Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hints of violence and retaliation fill the air after Vindman deposition in Trump inquiry, but as targets of right-wing attacks for years, that is no surprise to us

Alexander Vindman

Leading Democrats in the Trump impeachment inquiry said after yesterday's testimony from a top Ukraine expert that they feared Republicans were seeking to reveal a whistleblower's identity so they could "punish" him and perhaps even jeopardize his safety.

The statements might be shocking to many Americans, like something you might expect to hear in a third-world country. But they hold little shock value here at Legal Schnauzer because my wife, Carol, and I have been under attack from right-wingers for at least 12 years -- all because I've dared to report on judicial and political corruption in Alabama and beyond. We've been targeted with loss of our jobs, theft of our home (via a wrongful foreclosure), financial devastation, use of law enforcement for physical violence, and much more.

Roger Shuler mugshot after "arrest for blogging"
In October 2013, deputies beat me up inside our Birmingham home, doused me with pepper spray (with an officer threatening to break my arm), and dragged me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay -- apparently the only journalist in U.S. history to be incarcerated because of a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction that has been unlawful under more than 230 years of First Amendment law, without even the slightest hint of criminal allegations on my part. Nope, I reported accurately on the relationship between GOP thug Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke -- my journalism, as a matter of law, never has been proven in court to be false or defamatory -- and that's enough to earn you the brown-shirt treatment in the Alabama that produced a racist U.S. senator like Jeff Sessions, who is aligned with many of our attackers.

In September 2015, after we were forced to move to my home state of Missouri, deputies conducted an unlawful eviction on our apartment, pointed an assault rifle at my head, and manhandled Carol so viciously that they broke her left arm (shattered it, really, above the elbow), leaving her with a comminuted fracture (a break into three or more fragments) that required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery and involved complications that could have put her life at risk.

As you can see, the use of government force to "punish" someone is not new to us. We have been on the front line for that -- all because of my role and history as a journalist, which is much like that of a whistleblower. This is from an NBC News report about yesterday's 10-hour testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:

Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House.

The closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators lasted more than 10 hours.

Once it concluded, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters that he hopes Vindman's example of patriotism "will be emulated by others."

Schiff said that he was "deeply appalled" by attacks made against Vindman on Fox News Tuesday night.

"The suggestion that because he's of Ukrainian origin, that he has some dual royalty...this purple heart recipient deserved better than that scandalous attack," Schiff said.

Schiff should not be surprised that conservatives, when they feel threatened, are prone to attack honest Americans in a vicious manner. Our legal woes started in a December 1999 when a Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama employee named Mike McGarity -- with an extensive criminal record -- moved in next door to us and promptly tried to take over our yard.That grew into attacks from legal and political elites -- probably because Dax Swatek, son of McGarity lawyer Bill Swatek, has ties to political luminaries such as Bill Canary (former head of the Business Council of Alabama, with connections to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and Karl Rove. The first sign of such an attack probably came in 2008 (after I had started this blog in July 2007) when I was cheated out of my job at UAB -- where I had worked for 20 years -- because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. I don't have to guess that I was fired because of my reporting (on my own time, with my own resources) on the Siegelman matter. A UAB HR employee named Anita Bonasera told me that's why I was targeted, and I recorded the conversation. (See video at the end of this post.)

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm.
Roughly one year later, Carol was cheated out of her job at Infinity Insurance, and that greased the skids for our downhill slide on the economic ladder. That was in 2009, and little did we imagine the amount of violence that lay in our future.

Comments after yesterday's Vindman deposition, strongly hinted at potential violence and retaliation. From NBC News:

Regarding reported attempts by GOP lawmakers to get Vindman to reveal the whistleblower's identity, Schiff said that Trump would love to "punish" the whistleblower. He also said the president's comments and actions have "jeopardized the whistleblower's safety."

"The President's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistleblower. Our committee will not be a part of that. We will not stand for that," he said. "They have the right to remain anonymous. They certainly should not be subject to these kind of vicious attacks and other words and actions that threaten their safety for doing their patriotic duty," he said about whistleblowers.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) added to those concerns:

Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower.

"What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said.

"They've been unsuccessful," she added.

Press reports described a "tense moment" between one Democrat and one Republican. From NBC News:
Leaving the deposition, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said that he was concerned that Republicans in the room were trying to out the identity of the whistleblower, which caused a tense moment between Swalwell and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

"My concern inside the room is that you know there, there’s an intent to out the whistleblower, and you know risk that person's life which is why we're trying to protect them," he said. "And that's what the quote, unquote tense moment was about."

Americans should not be surprised at anything Trump allies might pull in the near future. We know, from firsthand experience, that there is no level to which Republican thugs will not stoop when they feel threatened.

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