Former National Security Official Says Impeachment Drama Distracts White House, As International Challenges Grow

“Past White Houses have their internal leaks and feuds, of course, but it’s the public turning in on itself that is remarkable.”

By Rhonda FanningNovember 22, 2019 11:31 am

The House Intelligence Committee has completed a week of public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The next step is a referral to the House Judiciary Committee, which will vote whether to recommend impeachment to the full House. Testimony during this week’s hearings revealed conflicts between career national security professionals and the president.

William Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affair. He was also senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. The New York Times quoted Inboden in a story this week; he said the White House is “cannibalizing itself.” He says he meant it “almost literally.”

As staffers from the National Security Council and the State Department have testified to what they saw and heard, the president’s press spokespeople have disparaged their White House colleagues, Inboden says.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Inboden says. “Past White Houses have their internal leaks and feuds, of course, but it’s the public turning in on itself that is remarkable.”

The internal disputes come at a time of turmoil around the world, Inboden says. Protests in Hong Kong, conflict between Japan and South Korea and unrest in Iran and Iraq are a few matters that challenge the United States and the Trump administration when it comes to foreign policy.

“The people who are tasked with standing in the gap and watching that and coming up with policies are, instead, having to testify before Congress, [and] dealing with attacks from their fellow colleagues within the White House.”

Inboden says he doesn’t know how the impeachment inquiry will be resolved, but he guesses the House will vote to impeach Trump, with the Senate not agreeing to remove him from office.

Inboden says White House staffers who testified before House members this week believed they were upholding the president’s stated policy of countering Russian aggression and supporting Ukraine.

“When you’ve got these professional staff in the White House believing they’re carrying out this policy, and then all of a sudden they’re starting to see this weird freelancing from Rudy Giuliani or Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland, and hearing about these side deals … that’s when they threw the flag and said, Wait a minute. This is not what we’re supposed to be doing.”


Written by Shelly Brisbin.