- President Donald Trump’s allies are being pushed into a corner as they struggle to defend Trump in the wake of a snowballing impeachment inquiry.
- It’s becoming more and more difficult to defend Trump in the wake of a mountain of evidence showing how Trump tried to strong-arm Ukraine into delivering political dirt on a top rival in exchange for US aid.
- Here’s a sample of their defences so far: The whistleblower complaint against Trump is invalid because it’s based on hearsay. There was no quid pro quo. This is a hoax perpetrated by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans. The impeachment inquiry is a sham. Even if there was a quid pro quo, that’s a normal part of diplomacy.
- Scroll down to read why none of these talking points hold up to scrutiny.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump did nothing wrong. It was a perfect phone call – just read the transcript. The whistleblower complaint was false and based on hearsay. There was no quid pro quo. This is a hoax perpetrated by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans. Even if Trump did something wrong, it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
That’s a sample of the various defences Trump’s allies have cycled through as congressional investigators uncover a mountain of damaging evidence about the president’s efforts to strong-arm a foreign government into delivering political dirt on a Democratic presidential frontrunner in exchange for US military aid.
Here’s a breakdown of the main talking points Trump and his congressional supporters have pushed so far, and why none of them hold up.
The whistleblower complaint that sparked an impeachment inquiry is “hearsay.”
- At the centre of the complaint is a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president during which the whistleblower said Trump abused his power and solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election.
- During the conversation, a White House memo shows Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over bogus allegations of corruption. He also asked Zelensky to help discredit the FBI’s Russia probe by looking into a conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election to help Democrats.
- It’s true that the US intelligence official who filed the complaint against Trump did not directly listen in on the call.
- But the whistleblower’s account of the conversation has been corroborated by several White House officials who participated in the call, according to the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
- It was also corroborated by a White House summary of the phone call that Trump himself chose to release in September.
- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, confirmed the details of the call to House Democrats.
Trump did nothing wrong.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on September 25: “If you’re looking for a circumstance where the president of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigated his political opponent, you’d be very disappointed. That does not exist.”
- Trump’s allies also argue there was no quid pro quo because Ukraine didn’t know about the freeze on the military aid at time of the call.
- The White House summary of the phone call does not show Trump explicitly mentioning the aid. But he reminded Zelensky that “we do a lot for Ukraine” before asking him to “do us a favour, though,” and look into the Bidens.
- Ukrainian officials also became aware of the aid freeze in early August, at the same time Trump was carrying out his pressure campaign in the country.
- Witnesses have testified that Ukrainian officials understood that the aid was contingent on Zelensky acceding to Trump’s demands.
- Specifically, they have testified that Trump’s dealings with Ukraine included an explicit quid pro quo: military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for Zelensky delivering Trump political dirt.
The real problem is Biden’s corruption.
- Trump has alleged that Biden, who was the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, urged the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company whose board employed Hunter Biden.
- In other words, Trump suggested Biden wanted a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to protect his son.
- But Biden was part of a broad effort, involving multiple countries, to get Shokin pushed out for not doing enough to root out corruption. There were also no active investigations into Burisma when Shokin was ousted in March 2016.
- Kurt Volker, the former special US representative to Ukraine, testified to House investigators that Biden was executing US policy and doing his job in pushing for Shokin to be ousted.
- Hunter reportedly made around $US50,000 per month while working for Burisma, and Republicans have also questioned what he was getting paid for.
- Though ethics watchdogs raised concerns about Hunter’s work for Burisma early on, questioning whether it could raise a conflict of interest, there’s no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity on the part of either Biden.
The impeachment inquiry is a sham because it wasn’t officially voted on.
- The House voted on a resolution last week that formalized the inquiry and set forth rules and procedures governing public hearings that will start next week.
- Even if they hadn’t voted, there’s no rule that says an impeachment inquiry is only legitimate if it’s voted on.
- A federal judge also ruled last month that the impeachment inquiry is legal and valid.
There was a quid pro quo but that’s a normal part of diplomacy.
- The acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, conceded last month that there was a quid pro quo but to “get over it,” because “we do that all the time with foreign policy.”
- But Trump wasn’t asking Zelensky for something that was in the US’s interest. He was pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart for information that would personally benefit his reelection campaign.
- That distinction, according to legal experts and national security veterans, is at the heart of allegations that Trump abused his public office for private gain.
The people testifying against the president are “Never Trumpers.”
- The most damning allegations have come from career diplomats, a military officer and foreign service officers who have served Republican and Democratic administrations.
- Key witnesses so far include Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine; Bill Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran and career diplomat who took over Yovanovitch’s position after she was ousted; Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and more.
- In fact, one of the most damaging witnesses to testify against Trump so far is one of his own loyalists: Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU. Sondland is a hotel executive who was tapped for the ambassadorship after donating $US1 million to Trump’s campaign.
‘READ THE TRANSCRIPT’
- Trump has repeatedly echoed that people should “read the transcript” on his July 25 call with Zelensky and it will reveal that it was a “perfect” and appropriate conversation.
- The summary or memo the White House released on the call is not an exact, verbatim transcript, and this characterization is misleading.
- Legal experts have also said the summary, even in its abridged form, is among the most damning pieces of evidence against Trump, because it shows him urging a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.
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