On Thursday, Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent took down the GOP’s latest argument for why President Donald Trump should not be impeached over the plot to extort Ukraine into getting dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden’s family.
“With the impeachment inquiry heading into its public phase, Republicans are road-testing yet another deeply absurd defense of President Trump: They are conceding that, yes, there may have been a quid pro quo, but there’s no proof Trump himself was behind it,” wrote Sargent, noting that Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland laid the foundation for this excuse by claiming to not know the source of the scheme. “Here are four facts revealing this new line to be epic nonsense.”
First, Sargent pointed out, Trump himself ordered the military aid to Ukraine suspended.
“Trump personally ordered White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to inform budget officials that the aid already been appropriated by Congress was being frozen, officials told The Post,” wrote Sargent. “Notably, officials were instructed not to share information about the freeze with lawmakers. What’s more, CNN reported that as late as Aug. 30, Trump was seriously considering freezing the aid permanently, even though the Pentagon had recommended against it.”
Second, Sargent wrote, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani already admitted the president’s role.
“Giuliani confirmed this would be “very helpful to my client” — that he was doing it to personally benefit Trump,” wrote Sargent. “Giuliani subsequently confirmed Trump was directing the whole scheme, saying: ‘I don’t do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client.'”
Third, continued Sargent, the text messages show Sondland knew exactly what was being politically demanded of Ukraine.
“Those texts between Sondland and other ambassadors and Ukrainian officials show him negotiating, at the direction of Giuliani and the White House, for Ukraine’s ‘anti-corruption statement’ to mention both the 2016 Ukraine-hack conspiracy theory and Burisma, the company where Biden’s son worked that’s central to a fabricated tale of Biden corruption,” wrote Sargent. “In other words, it had to be a public statement specifically absolving Russia of electoral sabotage and implicating Biden in fake corruption. As noted, Giuliani, acting at Trump’s direction, publicly said this for months.”
Fourth, Sargent wrote, the message to the Ukrainian president about military aid came directly from Vice President Mike Pence.
“On Sept. 1, the same day Sondland informed a top Zelensky aide that the military aid was conditional, Vice President Pence met with Zelensky,” wrote Sargent. “Zelensky raised the withheld aid with Pence. And as The Post reports, Pence informed Zelensky that the administration was ‘still looking at’ the aid, i.e., it was on hold. Pence also told Zelensky he needed to do more to fight ‘corruption.’ But we now know from the revelations cited above that what Trump and Giuliani actually wanted on the ‘corruption’ front was a statement directly implicating the 2016 conspiracy theory and Biden.”
“Trump suspended the military aid. Trump’s vice president delivered the message about that suspended aid directly to Zelensky. Giuliani and Trump spent months pressuring Ukraine to carry out Trump’s sordid political scheme to absolve Russia and target Biden. Trump’s key ringleader Sondland, acting at the direction of Trump and Giuliani throughout, directly told Ukraine that getting the aid was conditional on bringing that scheme to fruition,” concluded Sargent. “Incredibly, Trump’s spinners are now trying to argue that Sondland suddenly freelanced that last piece of the plot — the extortion piece — entirely on his own.”
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