Conservative columnist tears apart 4 popular defenses of Trump's Ukraine bribery

Conservative columnist tears apart 4 popular defenses of Trump's Ukraine bribery
Rep. Jim Jordan, ABC's "This Week" Screengrab

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have circulated a memo outlining four talking points to use in defense of President Donald Trump during the impeachment inquiry. Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, a Never Trump conservative, isn’t impressed with any of them — and she tears them apart, one by one, in a blistering column published on Tuesday.

One of the four pro-Trump talking points is that the summary of Trump’s July 25 phone conservation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure.” And Rubin finds that defense ludicrous, writing, “The president plainly said that he needed ‘a favor though,’ a clear indication that aid was conditional on investigation of the Bidens. Moreover, for those listening in on the call, the meaning was plain.”

Another one of the talking points is that Trump and Zelensky have both said there was “no pressure.” Rubin explains, “As for the ‘pressure,’ Trump’s view is irrelevant, as is Zelensky’s effort to avoid Trump’s wrath by dismissing the pressure. Moreover, the degree of ‘pressure’ might be relevant to a criminal charge of extortion, but we are concerned with solicitation of a bribe — a personal ‘deliverable’ in the form of opposition research concocted to smear former Vice President Joe Biden — and a violation of Trump’s oath of office.”

She then moves on to address the talking point that the Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance for Ukraine when Trump and Zelensky spoke on the phone on July 25. That claim, Rubin argues, is the “weakest leg of this defense and has already been debunked.”

Rubin observes, “We know from the testimony of Catherine Croft, a State Department expert on Ukraine, that its leaders ‘found out very early on’ that the funds had been frozen — a decision the Office of Management and Budget made at Trump’s behest and circulated to other government officials on July 18.”

The final talking point is that security assistance to Ukraine occurred in September 2019 without an investigation of the Bidens ever taking place. And Rubin stresses, “The fact that aid eventually went to Ukraine because the whole incident was coming to light in the media is not a defense for anything. Attempted murder is still a crime; soliciting a bribe does not mean the bribe worked.”

Rubin wraps up her column by emphasizing that the four talking points do nothing to discredit the pro-impeachment arguments of House Democrats.

“The president got caught soliciting a bribe and then tried to obstruct Congress and intimidate witnesses,” Rubin asserts. “Republicans are going to have to come up with much better rationales for sparing the president if they want to pass the straight-face test.”

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