President Donald Trump’s defense of his actions with Ukraine collides with the known facts and the testimony of witnesses on multiple fronts as the impeachment inquiry moves into a new phase this week.
In recent days, Trump and his allies, including Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, have cried foul as Democrats set the stage for Judiciary panel hearings beginning Wednesday that are likely to produce articles of impeachment.
A review of rhetoric on this and other matters:
TRUMP: “We had a great two weeks watching these crooked politicians not giving us due process, not giving us lawyers, not giving us the right to speak and destroying their witnesses. It fell apart. Those were their witnesses. We weren’t allowed any rights.” — Florida rally Nov. 26.
COLLINS: “Process sham … this is a failure …to actually have the president viably participate in his own defense, which he’s not had the opportunity to do until now.” — interview on “Fox News Sunday.
RONNA MCDANIEL, Republican National Committee chairwoman: “Sham impeachment hearings with due process denied to our president.” — to Fox News.
THE FACTS: Trump was not deprived of constitutional rights during the House Intelligence Committee hearings because the committee was conducting an investigation, not a trial.
Although the same will be true of the next round of hearings, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has invited Trump and his lawyers to appear if he wishes and to make a request to question witnesses.
Trump is also incorrect that the Intelligence Committee hearings only brought forward witnesses hand-picked by the Democrats. Several were invited at the request of Republicans on the committee.
More broadly, each stage of the impeachment inquiry has been guided by majority vote or by long-established institutional practices of Congress as interpreted by the Democratic majority elected by the voters.
It’s also unfolding as outlined in the Constitution, which gives the House the sole power to impeach and the Senate the sole power to remove a president from office.
The Judiciary Committee hearings will be similar to the process seen in impeachment proceedings that began against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned, heading off a House impeachment vote; Clinton was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate.
If the House impeaches Trump, the Senate trial will look like a normal trial in some respects, with senators as the jury. Arguments would be heard from each side’s legal team for and against Trump’s removal from office.
TRUMP: “I held back the money from Ukraine because it is considered a corrupt country.” — tweet Nov. 26.
COLLINS: “He just wanted the facts, whether it be the 2016 election, whether we’re looking at — of what was happening. He was looking at the fact of ‘Is there corruption, so I do not spend dollars that I don’t need to spend in the Ukraine, because of corruption that was still there.’” — interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
THE FACTS: There’s scant evidence Trump voiced concern about systemic corruption in Ukraine until he knew that word had gotten out about his request for a political favor from that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy
After his first phone call with Zelenskiy, in April, the White House said at the time that Trump had discussed his interest in having Ukraine rein in widespread corruption. But in the recently released rough transcript of the call, he actually did not mention corruption.
Trump had $391 million in congressionally approved U.S. military aid withheld from Ukraine from July to September as he and he his aides pressed Ukraine to investigate Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company there.
Before Trump froze the aid, the Pentagon had already certified to congressional committees Ukraine had made enough progress on reducing corruption to receive the military assistance.
The administration had already approved sending aid to Ukraine nearly 50 times without holding it because of corruption concerns.
Trump ultimately released the aid, on Sept. 11, after Congress became aware of what he had done. A few days earlier, congressional committees had begun looking into the matter, and both lawmakers and Trump were aware that a whistleblower had a complaint in motion.
TRUMP: “They’ve been working on this for years and years. And I’m curious, why wasn’t it done a long time ago, and also — well, I guess the answer to that is because now I’m president, and we get things done.” — remarks on Nov. 25, signing a law to produce a $1 coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.
THE FACTS: It wasn’t “done a long time ago” because the centennial being commemorated wasn’t a long time ago. It’s coming up in nine months.