This Is The Impressive Trump’s Impeachment Defense

The narrative effectively folds Trump's apparent transgression into an extension of the effective 2016 campaign pitch that only a rule breaker can crush the power of the Washington swamp.


The President is heaping pressure on Republicans to buy a factually dubious but bold message: Not only did he not abuse power in Ukraine but his conduct is that of a tough guy President beset by corrupt elites and boosting the US abroad.

It’s a risky message from a President who’s counting on his political instincts that tell him swing state voters aren’t convinced by Democrats’ impeachment pitch — and one whose presidency has been dripping in allegations of corruption, self-dealing and infringing the limits of presidential power.

The defense shone through a new Trump campaign ad previewed Wednesday night and in arguments by GOP lawmakers as the Democratic House held its historic preliminary impeachment vote tailored to fire up the President’s base supporters. And in an interview with The Washington Examiner, Trump felt so confident that he pitched reading the transcript of his controversial call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a “fireside chat on live television.”

That reflects how badly things have been going so far. But there did at last seem to be some coherence and logic to Trump’s defense — perhaps partly because he was largely out of sight and could not step all over his own message.

Donald Trump
The new Trump defense poses the most extreme challenge yet to the Democratic effort to build a case brimming with damning facts that turns public opinion against the President.

And for once, a key witness delivered testimony that was not universally damaging to the President. Two court hearings showed that wrangles over some key witnesses may confound Democratic efforts to get them on the record soon. No Republicans defected in the House impeachment vote.

Trump true to aggressive instincts in impeachment fight

Republicans have struggled to come up with an effective impeachment defense through weeks of damaging revelations about him pressuring on Ukraine for a political payoff.

Multiple witnesses have now testified that Trump withheld military aid to the former Soviet state that is in a state of war with Russia, in a bid to coerce it into opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

But admitting any wrongdoing goes against everything Trump believes. So he and his White House have settled on a position of denying the clear fact of witness testimony and the evidence of a rough transcript of his call with Ukraine’s President.

“Anybody who reads the transcript understands it was a perfect phone call with the Ukrainian President,” Trump told Britain’s LBC Radio on Thursday in an interview.

‘No Mr. Nice guy’

US White House
The GOP now has new targets — a group of Democratic House members who won Trump districts last year but who voted to begin a process designed to throw him out of office.

Trump’s campaign ad, first aired during the World Series on Wednesday, takes on the notion of his unchained rule breaking behavior head on — making a potential liability in the impeachment case into a quality to help him in the election.

The brazen effort to portray the President not as a breaker of rules and crusher of democratic norms, but a victim of liars and unfounded attacks was taken up in extraordinary fashion by his daughter Ivanka.

She tweeted a passage from a letter to his daughter by the third President, Thomas Jefferson, in which he bemoaned a life “surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them.”

Ivanka Trump added: “Some things never change, dad!”

By linking impeachment so closely to the election, Trump is putting any wavering Senate Republicans who might disapprove of his behavior in a very difficult spot. Failing to support him wholeheartedly means senators will have to explain to their own voters why they are condemning a Republican President in his reelection effort.

The tactic is so audacious because it effectively asks Republicans to buy into an alternative reality, unmoored from fact, that is being perpetrated by the President and his friends on conservative media. With this approach the merits of the case do not matter — since Trump has simply invented a new one.

Republicans ‘afraid of the truth’

The main event in impeachment apart from the House vote on Thursday was testimony from Tim Morrison, the senior Russia expert on the National Security Council.

Morrison said he was told Trump wanted a top Ukrainian official to announce an investigation that would help the President politically before US security aid to Ukraine would be released.

Morrison said he was told Trump wanted a top Ukrainian official to announce an investigation that would help the President politically before US security aid to Ukraine would be released.

But Morrison offered an opening for Republicans by saying that he did not believe anything illegal was discussed in the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Court delays

John Bolton
The impeachment action also took place in the courts on Thursday. In one case, a federal judge expressed disbelief that the White House could control what its former officials might say when subpoenaed by the House.

Another case along similar lines centers on whether Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, should submit to a House subpoena or a White House claim of immunity.

But that will frustrate Democrats seeking to build their strongest possible case since they hope to have completed the House portion of impeachment by Christmas, clearing the way for a Senate trial in January.


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