Remarkably, not one GOP member of the Judiciary Committee was ready to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with Mr. Trump’s demand that a foreign government pursue false charges against one of his most likely Democratic opponents in the 2020 election. They could have followed the example of the several Republican legislators who have said Mr. Trump’s actions were improper but not impeachable. Instead, they offered a display of blind fealty, portraying Mr. Trump as a victim of Democratic persecution while ignoring or misrepresenting the evidence against him.
Some served up gross distortions and falsehoods. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), among Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, repeated what they described as four key points, all of which are starkly at odds with sworn testimony and documents. They said there was no quid pro quo mentioned in a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; but the documented contacts between U.S. and Ukrainian officials before the call make clear that when Mr. Zelensky promised to conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted, and Mr. Trump answered by offering him a White House visit, they were confirming a precooked deal.
The Republicans said the Ukrainians never felt pressured by Mr. Trump, relying on a polite comment Mr. Zelensky made while sitting next to Mr. Trump and disregarding the testimony of U.S. diplomats in Kyiv, who described the Ukrainian president and his aides as “desperate.” Republicans said the Ukrainians did not know that Mr. Trump had withheld military aid, even though a Pentagon official testified the Ukrainians first asked about the hold the same day the two presidents spoke. Finally, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Gaetz pointed to the fact that Ukrainians received military aid without announcing the investigations. But Mr. Trump released the aid two days after the announcement of a congressional investigation of his extortion attempt — and Mr. Zelensky still has not been invited to the White House.
Mr. Gaetz and several colleagues sunk still lower, alleging that Mr. Biden and his son Hunter were guilty of corruption and that Mr. Trump was justified in demanding an investigation of them and of a Russia-propagated allegation that Ukraine and not Russia hacked the server of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Both charges were debunked by multiple U.S. officials and, in the case of Ukraine’s alleged interference, the U.S. intelligence community. Yet, Republicans follow Mr. Trump in brazenly restating them.
The airing of such disinformation may advance Mr. Trump’s underlying aim with Ukraine, which was to smear an opponent and cloud the record of Russian interference. But it does nothing to refute the charges against the president.