President Donald Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office,” the House Judiciary Committee declared in a 658-page impeachment report released yesterday.
As Democrats tell it, “President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 presidential election.” He did so by asking Ukraine to announce investigations “that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 presidential election to his advantage.” Trump also sought to pressure Ukraine by conditioning U.S. aid on a public announcement of the investigations. He did all this “for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.”
The gravity of the charge is straightforward: American democracy would suffer if presidents routinely pressured foreigners into undercutting their political rivals in the United States. House Republicans see things differently, but their arguments are weak and fundamentally unpersuasive.
They contend, in their dissent, that at least four signifiant facts contradict the Democratic account. “First, the President has publicly released the transcript of the July 25 call, which shows no conditionality for any official act,” the Republicans on the Judiciary committee insist. “Second, President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and his advisors did not know the aid was on hold until it was reported publicly at the end of August. Third, both President Trump and President Zelensky have said repeatedly there was no pressure, no quid pro quo, and no linkage between the aid and investigations. Fourth, the foreign security assistance funds were released without Ukraine announcing or undertaking any investigation.”