No one expected congressional Republicans to lay down their swords in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. It has long been clear they intend to defend this president to the end, regardless of the facts. But a new congressional GOP report on impeachment isn’t so much a defense as an incoherent rant — part name-calling, part conspiracy-mongering, part non sequitur — that ultimately fails to address the most damning evidence against Trump.
Since this exercise in bluster apparently is the GOP defense blueprint going forward, it’s worth reviewing the facts. The following is undisputed:
• Congress authorized almost $400 million in military aide to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. But the Trump administration put a hold on that aid without explanation.
• In a July 25 phone call with Trump, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pressed him about his country’s need for military aid. According to the official White House summary of the conversation, Trump responded with, “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
• Trump then asked that Ukraine launch two investigations: One into a fantasy promoted by the Kremlin that says Ukraine interfered with America’s 2016 elections to help the Democrats — rather than the fact (as established by U.S. intelligence) that Russia interfered to help Trump. Trump also asked Zelenskiy for a second investigation into the shady Ukraine business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.
No rational reading of these facts can ignore the possibility that the president of the United States withheld foreign aid to extort an ally, potentially bolstering a top U.S. foe, in an effort to help himself politically against Biden, the Democrat most likely to face him in the 2020 election. Determining whether those facts actually prove such a scheme — and, if so, whether it’s an impeachable offense — are what the congressional proceedings are about.
But the 123-page GOP report released Monday doesn’t engage those questions in good faith.
Instead, it dismisses the sworn testimony of senior diplomats as “assumptions” from “unelected bureaucrats.” It claims, in defiance of the White House’s own documentation, that the July 25 phone call “shows no quid pro quo.” It insists, without irony, that all Trump cared about was addressing corruption in general when he pushed for two hyper-specific investigations politically advantageous to himself.
And it repeatedly derides the proceedings as an attempt to undo the 2016 election — implying throughout that the very concept of impeachment is a rogue operation rather than a process specifically laid out in the Constitution.
The party that once tried to remove a president for lying about sex is now chiding Democrats for investigating what looks an awful lot like a presidential betrayal of America’s security for the sake of his reelection. And if this report is any indication, the chiding appears to be their primary defense strategy. Good luck with that.