Fact-Checking The GOP’s 4 Main Impeachment Defenses
Today, House Democrats outlined their final case for impeaching President Donald Trump. Democratic Counsels Barry Berke and Daniel Goldman laid out a clear case that President Trump extorted Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating his political targets. Republicans, on the other hand, presented nothing but stunts and false narratives.
While this second House Judiciary impeachment hearing was framed as the Democrats’ last chance to convince the American people to support impeachment, it was actually the Republicans’ last chance to convince them out of it. Impeachment support has remained steady at around 50% and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that articles of impeachment are in the works. Given the fact Pelosi knows how to count votes better than most, you can bet she has them. Donald Trump will be the 3rd President of the United States impeached in the House of Representatives. When it happens, it will be because of his corrupt conduct and the GOP’s weak defenses, like the ones we saw today.
Aside from pushing the false Russia-created Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory and attacks on the impeachment process, House GOP Counsel Steve Castor specifically listed four key counter-arguments to the facts Democrats have outlined:
1. Castor claims the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call shows there was no “quid pro quo” or pressure.
2. Castor cites the fact President Trump and President Zelensky claim there was no pressure.
3. Castor falsely claimed that Ukraine did not know military aid was being withheld on the day of the July 25 call.
4. Castor claims that the hold on aid was released without any announcement of the probes.
I debunked all four of these defenses and more in my latest analysis for The Independent:
Castor spent time during his presentation discussing the debunked allegations against the Bidens and Russia’s Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory. Castor claimed a few Ukrainian officials spoke out and wrote an op-ed against then-candidate Trump in 2016. Those Ukrainian remarks came after Trump said he’d consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. Castor then tried to make the case that this was election interference. This is an asinine false equivalency that seeks to conflate a few outspoken Ukrainians with the top-down, Vladimir Putin-ordered, Russian hacking and spread of propaganda reaching millions of Americans.
Another line of defense from Castor was that the $391 million military aid was withheld for a good reason, and that President Trump was concerned about corruption in Ukraine generally. This is contradicted by witness testimony that indicated the aid was withheld to pressure Ukraine and reports that indicate a retroactive attempt to find a legit justification for the hold. That line of defense also runs contrary to the July 25 transcript memo where President Trump specifically asked for investigations into the Bidens and the Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory, not corruption broadly. Multiple witnesses testified that Trump was only concerned about those investigations and former White House adviser Fiona Hill testified that “corruption” was code for the Bidens.
Castor also stated that the aid was released for a good faith reason and no probes were announced. In reality, it was released on September 11 after the White House was made aware of the whistleblower complaint and two days before Zelensky was scheduled to announce the probes on CNN. Castor also claimed that Ukraine didn’t know the military aid was withheld until it was publicly reported in August. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia Laura Cooper’s testimony directly contradicted this. Cooper said that Ukrainians sent emails on July 25, the very same day as the Trump-Zelensky call, asking about the withheld aid.
Castor also claimed that there was “no pressure” on the July 25 phone call, citing President Zelensky’s public statements about feeling no pressure. First off, do you expect the victim of an extortion plot to admit they were being extorted, especially if they’re still at the whim of the perpetrator? The pressure was clearly implicit on the call since it came in the context of Ambassador Gordon Sondland repeatedly relaying the quid pro quo directly to Ukrainian officials. Also, Ukraine is a country that is dependent on aid from the US. As Lt Col Alexander Vindman testified, when the President asks a country like Ukraine for a “favor,” it’s actually a demand. It’s important to note Zelensky still has not received a White House meeting.
All Republicans have left to grasp on are straws. House Republicans are handing Senate Republicans a tough case to defend. The Senate will likely acquit President Trump, but it will surely be hard for vulnerable purple state GOP Senators to defend the acquittal vote to their constituents.Looking to make a difference? Consider signing one of these sponsored petitions: