Nov 12, 2019

Scoop: GOP outlines theory of impeachment defense in memo to members

Reps. Mark Meadows (L) and Jim Jordan (R). Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Republicans on the three House committees conducting the Trump-Ukraine investigation have settled on "four key pieces of evidence" that they claim will undermine Democrats' arguments for why the president should be impeached, according to a staff memo circulated to committee members Monday night.

Why it matters: The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry will take place this week. The Republican memo previews how committee members plan to defend Trump on the substance of the Ukraine allegations, in addition to the "process" attacks on the Democratic-led inquiry that have defined much of the GOP's defense strategy thus far.

Details: The Republicans claim these four pieces of evidence are "fatal" to the allegations that Trump used military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents.

"The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure;
President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call;
The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call; and
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 in the media for weeks.

  • For example, it cites witnesses like Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, to bolster the argument that Ukraine was not aware of the hold on military aid. It does not, however, address the core claims at the heart of several explosive testimonies.
  • 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.

The claim that there was nothing improper about Trump's phone with Zelensky — one that the president has parroted and urged allies to adopt — also fails to reflect the body of evidence that there was a coordinated, months-long campaign to push Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

  • Multiple witnesses have corroborated that this is the case, testifying they were disturbed that Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani was leading a shadow foreign policy outside the normal channels of government.

The big picture: The memo also provides a section titled "Background" that delves into the context of why Trump has held a "deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine and U.S. taxpayer-funded foreign aid." As the New York Times and others have reported, Trump's fixation with Ukraine has been driven in part by unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about its involvement in the 2016 election.

Read the memo

Go deeper: Inside Democrats' preparations for the public impeachment battle

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GOP to argue Trump's "state of mind" on impeachment

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.

Go deeperArrowNov 12, 2019

GOP impeachment report claims Trump did nothing wrong

Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (L), minority counsel Steve Castor (C) and Rep. Jim Jordan listen during a House impeachment hearing last month. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump committed “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power,” Republicans on the House committees investigating the Ukraine controversy have concluded in a 110-page report reviewed by Axios ahead of its formal release.

Why it matters: The report provides the basis for Republicans' rejection of Democrats' anticipated articles of impeachment against the president for the remainder of the House proceedings.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 3, 2019

A viewer's guide to the impeachment hearings

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos by Alex Wong via Getty Images, and Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The next phase of impeachment begins at 10 a.m. today with the first public hearing about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine — so here's a look at the witnesses you're likely to see.

Why it matters: Impeachment so far has been a messy and confusing process, with so many subplots that it's easy to lose track of what really matters: whether Trump held up military aid and a White House meeting with Ukraine's new president in exchange for a public promise to investigate Joe Biden's family.

Go deeperArrowNov 13, 2019