On Monday, House Republicans issued an impeachment prebuttal ahead of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment scheduled for Wednesday. It is a shocking exercise in alternative reality disinformation and propaganda based upon a Russian-inspired conspiracy theory. These “Rootin’ for Putin” Republicans are all Kremlin propagandists now.
As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, coconspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable.
Stephen Collinson writes at CNN, New GOP report defies reality with Trump exoneration (excerpts):
A new report aimed at defending Donald Trump against Democratic claims of abuse of power represented a remarkable demonstration of the President’s greatest political achievement — the transformation of the Republican Party in his image.
The 123-page document written by GOP members on three House committees formalized the President’s own cycle of distraction and denial that he used to ride out the Russia scandal. He’s using the same tactic to save his job now that he’s faced with impeachment over his political pressure on Ukraine.
The report released by the President’s House Republican allies on Monday was in effect the prebuttal of a report on the Democratic impeachment investigation set to be released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday.
The message of the document — less a defense of Trump on the merits but rather an endorsement of his counterfactual denials — was simple: Nothing Trump did when it came to Ukraine was wrong. His scheme run by personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to coerce Ukraine to investigate a political foe, Joe Biden, was just fine, according to the partisan document. Contrary to what top officials testified, there was no quid pro quo, House Republicans claim. And the whole Ukraine drama amounts to a coup by his “deep state” enemies — despite an avalanche of evidence otherwise.
The report, which ignores significant and incriminating testimony against Trump, is a clear sign of confidence among Republicans that the pro-Trump conservative coalition will hold and that despite the apparent strength of the Democratic case, it will not cause a political earthquake in a tribalized nation that could see the President ousted.
The report’s refusal to even acknowledge any inappropriate behavior by Trump — in the face of direct evidence — also offers a marker for how Republicans may approach an eventual Senate impeachment trial.
The report is so overtly partisan that it may undermine its own effectiveness among all but the President’s strongest supporters.
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In a significant evolution of the defense of the President that tests the GOP’s credibility, the report argued there was nothing wrong in Trump’s concern about business activities of Biden’s son Hunter in Ukraine — even though there is no evidence of wrongdoing and the President stood to gain politically.
A jury that has made up its mind
The House GOP rebuttal was an example of what lawyers do — frame a counter-narrative to the prosecution case using selective evidence to paint their client in a favorable light.
It encapsulated many GOP complaints about the Democratic process aired during televised impeachment hearings last month.
“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,” the report released on Monday said.
But the report’s function was primarily political. Unlike a defense lawyer’s appeal to a jury, this read more like a case designed specifically to people who had already made up their mind — the Trump-voting American public that they hope is large enough to save the presidency.
As such, it will tell a tale for history of the current political moment in which the President gambled on ruling by division rather than uniting the nation in a broad coalition.
It’s a political maneuver in which Trump does not contest facts — he categorically calls on supporters to ignore the evidence of their own eyes and blows smoke to thwart wider understanding.
This was most clear when the GOP report addressed the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 when he asked for a “favor” — a probe into a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the election and suggested Kiev also look in the activity of the Bidens.
The report however, barely credibly, describes the rough transcript of the call as reflecting “laughter, pleasantries and cordiality.”
It also takes Trump’s own claim that there was no pressure on Zelensky on the call as credible evidence there was none. In this, the report contradicts clearly established facts and Trump’s habit of crushing the constraints of his office in public view.
As well as the evidence of the call, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has publicly said that quid pro quos related to aid are a normal part of foreign policy and told reporters to “get over it.”
Trump said at the White House on October 3 that if Ukraine was “honest” it would investigate the Bidens, in a possible abuse of his authority in shaping foreign policy for personal political gain.
Adopting Trump’s vision of the presidency, the report kept faith with Trump’s mantra of never admitting a scintilla of wrongdoing. It said Trump had a deep seated suspicion of corruption in Ukraine — though one witness, US diplomat David Holmes, said he was told by the US ambassador to the Ukraine that Trump only cared about “big stuff” like investigating Biden.
The ‘deep state’ is back
The GOP report also fleshed out a narrative of a thwarted “deep state” coup inside the US government and conspiracies that Trump and conservative media allies have been spreading even before he took office as a glue to firm up his voting base.
Though written in legalese, the report often appeared to formalize the President’s Twitter feeds and the monologues of conservative news show hosts who support the President.
NOTE: The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee looked into allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and found no evidence to support the claims, according to sources familiar with the matter.
As CNN reports: Some Republican lawmakers continue to misleadingly say that the government of Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election on the same level as Russia, despite the GOP-led committee looking into the matter and finding little to support the allegation. The committee went so far as to interview former Democratic National Committee operative Alexandra Chalupa — a central figure in theories that say Ukraine interfered in the election — before closing that aspect of their probe, according to the sources. Politico on Monday was first to report the committee’s exploration of Ukraine’s actions in 2016.
So Republicans are rejecting the findings of their own investigation in order to continue to propagate a debunked Russian-inspired conspiracy theory promoted tirelessly by the conservative media entertainment complex for years.
The State Department’s No. 3 official on Tuesday flatly rejected a conspiracy theory pushed by President Donald Trump and his personal attorney that it was Ukraine who systematically interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.
