Let’s run through a few of the arguments.
“There is also nothing wrong with asking serious questions about the presence of Vice President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on the board of directors of Burisma, a corrupt Ukrainian company, or about Ukraine’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Biden’s Burisma has an international reputation as a corrupt company. As far back as 2015, the Obama State Department had concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board.”
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this report is that, in its 123 pages, it makes almost no mention of the conspiracy theory that Trump actually broached on his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: that the elder Biden was seeking to help his son by removing a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma.
The above paragraph, from the introductory summary, is a great example. It pretends Trump was really just asking questions about Burisma. And that’s a common thread through the report.
Indeed, the one example I could find of a reference to the former vice president’s actions is here, and it doesn’t even ascribe the theory to Trump:
In addition to Burisma, there are questions about why the Ukrainian government fired then-Prosecutor General [Viktor] Shokin — according to Vice President Biden, at his insistence — when it did not fire his successor, Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko. Although Shokin and Lutsenko were both seen by State Department officials as corrupt and ineffective prosecutors, there was no effort to remove Lutsenko to the same degree or in the same way as there was with Shokin.
To be clear, Trump said on his call with Zelensky, “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
Trump doesn’t even raise a concern about Burisma’s alleged corruption; he’s interested only in Joe Biden’s actions.
The report makes almost no effort to vouch for the latter — apparently because it would be clear that Trump was trying to damage his potential 2020 opponent. The report, at several other points, argues that there is no evidence that Trump was trying to help himself win reelection, against all logic.
“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor.”
The witnesses thus far were “fact witnesses” — not experts in criminal law. What’s more, many of them said explicitly that they weren’t there to make legal judgments or weigh in for or against impeachment.
“I want to emphasize at the outset that while I am aware that the committee has requested my testimony as part of impeachment proceedings, I am not here to take one side or the other,” the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., testified, “or to advocate for any particular outcome of these proceedings. My sole purpose is to provide facts as I know them about the incidents in question as well as my views about the strategic importance of Ukraine to the United States.”
At one point, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) asked Taylor and top State Department official George Kent, “Where is the impeachable offense in that call? Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call?”
Taylor reminded Ratcliffe that he wasn’t there to make such determinations, and Ratcliffe withdrew the question. Apparently the GOP isn’t withdrawing the argument, though.
“Understood in this proper context, the president’s initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent.”
The argument has long been that Ukraine is indeed a corrupt country, so why not hold off on making concessions until we can ensure things are headed in the right direction?
What’s more, if this was the true reason for the hold, nobody seemed to want to say it, including within the Trump administration, for reasons that simply aren’t clear.
“President Trump then released security assistance to Ukraine and met with President Zelensky in September 2019 — all without Ukraine taking any action to investigate President Trump’s political rival. … The Democrats’ impeachment narrative ignores Ukraine’s dramatic transformation in its fight against endemic corruption. President Trump was skeptical of Ukrainian corruption and his Administration sought proof that newly-elected President Zelensky was a true reformer. And after winning a parliamentary majority, the new Zelensky administration took rapid strides to crack down on corruption. Several high-level U.S. officials observed firsthand these anticorruption achievements in Kyiv, and the security assistance was released soon afterward.”
First of all, it’s true that Trump met with Zelensky — but only at the United Nations and not at the White House, as Zelensky had sought.
What’s more, both that and the release of the military aid came after the scandal began emerging in public — and, in the case of the military aid, after Trump was getting bipartisan pressure to release it.
Whether Trump actually did something impeachable is a valid question about which people can disagree, but the idea that Trump giving Zelensky what he wanted means this was all on the up-and-up doesn’t really make sense. If a bank robber gives up on his plot because he sees the police coming, does that mean he didn’t try to rob the bank?