Thursday , July 9 2020

House Republicans defend Trump's actions in new report responding to impeachment inquiry – CNN, CNN

(CNN)Republicans have given a full-throated defense of President DonaldTrump’s dealings with Ukrainein a report published Monday that rejects the Democratic allegations that the President abused his office or committed any other impeachable offense.

House Republicans prepared the 123 – report defending the President ahead of the release of a Democratic committee report that expected to lay out charges likely to form the basis forpotential articles of impeachment.

“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, “according to a copy of the report reviewed by CNN.

The Republican report does not acknowledge any wrongdoing surrounding the central allegations in the impeachment inquiry, putting forward a narrative that’s likely to be used by congressional Republicans and the White House in their fight against the Democratic impeachment push. The report largely ignores or downplays testimony from career officials who raised serious questions and concerns about the conduct of the President and some of his top aides.

The Republicans argue that Trump’s concerns about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were valid, that Trump withheld a meeting and US security aid as he sought proof that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a “true reformer,” and there was no quid pro quo as Trump did not pressure Zelensky on the July call between the two Presidents, despite Trump asking for a favor.

“The President’s initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide US taxpayer- funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent, “the Republicans wrote. “Ultimately, President Zelensky took decisive action demonstrating his commitment to promoting reform … 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 Democratic report, which will be voted on Tuesday, is all but sure to have a conclusion 180 – degrees apart from their Republican counterparts.

Republicans argue that Trump’s skepticism toward Ukraine is legitimate given Kiev’s “history of pervasive corruption.”

The report emphasizes what it calls important context for understanding Trump’s actions in temporarily pausing the aide to Ukraine: the President does not just have a skepticism of Ukraine, but that he is skeptical of all foreign assistance. Going back to his first speech as a candidate for President in June 2015, Trump expressed this skepticism

Impeachment inquiry could make for a December to remember

But the Republicans’ analysis avoids contending with what witnesses testified was different about the specific holdup of security aid to Ukraine : no one was ever clear about the reasoning for the hold. US diplomatBill Taylortestified that there was “no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, no good national security reason” to holding up the assistance. US Ambassador to the European UnionGordon Sondland testifiedthat he did not know why the aid was held up and struggled to get an answer.

The Republican report gives a best possible reading into Trump’s call with Zelensky, claiming he wasn’t pressuring Zelensky or even asking for an investigation into the Bidens. The call summary, Republicans write, “shows that President Trump referenced the Bidens only in passing and that the presidents did not discuss the topic substantively.”

“The summary of their July 25, 2019, telephone conversation shows no quid pro quo or indication of conditionality, threats, or pressure – much less evidence of bribery or extortion, “they write.

The GOP report also pushes back on the allegation that Trump withheld an official meeting from Zelensky to pressure him into investigating Biden. The best evidence against this, they say, is the simple fact that Trump ultimately met with Zelensky in September without any preconditions. They blame the delay on scheduling difficulties and say Trump had concerns about corruption, not about the Bidens.

But there are some flaws with the Republicans’ methodology. Multiple witnesses testified that the alleged quid pro quo revolved around an invitation to the White House, not just a photo-op on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Text messages uncovered during the inquiry also show that the White House invitation was explicitly linked to the “investigations” that Trump desired, not general issues of corruption.

This section of the GOP report omits the phrase “White House” and only focuses on the accusation that Trump “withheld a meeting.” The fact that Trump met with Zelensky at the UN does not invalidate evidence that Trump’s aides placed conditions on the White House visit. Zelensky was inaugurated in May, and even though Trump told him in his July call that he should come to the White House, it still hasn’t happened.

Republicans also took aim at what they said were unelected bureaucrats who “chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy.”

The Republicans wrote there was “nothing inherently improper” with the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine, because the Ukrainians knew Giuliani was “a conduit to convince President Trump that President Zelensky was serious about reform.”

The report also claims there is “indisputable evidence that senior Ukrainian government officials opposed President Trump in the 2016 election and did so publicly, “despite multiple witness testimony disputing the legitimacy of the claims.

And the Republicans argue that Trump was well within his rights to oust former US AmbassadorMarie Yovanovitch, and she didn’t really suffer from the recall earlier this year.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch testified that her removal from Kyiv had little effect on her career with the State Department,” Republicans wrote. “Her post was scheduled to end only a matter of weeks after her recall.”

    Duringher testimony, Yovanovitch talked directly about how she was planning to stay longer in her post and that she was struggling behind the scenes to hold onto her job, trying to get her superiors at the State Department to draft a letter of support for her because she cared so much about keeping her position .

    This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

    CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Michael Warren and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.
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