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Trump’s dangerous war on the National Security Council

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WASHINGTON – The impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is primarily a story about a president who appears to have weaponized foreign policy in a bid to bolster his own electoral chances. Yet it is also a story about what happens when America’s foreign policy decision-making system collapses.

For nearly three years, national security wonks have been trying to explain why the seeming minutiae of the policy process matters — how the way an administration organizes, or disorganizes, itself profoundly affects the quality, even the basic integrity, of America’s interactions with the world. With each new revelation, the Ukraine scandal is driving this point home.

The basic outline of the story seems to be as follows. Following the election of Volodymyr Zelenskiy as Ukraine’s president, Trump allegedly resolved to use U.S. diplomatic leverage — including nearly $400 million in military assistance allocated by Congress — to prod the Kiev government to investigate the business dealings of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

To oversee this outright politicization of American statecraft, the White House constructed a shadow policy apparatus. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was removed from her post ahead of schedule. Two Trump loyalists, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, pressured Ukraine’s government to give Trump what he wanted.

They used texts and WhatsApp messages to communicate outside normal channels. Sondland used his personal relationship with Trump to elbow aside the officials who would normally have been charged with handling the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.

All this left much of the national security establishment in Washington — including........

© The Japan Times