Republicans detailed their strategy to defend President Trump during the upcoming impeachment hearings in a staff memo that circulated on Capitol Hill Monday, Axios reports.
The memo lays out the GOP’s defense plan ahead of the hearings, which kick off on Wednesday.
The GOP memo identifies “four key pieces of evidence” that the party thinks will undermine the Democratic arguments that Trump tried to extort Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, as numerous Trump-appointed officials have already testified.
"The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure,” the memo says, even though Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” on the call and a White House official who heard it testified that references to Biden were “omitted.”
“President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call,” the memo says.
“The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call,” the memo claims.
“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,” the memo says, ignoring that Trump released the aid after pressure from Congressional Republicans over the freeze.
Memo ignores key facts:
The memo cites witnesses like Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor to undercut Democratic claims but doesn’t consider that Taylor’s testimony was called “damning” and potentially fatal to Trump’s presidency.
Taylor testified that there was a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine, as did EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
“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,” Axios noted.
The memo also ignores Trump administration witnesses who testified they were alarmed by Rudy Giuliani's shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.
GOP plans to argue Trump’s “state of mind”:
The memo says that lawmakers plan to argue that Trump is innocent because of his “state of mind.”
"To appropriately understand the events in question — and most importantly, assess the President's state of mind during his interaction with [Ukrainian] President Zelensky — context is necessary," the memo says. “The evidence gathered does not establish an impeachable offense.”
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., recently made a similar argument to The Washington Post.
"To me, it all turns on intent, motive,” he said. “Did the president have a culpable state of mind?"