In a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on U.S. policy toward Russia, David Hale, the department’s undersecretary for political affairs, succinctly summed up the findings of the U.S. intelligence community in response to questioning from the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez.
“Secretary Hale, did Russia interfere in the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump?” the New Jersey Democrat asked.
“Yes, the intelligence community assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at our presidential election,” Hale replied, reading from what appeared to be a prepared response.
“Was the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election a hoax?” Menendez followed up, echoing the president’s own language, and eliciting a swift “no” from Hale.
“Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election?” Menendez continued, to which Hale responded: “I am not.”
After more back and forth, Menendez returned to the subject. “Is our national security made stronger or weaker when members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies?” he asked.
“That does not serve our interest,” Hale answered.
So Republicans are dismissing the known objective facts, and creating an alternate reality in which a false narrative of disinformation and propaganda based upon a debunked Russian-inspired conspiracy theory is their defense of Trump. They are behaving like Putin’s Russian assets. Their disloyalty is shocking.
“The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected President based on the accusations of assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes,” the report read. “They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy.”
Current and former US officials testified last month that they were shocked at Trump’s efforts to hijack foreign policies based on long understood interests for his own political gain.
Trump has used similar fact-bending defenses for years.
The reappearance on the scene this weekend, for instance, of the former FBI agent Lisa Page — who was accused of political bias against the President in the Russia investigation — let him revive a familiar unfounded conspiracy theory against the FBI.
The President did not take long to demonstrate the political game at work over impeachment Monday — sending a tweet from Britain where he just landed for a NATO meeting.
Activating a mutual cycle of reinforcement with GOP allies, Trump warmly praised the GOP allies who wrote it and who rely on his support for their careers.
“I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?” he tweeted.
Trump used the same attaboy tactic to praise Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who again suggested equivalence between critical comments about Trump from some Ukrainian officials and a state-sponsored Russian spy operation targeting the 2016 election.
And the President’s daily cycle of disinformation whirled on with his selective quote from an interview with Time magazine and several European outlets in which Zelensky denied he discussed a quid pro quo with the President but appeared to rebuke him for holding back aid when his government is waging a bitter war with pro-Russian separatists.
President Zelensky disputes Trump’s mischaracterization of his comments. Zelensky airs his grievances with Trump:
In an interview with TIME Magazine and several European news outlets, Zelenksy once again tried to distance himself from the impeachment inquiry centered on whether Trump used the leverage of military aid and a potential White House visit to pressure Zelensky to commit to probes into the Biden family and events surrounding the 2016 election.
“Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing,” he said, in some of his most extensive comments to date on the current political storm.
Still, Zelensky conveyed his annoyance that aid would be withheld. “I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying,” Zelensky continued.
Trump, in a tweet Monday mischaracterized Zelensky’s comments, hailing the interview as an exoneration, and declaring inaccurately that Zelensky had “just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls.”
And confirming a State Department witness who testified before the House Intelligence Committee, the New York Times reports Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze in July, Says Ex-Top Official in Kyiv:
Olena Zerkal, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, learned of the military aid freeze during the Trump administration’s pressure campaign — and tried to keep that knowledge from going public.
“We had this information,” Ms. Zerkal said in an interview. “It was definitely mentioned there were some issues.”
Ms. Zerkal’s account is the first public acknowledgment by a Ukrainian official that senior figures in Kyiv knew about the aid freeze during the Trump administration’s pressure campaign — and that the Zelensky administration sought to keep that fact from surfacing to avoid getting drawn into the American impeachment debate.
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Mr. Zelensky, whose government is still dependent on the Trump administration for aid and diplomatic backing, has said he did not learn of the aid freeze until before a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on Sept. 1, though he has been vague about exactly when.
But according to testimony in the impeachment inquiry, Ukrainian diplomats in Washington knew there was a problem with the aid as early as July 25, the day Mr. Trump spoke with the Ukrainian president by phone and asked him to investigate his rivals.
In the interview, Ms. Zerkal, who said she resigned from her post last week to protest her government’s back channel diplomacy with both the Trump administration last summer and Russia this fall, provided an insider’s account of when senior officials in Kyiv learned of the freeze, and how they tried to keep the information from becoming public.
Her account is backed by Laura K. Cooper, the American deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, who said in Congressional testimony during the impeachment inquiry that Ukrainian diplomats knew about the aid freeze at least by July 25, when they began to question United States officials about it.
That was the same day Mr. Trump spoke by phone with Mr. Zelensky and asked the Ukrainian leader to do him the “favor” of investigating the activities of Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked into Democratic servers during the 2016 presidential election.
Ms. Zerkal says she became aware of the hold by July 30, a few days after Mr. Trump’s phone call with Mr. Zelensky.
Whether senior Ukrainian officials knew of the aid freeze before the July 25 phone call or not, the accounts of Ms. Zerkal and Ms. Cooper show that the Ukrainian government was aware of the hold on aid through several critical weeks in August as United States diplomats pressed Mr. Zelensky to make a public statement on the investigations.
Donald Trump is not the only defendant in his pending impeachment trial. Make no mistake, Trump’s criminal enterprise, the lawless and amoral Party of Trump, his coconspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption, are also on trial. The whole damn political party is corrupt and morally bankrupt, and must be removed from office in order to save our democracy. Those who continue to support these criminals are complicit in their crimes.