President Trump’s supporters have marched out a variety of defenses as the impeachment inquiry by the Democratic House has gained momentum and painted an ever-more detailed picture of Trump appearing to pressure Ukraine to help his domestic political prospects.
Drama is building this week. Americans are expected to get their first public view of witnesses in the inquiry Wednesday and Thursday. Will the testimony persuade voters to back impeachment of the president or leave them unconvinced?
One thing’s for sure: You’re likely to hear a slew of defenses. And silver-tongued Republican politicians may mix more than one into a single sound bite.
So here’s a brief guide to some of Trump supporters’ arguments against impeachment, drawn from Globe wire services and major media reports:
The process is flawed
Trump’s supporters have argued that the impeachment process is flawed. Those arguments have lost some of their bite since the House held a vote on Oct. 31 formalizing the inquiry, and announced the open hearings that begin this week. A senior GOP House aide has told The Associated Press that criticizing the process is one messaging suggestion Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made to his caucus.
On Sunday, Republican senators on Sunday news talk shows said the impeachment hearings wouldn’t be fair unless testimony was sought from Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, whom Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate, and the whistleblower whose complaint ignited the entire scandal.
US Senator Rand Paul called the hearings “sort of a sham” without the testimony, while US Senator Lindsey Graham called them “a complete joke.”
Democrats who have majority control of the House are not seen as likely to agree to the request.
There was no quid pro quo
At the outset of the scandal, Trump and his supporters denied repeatedly there was any quid pro quo (something given or received for something else) at all.
“NO quid pro quo!” Trump has tweeted.
That argument has been undercut by the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call to the Ukrainian president, text messages that have been released, and testimony collected by the House from top US diplomats, including William Taylor Jr., the top US envoy to the Ukraine, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
The quid pro quo didn’t end up producing results
Some of Trump’s defenders say that if Trump did demand that Ukraine investigate Joe and Hunter Biden as well as the 2016 election in exchange for the release of military aid Ukraine desperately needed, it doesn’t matter because the aid was eventually released.
“I look at it this way. The aid is there, and the investigations [sought by Trump] didn’t happen. So if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn’t a very effective one,” US Representative Tom Cole said on Nov. 3 on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”
The Ukrainians didn’t know it was a quid pro quo
Trump last month retweeted a comment on Fox News by US Representative John Ratcliffe, who said that no witness had “provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.’”
The New York Times, however, has reported that word of the freezing of military aid did get to high-level Ukrainian officials.
Ambassador Sondland also testified that he told a top Ukrainian official that military aid to the country was being withheld.
The quid pro quo can’t be connected directly to Trump
Senator Graham has said, “Nobody has testified that there’s a quid pro quo ordered by the President of the United States.”
US Representative Mark Meadows has also asserted, “When I get to ask questions, and when you see all of the transcripts, you will understand there is no direct linkage to the president of the United States.”
Trump’s administration is too chaotic to make a quid pro quo
Senator Graham last week also made the unusual suggestion that Trump’s policy toward Ukraine was so chaotic a quid pro quo could not exist.
“What I can tell you about the policy toward the Ukraine — it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo,” said Graham. “So no, I find the whole process to be a sham and I’m not going to legitimize it.”
Trump was concerned about cleaning up corruption
Trump has claimed that he cared about cleaning up corruption in Ukraine, including corrupt acts by the Bidens, whom Trump has accused of various misdeeds.
“Let me tell you, I’m only interested in corruption,” Trump said last month.
But no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden has surfaced. And the most recent reports by US officials said Ukraine was making progress in stemming corruption, including a certification from a top Defense Department official in May and a report from the US Agency for International Development covering 2018, The Washington Post reported.
Trump also did not raise corruption concerns in the notorious July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. And he previously showed little interest in fighting corruption overseas, or speaking out about it, CNN reported.
There was a quid pro quo, but it’s not impeachable
“Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Those were the words of White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as he seemed to acknowledge the existence of a quid pro quo in a news conference in mid-October. Hours later, he put out a statement denying he said what he said, and asserting there was “absolutely no quid pro quo.”
But there are signs some Republicans are ready to acknowledge there was a quid pro quo — and then argue that it is not an impeachable offense.
“Concern is different than rising to the level of impeachment,” Representative Cole said on “Meet the Press. “Look, if I believed everything the Democrats are saying, I would still say this isn’t an impeachable offense.”
The Washington Post reported recently that senators are also considering the same argument. “The Senate will face the question of whether that’s an impeachable offense,” US Senator Roger Wicker told CNN. “And I don’t think the American people are going to conclude that it is.”
The witnesses aren’t reliable and the evidence isn’t solid
Trump has asserted, without evidence, that the whistleblower who ignited the firestorm of scandal has a political agenda, and argued that he or she has “no credibility.” Republicans on Sunday were pressing for the whistleblower to testify.
NPR reports that most of the whistleblower’s complaint “has been corroborated during closed-door depositions of administration officials, through public statements and from a rough transcript of the call itself, released by the White House.”
The Republicans are also planning to argue that several key witnesses testified that they don’t have firsthand knowledge of what transpired, the AP reported. That argument has lost some steam as more witnesses have testified, and text messages and the transcript have been released.
Trump has also called Lieutenant ColonelAlexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified in a closed-door hearing before the House, a “Never Trumper witness,” and hinted he had damaging information on the decorated veteran, TIME magazine reported.
But on the day of Vindman’s testimony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I’m not going to question the patriotism of any of the people who are coming forward.”
US Senator Rand Paul deployed the “whataboutism” technique on Sunday’s“Meet the Press.”
He attempted to draw an equivalency between what Trump did and the opposition research dossier that was financed by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee and compiled by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele
“I’m not saying two wrongs make a right. I’m not even saying I would’ve done it that way. All I’m saying is, is that you’re going to impeach President Trump, and you’re going to give Hillary Clinton, you know, let her skate?” he said.
Paul also took the same approach in questioning former vice president Biden’s own diplomacy in Ukraine in the Obama administration.
But The New York Times has reported that Biden “threw himself into what seemed like standard-issue vice-presidential stuff: prodding Ukraine’s leaders to tackle the rampant corruption that made their country a risky bet for international lenders — and pushing reform of Ukraine’s cronyism-ridden energy industry.”Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.