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Republican Defenses on Impeachment – And Why they are Wrong

Democrats are expected to present two articles of impeachment in the House tomorrow morning. The Republican arguments against them have remained constant and remained wrong. We aren’t likely to see any of these change during the senate trial so here I’ll be addressing their main arguments. The first four were explicitly labeled as their main defenses during the hearings today.

  • The transcript shows “no quid pro quo.” Meaningless. Even if the president had not extorted the announcement of investigations from Zelensky, merely asking him to make them to help Trump in the elections is still an impeachable offense. Impeachment is not and has never been predicated on a “quid pro quo” which is a legally meaningless phrase. The issue here is the corrupt intent which exists whether or not an exchange was involved. But the claim is a farce on its face as well. Multiple people involved in the process have testified Ukraine was told aid and a White House meeting were contingent on the announcement of an investigation. The Republican argument therefore must be that somehow everyone involved invented the idea that Trump wanted the exchange despite him never saying that. It defies logic. (The phone call Sondland testified about where Trump told him “I want no quid pro quo” does not appear to have ever taken place.)
  • There was no pressure on Zelensky. To show this, Republicans keep saying that Zelensky said he didn’t feel pressured. They’ve exclaimed, “Do you think Zelensky is lying?” Yes. Of course he is. Over 10,000 Ukrainians have died due to Putin’s invasion. They desperately need the help of the United States. The president has once already threatened to pull their military aid if Zelensky did not help him. This puts Zelensky in the unfortunate position of having to lie when asked about what happened. The alternative is telling the truth, and risking the further degradation of the United States – Ukraine relationship.
  • Ukraine did not know the aid was being delayed. This is quite simply a lie. Multiple people have testified the Ukrainian government was aware of the delay almost immediately. But to believe this to be true, you must believe Ukraine would not notice a $400+ million aid package had not been sent.
  • Ukraine never announced investigations. This is technically true but incredibly misleading. Zelensky agreed to make the announcements Trump wanted, using a script provided to him by Rudy Giuliani. The interview was scheduled, on the network Trump wanted the announcements made. The reason it did not take place is that the scheme became public knowledge. Trump didn’t succeed in getting Zelensky to announce investigations because he got caught, not because he wasn’t trying to.
  • Trump is incredibly concerned about foreign corruption. In the two calls with Zelensky, Trump does not mention the word corruption a single time, despite the State Department preparing talking points for him which did. When asked what other instances of foreign corruption he’s been concerned about, Trump has been unable to name a single example nor have any of his Republican defenders.
  • Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections. On his second call to Zelensky, Trump asked for an investigation into “the server” and said that Ukraine had it. This conspiracy theory is as follows: Russia did not hack the DNC. Seth Rich leaked the DNC emails to Wikileaks. Hillary Clinton had Rich assassinated over this. The DNC gave “the server” to Crowdstrike, which was founded by a Ukrainian. Crowdstrike then hid “the server” in Ukraine. This conspiracy theory has been pushed by Russian intelligence in order to clear their guilt. The DNC did not have one server storing their email system. It was over 100. Examining the physical drives in such situations is completely useless. Clinton did not assassinate Seth Rich. Crowdstrike was not founded by a Ukrainian. Russia hacked the DNC email system. The conspiracy theory is easily disproved. Our president believes it and several Republicans have lended it credibility by asking about Crowdstrike hiding “the server.” Slightly less nefarious but no less wrong is the Republican claim that Ukraine interfered in the election by… expressing opinions. During the campaign, Trump said it was more or less ok that Putin invaded Crimea and should just keep it. Some Ukrainian politicians, from the country Putin invaded, expressed concern that a potential US president was endorsing an invasion of their country. The Republicans are ludicrously counting those opinions as “interference.”
  • It was valid to ask Ukraine to investigate Biden’s involvement with Burisma since Biden called on Viktor Shokin to be fired for investigating Burisma. Republicans have this backwards. Aside from the fact that the entire international community agreed Shokin was corrupt, Shokin was not fired for investigating Burisma. He was fired for not investigating Burisma aggressively enough.
  • It makes sense to make sure Ukraine would not use the military aid in a corrupt manner. It does. That’s why a system in place which signed off on anti-corruption efforts in countries given military aid. Ukraine was cleared on this very matter months before Mulvaney put a hold on the aid. But secondly, this is not the first aid package given to Ukraine. In fact, the United States has sent Ukraine aid packages every year Trump has been in office. The concern over corruption did not take place until after Joe Biden announced his candidacy.
  • It doesn’t make sense to impeach the president when the economy is good. I don’t know where to begin addressing how ridiculous this argument is, but wanted to include it as several Republicans have made it.
  • You can’t impeach someone without violating a law. This is simply not true. There are numerous counterexamples. It also makes no sense as there were not any federal crimes when the Constitution was adopted.
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