The interview left us with the sense that Mr. Pence himself has not carefully read the document. As we pointed out in an editorial on Sept. 25, the day it was released, the transcript ends with a clear exchange of commitments between the U.S. and Ukrainian presidents. Mr. Zelensky promises to launch the investigations Mr. Trump had just requested of Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee; Mr. Trump responds by offering the invitation to the White House Mr. Zelensky was seeking.
More to the point, Mr. Pence appears determined to ignore the sworn testimony of senior officials who have since confirmed the quid pro quo that the White House claims doesn’t exist. The latest was National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who told Congress on Tuesday that he attended a July 10 meeting with a senior Ukrainian official at which an ambassador appointed by Mr. Trump, Gordon Sondland, “started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president.”
To his credit, Lt. Col. Vindman told Mr. Sondland that “his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security,” a judgment he said was echoed by his boss, NSC senior director Fiona Hill. Both later reported their concerns to the NSC general counsel.
That makes at least five officials who have described the quid pro quo in congressional testimony. That includes the United States’ acting ambassador in Kyiv, William B. Taylor Jr., who said Mr. Sondland told him U.S. military aid was also linked to Mr. Trump’s political demands; Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, who provided text messages spelling out the deal; and Mr. Sondland himself, who, according to his lawyer, told House investigators that while Mr. Trump had denied any quid pro quo, Mr. Sondland — who spoke to the president directly about the matter — believed there was one.
Mr. Pence dismissed all this evidence on the grounds that it was “leaks” from secret hearings; never mind that most of the officials released their own opening statements. He criticized House Democrats for failing to hold a formal vote on impeachment proceedings and for not releasing the transcripts of testimony, even though they have announced they will do both. He seemed to believe that by mindlessly repeating the words “no quid pro quo” he could disappear the increasingly powerful case that Mr. Trump abused his office.
He can’t — and nor will slander of the witnesses by Mr. Trump’s more vulgar surrogates. On Tuesday, former congressman Sean P. Duffy (R-Wis.) shamelessly suggested that Lt. Col. Vindman, a refugee from the former Soviet Union, might be more loyal to Ukraine than the United States. GOP law professor John Yoo hinted the Purple Heart recipient might be implicated in espionage. Such vile slurs only underline the absence of any legitimate defense for Mr. Trump’s actions.