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Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Confronted with a mountain of damaging facts heading into tomorrow's opening of the public phase of impeachment, House Republicans plan to argue that "the President's state of mind" was exculpatory.

The state of play: "To appropriately understand the events in question — and most importantly, assess the President's state of mind during his interaction with [Ukrainian] President Zelensky — context is necessary," says the 18-page staff memo, circulated to committee members last night.

  • "The evidence gathered does not establish an impeachable offense," the memo concludes.

Why it matters: By focusing their defense on intangibles like impeachability and President Trump's mindset, House Republicans don't depend on undercutting a narrative that has been bolstered by witness after witness.

  • Republican senators, who would vote on whether to remove President Trump if the House impeached him, are also thinking this way.
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told the WashPost 10 days ago: "To me, it all turns on intent, motive. ... Did the president have a culpable state of mind?"

The memo points to "four key pieces of evidence" to try to undermine Democrats' arguments for why the president should be impeached:

  1. "The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure."
  2. "President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call."
  3. "The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call."
  4. "President Trump met with President Zelensky and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019 — both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating President Trump's political rivals."

Between the lines: The memo fails to consider counterarguments that Democratic members have been making for weeks.

  • It cites witnesses like Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, to argue that Ukraine was not aware of the hold on military aid. It doesn't, however, address the core claims at the heart of several explosive depositions.
  • Chief among them is the fact that top officials involved in Ukraine policy, including Taylor and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, were under the impression that there was a quid pro quo involving aid, and that they communicated that understanding to their Ukrainian counterparts.

🥊 What's next: Look for Democrats to begin using the phrase "cheating our democracy."

Go deeper: Read the memo.

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Go deeper

Why America's post-vaccine summer is off to a slow start

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are itching to put pandemic life behind them, but many of the necessary ingredients for a summer of carefree fun — everything from neighborhood pools to car rentals — still aren't fully available.

The big picture: Labor shortages, scrambled supply chains and simple logistics are all making it harder for a whole range of businesses to meet post-pandemic demand, and that’s making “hot vax summer” a little harder to pull off.

2021 set to become deadliest year on record for trans Americans

Data: Human Rights Campaign; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

28 transgender and gender non-conforming people — nearly all Black and Latina women — have been killed this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has tracked such deaths since 2013.

Why it matters: At this time last year, there were only 13 known killings of trans people, per the HRC. If this current pace continues, 2021 will be on track to significantly beat last year's all-time record.

DOJ leak probe sought Apple data on 73 phone numbers

Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

The Justice Department requested metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses in a subpoena to Apple as part of a February 2018 investigation into lawmakers, staffers and their families, CNN reported Friday.

Why it matters: The DOJ's inspector general said earlier Friday that his office will investigate the department's handling of a leak investigation into former President Trump's political opponents, which included the subpoena to Apple.