Trump Took 'a Wrecking Ball to American National Security' With Ukraine Scandal, Ex-National Security Council Official Warns

Tara Sonenshine, a former National Security Council and State Department official, warned on Thursday that President Donald Trump has taken "a wrecking ball to American national security" with his actions toward Ukraine.

Sonenshine made the remarks in an interview with CNN, commenting on the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry taking place in the House of Representatives against Trump. The inquiry went public for the first time on Wednesday, with acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent testifying before congressional investigators in open hearings. Taylor highlighted in his testimony that Trump used an "irregular" diplomatic channel – which involved his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland – to push Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

President Trump has taken “a wrecking ball to American national security,” ex-National Security Council Deputy Director of Communications Tara Sonenshine says, adding that “morale is dangerously low” at the State Department.

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) November 14, 2019

"We have this kind of secret, informal, irregular channel. What it added up to, was taking a wrecking ball to American national security," Sonenshine – who served as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs under President Barack Obama and as deputy director of communications for the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton – said about what has come to light thus far in the impeachment proceedings.

"Taking established procedures, that involved our security our safety, getting on phone calls, talking on open lines, this is not how you secure a nation and its people," she said. Sonenshine also warned that "morale is dangerously low" at the State Department under Trump's administration, saying that diplomats are "shaking in their boots" in the wake of the Ukraine scandal.

The impeachment inquiry against Trump centers around his efforts to pressure Ukrainian leaders to launch investigations against his domestic political rivals. The president wanted Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce that his country would open probes into unsubstantiated claims against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as into a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats worked with Ukrainians to interfere in the 2016 election.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on September 25, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

As part of that pressure campaign, Trump temporarily withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, which had been approved with significant bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats see Ukraine as a key ally against Russia, as the Eastern European nation has been involved in a civil war against Russian-backed separatist rebels since 2014. Critics of the president argue that his actions not only called on a foreign power to interfere in a U.S. elections, but also threatened national security interests.

Numerous former State Department officials have been highly critical of the Trump administration's alleged disregard for career diplomats, many whom have served for years under Republican and Democratic administrations.

"Morale is at a historic low at the State Department," Molly Montgomery, a former special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who previously worked in the Foreign Service, told CNN earlier this week. She blamed Trump's former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as the current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that their staff "have engaged in politically motivated harassment and retaliation and abusive behavior."