Debunking The Four Arguments In The New GOP Memo On Impeachment

11 mins read
Graphic from Impeachment HQ.

House Republicans have released a memo outlining how they intend to defend Donald Trump in the impeachment hearings. 

The following four defenses are proof that Trump can’t be defended on the merits and so laughably wrong that they must revert to rank disinformation:

GOP DEFENSE #1: “The July 25 call summary—the best evidence of the conversation—shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure.”

THE FACTS: This is false and misleading.

  • In the call transcript, Trump asks for “a favor though” in response to a request for military assistance. That favor is an investigation into his domestic political rival, Joe Biden.
  • The call summary is only one piece of a much larger body of evidence of extortion and bribery. There are at least six witnesses who agree that military assistance was being used to push Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election, including Ambassador Sondland who literally delivered one of the extortion messages to the Ukrainians.

GOP DEFENSE #2: “President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call.”

THE FACTS: While President Zelensky may have been putting on a brave face for the cameras, evidence shows the Ukrainians were in an absolute panic. 

  • Zelensky Met With Advisors On May 7 To Discuss How To Navigate Pressure From Trump And Giuliani To Investigate Biden. “More than two months before the phone call that launched the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Ukraine’s newly elected leader was already worried about pressure from the U.S. president to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Volodymyr Zelenskiy gathered a small group of advisers on May 7 in Kyiv for a meeting that was supposed to be about his nation’s energy needs. Instead, the group spent most of the three-hour discussion talking about how to navigate the insistence from Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a probe and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections, according to three people familiar with the details of the meeting. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, which has roiled U.S.-Ukrainian relations. The meeting came before Zelenskiy was inaugurated but about two weeks after Trump called to offer his congratulations on the night of the Ukrainian leader’s April 21 election.” [Associated Press, 10/24/19]
  • Ukraine Nearly Caved To Trump’s Demand For A Public Statement On Investigations. “In a flurry of WhatsApp messages and meetings in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, over several days, senior aides debated the point. Avoiding partisan politics in the United States had always been the first rule of Ukrainian foreign policy, but the military aid was vital to the war against Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has cost 13,000 lives since it began in 2014. By then, however, Mr. Zelensky’s staffers were already conceding to what seemed to be the inevitable, and making plans for a public announcement about the investigations. It was a fateful decision for a fledgling president elected on an anticorruption platform that included putting an end to politically motivated investigations.” [The New York Times, 11/7/19]
  • Zelensky’s Staff Favored Agreeing To Trump’s Demands. “But interviews in Kiev with government officials, lawmakers and others close to the Zelensky government have revealed new details of how high-level Ukrainian officials ultimately decided to acquiesce to President Trump’s request — and, by a stroke of luck, never had to follow through. Aides were arguing in favor of “bowing to what was demanded,” said Petro Burkovskiy, a senior fellow at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation who has close ties to the Ukrainian government. They were willing to do so, he said, despite the risk of losing bipartisan support in the United States by appearing to assist Mr. Trump’s re-election bid. “The cost was high.”” [The New York Times, 11/7/19]

GOP DEFENSE #3: “The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call.”

THE FACTS: Why does this matter? It’s still extortion whether they knew on July 25, in early August, or on September 1. 

  • Ukraine Knew That There Was A Non-Bureaucratic Hold On Their Aid By The First Week Of August. “In fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times. The problem was not bureaucratic, the Ukrainians were told. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records. The timing of the communications, which have not previously been reported, shows that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than acknowledged. It also means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations.” [The New York Times, 10/23/19]
  • Sondland Conditioned The Resumption Of Aid On A Public Statement On The Investigations on September 1. “After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement we had been discussing for many weeks.” [Sondland Supplemental Declaration, 11/8/19]
  • Laura Cooper Testified That She Believed That The Ukrainians Were Aware Of The Hold On Their Aid While Volker Was Pressing Them To Make The Statement On 2016. “Q: Well, it’s significant because you’re—it’s one thing if you believe that they knew and it’s another thing if you actually were told that Ukrainians knew. Are you guessing that you think Ukraine would have known based on what you heard or did they actually tell you Ukraine knew?  A: So again, the conversation with Ambassador Volker because it related to the security assistance needing to be lifted and the importance of that, and he was relating conversations he had had with Ukraine officials. It could have been my inference, yes, a very strong inference that there was some knowledge on the part of the Ukrainians.” [Laura Cooper Testimony Excerpts, 10/23/19]

GOP DEFENSE #4: “President Trump met with President Zelensky and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019—both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating President Trump’s political rivals.”

THE FACTS: Trump personally ordered the military aid to be withheld shortly before his phone call with President Zelensky where he asked for “a favor though” to investigate his political rival. They only ultimately released the money nearly two months later after learning the whistleblower complaint was about to blow the lid off the extortion scheme.

  • Trump Ordered Mulvaney To Hold Back The Military Aid For Ukraine A Week Before Calling President Zelensky To Press Him For Investigations. “President Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden, according to three senior administration officials.” [The Washington Post, 9/23/19]
  • September 9: Congress Became Aware Of The Whistleblower Complaint. “Sept. 9: Atkinson notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees that a whistleblower has filed a complaint, but he does not reveal its contents or substance.” [The Washington Post, 11/11/19]
  • The White House Held The Money For 2 Months Until Releasing It The Night Of September 11. “Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They explained that the president had “concerns” and wanted to analyze whether the money needed to be spent. Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an “interagency process” but to give them no additional information — a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11.” [The Washington Post, 9/23/19]

Impeachment HQ is a new rapid response project that serves as a resource to talkers, reporters, and activists on the impeachment proceedings.

Originally posted on Impeachment HQ. Re-posted with permission.


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Impeachment HQ is a new rapid response project that serves as a resource to talkers, reporters, and activists on the impeachment proceedings.

The new project is a joint effort from Defend the Republic, a messaging and strategic communications project focused on holding the Trump Administration accountable, and Stand Up America, one of the country’s largest grassroots advocacy organizations and a key group driving grassroots action on impeachment.

The project is led by Zac Petkanas, who was previously the Director of Rapid Response for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Communications Director to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senior Adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

The project is also supported by communicators, campaigners, and researchers from both Defend the Republic and Stand Up America—including Ryan Thomas, the Press Secretary for Stand Up America, who leads the communications team.

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