A grave matter — the future of American fashion — rests in the hands of President Trump. The foremost promoter of the drape cut, or soft shoulder suit, pioneered by Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard, is Roger Stone, who was found guilty Friday of obstructing Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and lying to Congress. If Stone heads to the hoosegow because of his Wikileaks shenanigans, then he won’t be able to wear his flamboyant A & S suits and cutaway collars, let alone maintain his fashion blog. It will be prison stripes, not pinstripes, for him as he prepares to join his former business partner Paul Manafort behind bars. So will Trump heed the pleas of Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones and pardon Stone, his chum since the 1980s?
The auguries aren’t bad. After the verdict came down, Trump engaged in a round of expansive whataboutism: ‘So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?’ Hmm. The only name missing was Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.
But Trump had already disposed of her in an ill-advised morning tweet, or so he thought. His tweet was a doozy: ‘Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.’ Somalia? Yovanovitch would have been a junior officer in her late twenties.
Trump remained livid about her appearance regardless. Asked at the White House if he was trying to intimidate Yovanovitch, he declared, ‘I want freedom of speech. It’s a political process.’ He added, ‘It’s a disgrace and an embarrassment to our nation.’ The problem is that the Republican strategy was to argue that the hearing was a dud, a snooze, nothing to see here, and so on. With his interjections, Trump livened up the proceedings and did Yovanovitch and the Democrats a solid. As former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele put it, ‘Dude! You realize she’s testifying LIVE?! Amb. Yovanovitch will respond to this tweet…yup, there it is. You just made her case of intimidation. Is no one in the room with you?’
In a sense, Trump made Yovanovitch’s contention that she was a victim of his sinister machinations for her. Unlike the establishment paragons George Kent and William B. Taylor, who had testified before her, Yovanovitch could point to a family history of fleeing communism and Nazism that had imbued her with a sense of the importance of backing freedom abroad. She made the case that after decades of service in the State Department, she was suddenly being singled out for her efforts to stymie corruption in the Ukraine. She humanized the hearing in a way that the stiff upper lips of Kent and Taylor could not. She was a woman who had risen to the top ranks of her profession, only to be tossed aside as so much useless ballast by Trump’s paladins.
Her opening statement put it bluntly: ‘How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?’ That’s what EU ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony next Wednesday may help to answer. Meanwhile, Trump can continue to ponder whether or not he should liberate Stone even as the Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors are hot on the trail of another adviser, Rudy Giuliani, for his links to Ukrainian energy projects.