In an apparent effort to preempt an imminent Democratic impeachment report that is expected to outline evidence of President Donald Trump's misconduct in office, House Republicans have prepared a report of their own claiming the president's behavior toward Ukraine—including his push for an investigation into Joe Biden—stemmed from genuine concerns about corruption and had nothing to do with political self-interest.
Democratic lawmakers and other critics said the Republican defense of Trump, laid out in a 123-page report obtained by the New York Times late Monday, is laughable and completely ignores facts that have emerged from hours of public witness testimony—as well as the president's own words.
"Donald Trump never mentioned any valid concerns or corruption in his phone calls with the Ukrainian leader."
—Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
In the report, House Republicans defend Trump's decision to withhold appropriated aid to Ukraine as "entirely prudent" and state that Trump did "nothing wrong" by pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
"The evidence shows that President Trump holds a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption," the Republicans write.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called the GOP argument "ridiculous."
"Donald Trump never mentioned any valid concerns or corruption in his phone calls with the Ukrainian leader," Lieu tweeted Monday. "Trump's concerns were very specific: the DNC server in Ukraine conspiracy theory and the Bidens."
Others pointed to testimony last month by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who said Trump merely wanted Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens, not actually conduct one—a claim that undermines the GOP's insistence that the president acted out of "deep-seated" concerns over corruption.
"I never heard... anyone say that the investigations had to start or had to be completed," Sondland told impeachment investigators. "The only thing I heard from [Trump's personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form, and that form kept changing."
Here’s the tell on the whole “Trump deeply cared about corruption in Ukraine” defense: what he wanted was a *public announcement* - the absolute last thing a real prosecutor investigating real corruption would do (but the first thing a political opportunist would want).
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) December 3, 2019
Washington Post writer Greg Sargent said the GOP's claim that Trump's actions toward Ukraine were apolitical is "steaming nonsense that no one should take seriously for a second."
"Republicans are entirely unperturbed by Trump's use of his office to solicit foreign interference in the next election on his behalf," Sargent wrote in a column Monday. "Republicans have made up their minds: Trump did no wrong. The process objections lay the groundwork to create the impression that if few or no Republican minds end up getting changed, it’s because the case against Trump was mishandled and not because changing Republican minds was never possible."
The GOP defense of Trump on impeachment will be that his pressure on Ukraine was purely apolitical, NYT reports: https://t.co/cbTWkbt30s
In this piece, I tried to explain why this is steaming nonsense that no one should take seriously for a second: https://t.co/oSgB31VObl
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) December 2, 2019
The GOP report also attempts to distance Guiliani from the president. As The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey wrote late Monday, "One defense that pops up repeatedly in the 123-page document: Rudy Giuliani went rogue."
"Giuliani... is at the center of Trump's apparent push to compel Ukraine to secure him political favors," Brodey noted. "Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, to speak with Giuliani about the matter during their July 25 phone call. His instruction to U.S. diplomats working on Ukraine was similar: 'Talk to Rudy' was the president's order, testified Gordon Sondland."
The Republican document states there was "nothing inherently improper with Mayor Giuliani's involvement as well because the Ukrainians knew that he was a conduit to convince President Trump that President Zelensky was serious about reform."
Despite testimony that the president told U.S. and Ukrainian officials to “talk to Rudy,” a voluminous new Republican report insists Trump’s lawyer was not speaking on his behalf https://t.co/Wy7MgIY1ZR
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 3, 2019
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the Republican report is "intended for an audience of one" and "ignores voluminous evidence that the president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding military aid and a White House meeting the president of Ukraine desperately sought."
"In so doing, the president undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections," said Schiff. "Tellingly, the Minority dismisses this as just part of the president's 'outside the beltway' thinking. It is more accurately, outside the law and Constitution, and a violation of his oath of office."
The Republican report comes ahead of the House Judiciary Committee's first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday. Despite his repeated complaints that he has been denied due process in the House impeachment proceedings, Trump on Sunday declined an invitation to participate in the upcoming hearing.
"If Donald Trump refuses to participate in the hearings and make use of the same due process afforded to President Nixon and Clinton, that says a lot about the weakness of his defense case," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted late Monday.