If there were talking points sent around Monday evening, following the news that a White House official was set to tell Congress he raised concerns about the president’s infamous Ukraine call, then President Donald Trump’s top cable-news boosters sure seem to have gotten them.
Almost immediately after it was reported Monday night that national security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will testify that he heard Trump’s now-infamous July call with the Ukrainian president and twice raised concerns to his superiors, conservative pundits began accusing him of dual loyalty.
Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran who emigrated from Ukraine as a child, these right-wing talkers said, is not sufficiently loyal to the United States and may even be a double agent for his homeland.
On her Monday evening Fox News show, host Laura Ingraham and her guest John Yoo, the Bush-era “Torture Memos” author, focused on the fact that Vindman is a Ukrainian-American immigrant. Yoo even accused Vindman of being a spy.
“He’s a decorated colonel, by the way, in the Iraq War,” declared Ingraham, a leading Trump booster on cable-news primetime. “But because Colonel Vindman emigrated from Ukraine along with his family when he was a child and is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, Ukrainian officials sought advice from him about how to deal with Mr. Giuliani, though they typically communicated in English.”
“Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest, and usually, they spoke in English,” she continued. “Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?”
Yoo replied, “You know, some people might call that espionage.”
Despite the immediate online backlash that both Yoo and Ingraham received for openly suggesting that Vindman is a Ukrainian spy, the Trump-friendly talking points were recycled yet again by pro-Trump cable stars on Tuesday morning.
On Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning show, co-host Brian Kilmeade repeatedly claimed that Vindman came “from the Soviet Union” while asserting the Iraq War veteran’s sympathies lie with Kyiv.
“So he’s got a Purple Heart and he is from the Soviet Union,” the Fox star said. “He immigrated here and has an affinity toward the Ukrainian people.”
“We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, immigrated with his family, young,” he added. “He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine.”
Not to be outdone, former GOP congressman-turned-CNN pundit Sean Duffy dutifully launched a series of attacks on Vindman’s loyalty.
“It seems very clear that [Vindman] is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense,” the former MTV reality star said. “I don’t know about his concern [for] American policy, but his main mission was to make sure the Ukraine got those weapons. I understand it: We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from. Like me, I’m sure that Vindman has the same affinity.”
Duffy, who since joining CNN last week has repeatedly used his new platform to regurgitate conspiratorial defenses of Trump, went on to suggest Vindman’s loyalties lie with Ukraine because “he speaks Ukrainian, he came from the country, and he wants to make sure they’re safe and free.”
The president, meanwhile, hadn’t yet embraced this line of attack from his loyal media defenders as of publication but did blast Vindman for being an alleged “Never Trumper” who was simply misinterpreting the president’s “perfectly appropriate phone call.”
Last week, the president insisted that all “Never Trumper Republicans” were “human scum” and “more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats.”
Some Republicans have pushed back on the burgeoning right-wing narrative about Vindman, however. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Tuesday called upon her fellow conservatives to stop questioning Vindman’s loyalty, calling it “shameful.”