Trump’s winning argument on impeachment

Andy McCarthy urges President Trump’s supporters to stop arguing that there was no Ukraine quid pro quo, and to argue instead that the short-lived quid pro quo attempt does not justify impeachment. I agree.

Even before Bill Taylor’s opening statement to Adam Schiff’s committee, there was plenty of reason to suspect that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine, and did not set up a White House visit for Ukraine’s president, because he was unhappy that Ukraine hadn’t agreed to conduct certain investigations including an investigation of the Bidens. Taylor’s statement leaves little room for doubt.

Some who still deny the quid pro quo argue that there couldn’t have been one because the Ukrainians did not know the aid was being withheld until August 29, more than a month after Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. Several problems make this argument untenable, in my view.

First, as Andy notes, Ukraine wasn’t just seeking aid, its president also wanted a White House visit. Ukraine’s president certainly knew the U.S. had not arranged the visit. The evidence, especially Taylor’s statement, shows that agreeing to the investigations Trump desired was a condition for the White House visit.

Second, even if the Ukrainians somehow didn’t know that aid was being was withheld, the fact remains that it was withheld — and withheld because of failure to agree to investigations. Suppose Trump withheld earthquake aid to Californian because he disagreed with that state’s immigration policy. Even if California didn’t knew why the aid was withheld, the withholding of it would be problematic.

To be sure, if Trump was withholding aid to pressure Ukraine, you would think he’d make sure the Ukrainians understood that aid was being withheld, and why. Thus, if Ukraine really didn’t know this, that would be evidence that Trump wasn’t withholding aid out of desire to pressure Ukraine. But other evidence makes it clear that he was.

Third, it is utterly implausible to believe Ukraine didn’t know that the U.S. was withholding military aid. The Ukrainians were under armed attack by the Russians. They needed military aid. Congress had appropriated the aid.

The likelihood that the Ukrainian government didn’t know aid was being held up is roughly equal to the likelihood that an employee with creditors breathing down his neck wouldn’t know that his pay check had been withheld. In others word, approximately zero percent.

It is almost as unlikely that the Ukrainians, knowing the aid hadn’t come, didn’t know that this was due, at least in part, to the fact that they hadn’t agreed to investigate the Bidens. Indeed, according to Taylor, Ukraine’s president was made aware of the connection even before the “perfect” conversation he had with Trump on July 25.. Taylor stated:

I had a phone conversation with Ambassador Sondland while he was on a train from Paris to London. Ambassador Sondland told me that he had recommended to President Zelenskyy that he use the phrase, “I will leave no stone unturned” with regard to “investigations” when President Zelenskyy spoke with
President Trump.

Also on July 20, I had a phone conversation with Mr. Danyliuk, during which he conveyed to me that President Zelenskyy did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. re-election campaign.

(Emphasis added)

Zelenskyy knew what was up.

Fourth, even if one imagines that Ukrainian officials somehow didn’t know until August 29 that aid was being withheld, they knew at that point. Yet, the aid wasn’t released until two weeks later. Andy points out that, in the interim, our ambassador to the EU is said to have told the Ukrainians there would be a “stalemate” if they did not agree to the investigations Trump desired.

McCarthy, then, is correct to conclude that “the president’s defense here is not that there was no quid pro quo. It is that the quid pro quo does not come close to an impeachable offense.” The military aid was withheld for only a short time — in fact, it was released to Ukraine before the expiration of the congressional deadline. And it was released without Ukraine opening an investigation of the Bidens.

These facts alone are enough for me to conclude that we’re nowhere near an impeachable offense here.