Republican senators, like President Trump’s lawyers, have nothing but talking points — poor ones — to recite to the media during breaks in the impeachment process. Both make nonsensical assertions. (For example, Jay Sekulow saying “quid pro quo” isn’t in the articles — which include the sentence, “President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine,” a textbook quid pro quo is in black and white.)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) now asserts that Hunter Biden, who knows nothing of the events relevant to the impeachment, is a key witness. Many Republicans (including those who have dozed or left the floor) insist they have learned nothing new.

News organizations need to raise their game and not simply allow themselves to be platforms for lies, propaganda and distortions. If they want to do the public a service, rather than passively listen, they would do well to ask these questions, and demand answers:

  • The president did not mention corruption in the July 25 call but did mention he wanted a “favor” from a foreign leader in the form of investigations into the discredited connection between Ukraine and CrowdStrike and into the Bidens. Is this wrong? Is it illegal? Is it using the office to advance his political fortunes?
  • The president never mentioned corruption to the Ukrainians. The statement Trump wanted Zelensky to make specific mention of the 2016 election (i.e., CrowdStrike and Burisma). Trump has also suggested that China should investigate the Bidens, and he released the aid to Ukraine without any anti-corruption work being done. How can you say this was about corruption in general?
  • You said you saw nothing wrong with Trump’s conduct. Is it acceptable to suspend U.S. aid illegally to get a foreign power to deliver political dirt on a rival?
  • We know from emails that aid to Ukraine was suspended 90 minutes after the July 25 call, that Ukraine was concerned about the delay, that multiple Republican senators pressed the administration for an explanation (without result), that Ukrainians died while aid was held up and that the aid was released only after the scandal broke. The administration never said any of this was about corruption. Isn’t this evidence of a pressure campaign on a valued ally?
  • If you do not believe the House managers’ facts, or think they have been contradicted, how can you not allow in witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the events at issue?
  • The Supreme Court rejected absolute immunity in United States v. Nixon. No president has given an across-the-board order to refuse to respond to subpoenas in an impeachment. Was this acceptable conduct? Could a Democratic president do this?
  • How can you render “impartial justice” when you have already made up your mind and won’t allow in relevant evidence that may be persuasive?
  • In a brief tweet, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) explained, “Zelensky told Trump he needed military aid. Then Trump said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor, though.’ That same day, Michael Duffey sent an email directing military aid to be withheld. Now the White House is withholding Duffey’s emails. This is a cover-up.” How is that not correct? What justification is there for refusing to turn over compelling evidence?

Members of the media are understandably frustrated by the limits put on their access to senators and desperate to get comment. That does not mean they should be used to transmit false and misleading talking points. The press needs to do its job, and that means exposing the lies and intentional cluelessness Republicans wish to hide behind. After they have been presented with a mound of evidence in witness testimony and documents, Republicans’ claim that they have seen no evidence amounts to a lie. The media must challenge Republicans when they put forth such balderdash.

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