Here's why pro-Trump House Republicans’ anti-impeachment arguments are ‘weak and fundamentally unpersuasive’: civil liberties journalist

Here's why pro-Trump House Republicans’ anti-impeachment arguments are ‘weak and fundamentally unpersuasive’: civil liberties journalist
PBS NewsHour

This Wednesday, December 18, two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — are expected to come up for a full vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Few, if any, House Republicans are likely to vote to impeach Trump, and The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explains in a December 17 article why the arguments that House Republicans have been making in Trump’s favor are “weak and fundamentally unpersuasive.”

House Republicans have been insisting that Trump did nothing wrong on July 25, when he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. According to leading House Democrats, Trump committed an abuse of power by making that investigation a condition of military aid to Ukraine.

Friedersdorf notes that one GOP defense of Trump is that the rough transcript of that July 25 conversation “shows no conditionality.” But in fact, Friedersdorf stresses, that transcript “corroborates rather than undercuts the allegation that Trump was pressuring Ukraine’s leader.”

Another defense is that Zelensky didn’t know that military aid to Ukraine was on hold until late August. However, Friedersdorf observes that Zelensky “must curry favor with the White House out of geopolitical necessity” and “has a powerful motive to obfuscate in accordance with Trump’s wishes.”

A third defense, Friedersdorf explains, is that Trump and Zelensky have said that there was no pressure. But Trump, the journalist points out, “is a serial liar even when not facing impeachment.”

A fourth defense is that funds for military aid were eventually released. But Trump, according to Friedersdorf, “has no credible alternative account of why the funds were ever delayed” in the first place.

“While the impeachment inquiry has at times strayed into policy and procedural critiques, the core case against Trump is not about either,” Friedersdorf observes. “There is no partisan divide about whether Ukraine should pursue anti-corruption, as the Obama Administration encouraged, or whether it ought to receive U.S. military aid that Congress had already approved. Crucially, Democrats insist that Trump acted with a corrupt motive to benefit himself. The Republican position is not that it’s fine for presidents to pressure foreign governments to help their chances in U.S. elections, but that Trump didn’t do that.”

House Republicans have questioned whether asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens is even relevant to the 2020 election. But such thinking, Friedersdorf asserts, is “ridiculous.”

“Trump’s request is not ‘remote’ from the 2020 election,” Friedersdorf writes. “What incumbent wouldn’t love it if his best-polling opponent were subject to headlines about a foreign corruption investigation?”

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