventually, as some agreed to share their experiences with the magazine, they “became emotional when speaking about what they described as the most difficult weeks of their careers.”
Since the officials testified, Congress has moved ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump. House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming and uncontested,” adding that his actions threatened US national security and undermined the country’s interests in favor of personally benefiting Trump.
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