Trump’s False Impeachment Defenses Are Easily Dismantled

Trump and the GOP have chosen dishonest counter-arguments to the House impeachment inquiry rather than trying to defend the substance of Trump's conduct.
President Donald J. Trump speaks with members of the press at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Chicago. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump speaks with members of the press at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Chicago. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Updated November 11, 2019

There is no credible defense of President Trump’s corrupt effort to extort Ukraine into investigating his political targets. Everyone knows this, including the President and his allies. As the impeachment inquiry ramps up, and public opinion turns against them, Trump and the Republican Party have leaned on their favorite tactic: disinformation.

There are of course the paper-thin lies like the claim that impeachment is “unconstitutional,” even though it’s the definition of constitutional. But the true core of President Trump’s impeachment counter-messaging comes down to these 5 cylinders of gaslighting: claiming there was nothing wrong with the July 25th Ukraine call, claiming there is no quid pro quo, attacking the House impeachment process, smearing witnesses or distorting their testimony, and claiming Democrats are only focused on impeachment.

Let’s debunk these, shall we?

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The Ukraine Call Was Illegal Even Without A Quid Pro Quo

President Trump has been repeatedly saying that his July 25th call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was “perfect” and has called on Americans to “read the transcript.” Well, on September 25th, the White House released 5 pages of non-verbatim notes memorializing President Trump’s call with President Zelensky, and Americans did read it. The call was more damning than many expected.

In a nutshell, President Trump asked for “a favor though” after President Zelensky broached U.S. military aid. That favor was for Ukraine to investigate a conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 election and the Bidens. President Trump asked President Zelensky to coordinate with his attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.

The same day the transcript memo was released, President Trump asked President Zelensky at the UN General Assembly, on camera, to investigate Biden. The following day, the whistleblower complaint was released that accurately depicted the Ukraine call and a subsequent effort to hide the transcript. President Trump has said the whistleblower complaint was wrong over 30 times in the past 4 weeks, but, in fact, it has been corroborated, including by his own administration.

The solicitation of foreign election assistance alone is illegal according to federal election law. Ellen L Weintraub, the Chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), pointed this out in June:

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American people and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election.”

Now, that call certainly demonstrated an implicit quid pro quo but the illegal request for Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on President Trump’s behalf was illegal and impeachable in its own right. Unfortunately for Trump, since that transcript was released, there has been overwhelming evidence and witness testimony that confirms there was indeed a months-long quid pro quo/extortion campaign of Ukraine.

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There Was A Quid Pro Quo

President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly - September 25, 2019 (Source: The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly – September 25, 2019 (Source: The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

There have been numerous reports that showcased how Ukraine’s military aid was withheld specifically to pressure them to pursue investigations President Trump requested. There was also Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission of the quid pro quo in the White House Briefing Room, which he later walked back. But the most damning evidence thus fas has come from Ambassador Bill Taylor’s testimony and the subsequent witnesses who corroborated it.

On October 22, Taylor told impeachment investigators that a White House meeting and military aid was withheld in an effort to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election. Taylor said that the decision to withhold the aid, and the reluctance to have a White House meeting, was directly from President Trump. Taylor also alleged the quid pro quo was explicitly relayed to Ukrainian officials by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

National Security Official Tim Morrison confirmed the substance of Taylor’s testimony in his opening statement to House investigators this week. National Security Official Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, who was also on the July 25th phone call, confirmed that Ambassador Sondland relayed this quid pro quo to Ukrainian officials in a meeting. Vindman testified:

“Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short.”

Now, Ambassador Sondland himself has confirmed in revised testimony that he did indeed relay the quid pro quo directly to Ukrainian officials.

Due to the damning nature of these testimonies, multiple witnesses have been smeared by Trump and his allies. But more on that later.

The Impeachment Process Has Been Legit

For weeks, President Trump and Republicans have called the House impeachment inquiry invalid because there hadn’t been a formal vote. They claimed House Democrats were afraid to vote on the impeachment inquiry. They’ve attacked the process and claimed House Democrats were being secretive even though the committees holding depositions of Trump officials are bipartisan. This culminated last week when House Republicans (including some who were actually on those committees) stormed a SCIF.

The important context here is that House impeachment investigators were not handed a Special Counsel report on President Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine into investigating his political targets, so they have to gather the evidence themselves. These closed-door depositions are standard practice. In spite of the fact the Trump Administration has tried to block multiple State Department witnesses, they’ve testified anyway, providing damning evidence of this corrupt effort.

The attacks on the process were already built on a shaky foundation, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) obliterated them with Thursday’s vote. The House has passed the impeachment procedure resolution by a 232-196 vote margin. Not only did it provide the procedures for open hearings, it established due process rights for President Trump. The White House wasted no time in lying about this resolution as well.

The Witnesses Have All Been Credible, Except Sondland

Fox News Anchor Laura Ingraham - October 28, 2019

Fox News Anchor Laura Ingraham – October 28, 2019

Ambassador Bill Taylor is currently the top diplomat in Ukraine representing the United States. But this hasn’t stopped President Trump from attacking Taylor and smearing his character. Trump has retweeted a tweet calling Taylor “crooked,” called him a “Never Trumper,” and claimed he… didn’t know him.

Bill Taylor has had a distinguished 50-year career of service to the U.S., from a West Point cadet, military officer, and subsequently at the State Department under both President W. Bush and Obama. He’s a nonpartisan official.

The most recent target of President Trump and the conservative media machine has been Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman. Vindman is a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran, but that hasn’t stopped Fox News hosts like Laura Ingraham from questioning his patriotism and accusing him of dual loyalty (Vindman is also Jewish). President Trump has chimed in as well:

Vindman’s credentials speak for themselves.

When it comes to Tim Morrison’s testimony, it has been a bit different. Morrison is a well-known conservative and although he corroborated Bill Taylor’s testimony, Morrison also said he felt there was nothing illegal about Trump’s Ukraine call. Conservative media and lawmakers have grasped onto that single bit of testimony and omitted the rest, declaring victory.

Meanwhile, there is one witness that actually deserves scrutiny. Ambassador Sondland appears to have lied in his testimony, as each witness contradicts his statements. Of course, this is the one witness that was most favorable to the Trump team.

House Democrats Proved They Can Walk And Chew Gum

One of the repeated arguments you’ll hear from Republicans, including from the White House, is that House Democrats are focused on impeachment instead of helping the American people. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham stated in response to the impeachment inquiry vote:

“Instead of focusing on pressing issues that impact real families, like reducing gun violence, passing the USMCA, improving healthcare, lowering prescription drug costs, securing our southern border, and modernizing our aging infrastructure, the Democrats are choosing every day to waste time on a sham impeachment—a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the President.”

Grisham failed to mention the fact Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is sitting on over 100 bills passed by the Democratic Majority in the House. The bills range from addressing gun safety, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. McConnell refused to even bring them up for a vote.

In closing, it’s pretty clear that President Trump and the GOP’s counter-arguments against impeachment don’t hold up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny.

News // Donald Trump / House Democrats / Impeachment / Nancy Pelosi / Ukraine