Friday 6 December 2019

Trump's troops are rallied for open impeachment hearings

Republicans are briefed on four key points

Donald Trump has said he will release transcript of earlier call. Photo: Getty
Donald Trump has said he will release transcript of earlier call. Photo: Getty

Chris Riotta

Republicans who sat in on closed-door impeachment hearings have reportedly drafted a memo with key talking points to defend Donald Trump as the proceedings are set to go public this week.

The memo was penned by Republican Party staff on the three House committees spearheading an impeachment inquiry into the president over accusations he would not release military aid to Ukraine without investigations into one of his political rivals, Joe Biden.

Four talking points in the memo, which was shared with Republicans on the House panels and obtained by CNN, largely echo the president's previous statements defending his dealings with Ukraine.

The first defence included in the memo for Mr Trump's July 25 phone call - in which he asked for a "favour" from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky - was that a White House record of the call "shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure".

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Mr Trump has long said his phone call with Mr Zelensky was "perfect" and that a transcript would prove his innocence in the matter.

The memo also reportedly encourages Republicans to defend Mr Trump by repeating his own claims: "President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call."

A third central defence in the memo reportedly stated that "the Ukrainian government was not aware of the hold on US assistance", despite the White House reportedly withholding military aid to the country.

Impeachment witnesses who worked on US-Ukraine relations under Mr Trump have said the White House was demanding public statements from Mr Zelensky announcing investigations into Joe Biden and his son and the origins of the Russia probe led by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Finally, the memo reportedly seeks to defend the president by reminding Republicans on the House committees that a hold on security assistance to Ukraine was lifted on September 11, so the money and military resources in question were eventually delivered.

However, that money arrived only after reports of the call and a subsequent whistleblower complaint were leaked.

Impeachment witnesses such as Bill Taylor, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, has testified that there was a "clear understanding" the White House was requesting political investigations in exchange for the military assistance, which aids Ukraine against Russia.

Mr Trump has seemingly attempted to divert public attention and scrutiny towards an earlier call he had in April with the new president of Ukraine, in which he congratulated Mr Zelensky on his election victory.

The president claimed last week he was considering releasing a transcript of that call, which he said "no one knows about" - despite having discussed it openly with reporters at the UN general assembly earlier in the year.

Yesterday, a day before the impeachment hearings were to set to go public, Mr Trump tweeted: "I will be releasing the transcript of the first, and therefore more important, phone call with the Ukrainian president before week's end!"

Irish Independent

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