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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

Go deeper

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.

47 mins ago - World

U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

A protester in London. Photo Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With just one day left in President Trump's term, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially determined that China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of over 1 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitutes "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

Why it matters: The U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party's gross human rights abuses in its far northwest.