Republican Impeachment Defense of Trump Is Ridiculous - Rolling Stone
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The Most Ridiculous Ways the GOP Tried to Defend Trump in Its Impeachment Report

Reality was not taken into consideration

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes takes a drink during the committee's hearing of Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald J. Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 15 November 2019. This is the second public hearing of the inquiry, which is being led by three congressional committees and was launched following a whistleblower's complaint that alleges US President Donald J. Trump requested help from the President of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.Former US ambassador to Ukraine testifies before House Intelligence Committee, Washington, USA - 15 Nov 2019

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes takes a drink during the committee's hearing of Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.


On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a damning 300-page report detailing President Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine into investigating his political opponents. The report was based on a mountain of evidence accumulated over the course of several hearings that featured an array of witnesses with knowledge of the administration’s actions.

Republicans on the committee heard the same testimony, but the report they released a few hours earlier came to a slightly different conclusion: that Trump is totally and completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever. “The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat [sic] allegations and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” reads their 123-page assessment of what the committee gathered since the inquiry began over two months ago.

As was the case throughout their recognized time during the hearings and subsequent appearances on cable news, Intelligence Committee Republicans relied on flimsy — at times comically so — defenses of the president in the report they submitted Tuesday.

Here are some of the lowlights:

Security aid to Ukraine and a White House invitation to President Volodymyr Zelesnky were withheld out of concerns over corruption

Trump didn’t do anything wrong, of course. Whatever he did do — which, again, was fine — was justified because of his “deep-seated, reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine.
“The President’s initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent,” the report read. “Ultimately, President Zelensky took decisive action demonstrating his commitment to promoting reform … President Trump then released security assistance to Ukraine and met with President Zelensky in September 2019 — all without Ukraine taking any action to investigate President Trump’s political rival.”
If it were true that the president was holding up military aid and a White House invitation out of concerns over corruption, it’s unclear why this wasn’t relayed to any of the involved diplomats, who testified they had no idea why the aid was suspended [at least not until far later]. It’s also quite the coincidence that the conspiracy-theory-based corruption investigations the president wanted Ukraine to launch just so happened to benefit him politically.

There was no quid pro quo

Several witnesses testified that a quid pro quo was in place between the Trump administration and Ukraine. One such witness was Trump donor-turned-E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was in direct contact with Trump explained to the Intelligence Committee in no uncertain terms that a tit-for-tat agreement was in place. “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: ‘Was there a quid pro quo?’” Sondland testified last month. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Despite the mountain of evidence, at no point in their report did Intelligence Committee Republicans acknowledge that a White House invitation for Zelensky, or the release of the military aid, was conditional upon Zelensky announcing investigations.

It wasn’t clear what investigation Trump was referring to in his July 26th call with Sondland

A day after his now-infamous July 25th call with Zelensky, Trump spoke to Sondland by phone about an “investigation.” Present for this conversation was David Holmes, a State Department official who testified last month that Trump only cared about the Biden investigation. “Of course the president is pressing for a Biden investigation … it was obvious what the president was pressing for,” he told the committee.

Sondland testified that he couldn’t quite remember what he said on the call, which according to Republicans means the “investigation” could have referred to something other than an investigation into the Bidens. Of course, the “something other” here would have to have been the roundly debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, which Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate a day earlier.

The whistleblower’s complaint misrepresented Trump’s July 25th call with Zelenksy

Concern over the substance of the July 25th was first detailed in the whistleblower complaint filed two weeks after the call was made. The report has been largely corroborated, but Republicans are keying on its suggestion that Trump “pressured’ Zelensky into launching investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. Though Trump did not explicitly say, “I am pressuring you to investigate my political opponent, Joe Biden,” the partial readout released by the White House makes this clear, as Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) explained prior to the hearings.

Trump says he’s innocent, so…

Yes, “criminal says he’s not a criminal” is what it’s come to for Republicans grasping for ways to defend the president. There’s even an entire section in the report titled: President Trump has publicly and repeatedly stated that he did not Pressure President Zelensky to investigate his political rival.

“There was no pressure,” the report quotes Trump as saying. “And you know there was—and, by the way, you know there was no pressure. All you have to do is see it, what went on in the call.”

The summary of the July 25th call released by the White House reveals the president to have asked for a “favor, though” after Zelensky mentioned military aid. Trump went on to detail the investigations he wanted Ukraine to launch.


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