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Mon Nov 11, 2019, 07:50 AM

The Disorienting Defenses of Donald Trump

The case for weighing the impeachment of President Trump boils down to a few simple points: In an effort to win re-election in 2020, Mr. Trump apparently attempted to extort a foreign government into announcing an investigation of his top political rival. The president did so while also trying to revive a conspiracy theory that casts doubt over whether the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf. Witnesses have already testified that in order to achieve those goals, Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid against the bipartisan wishes of Congress. All the while, the president and his staff have refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation into what transpired.

Republicans find themselves in a tough spot. Lawmakers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, which obliges them to act as a check on the executive branch and any abuses of its power. Yet instead of considering the testimony, many Republicans have chosen reflexively to defend Mr. Trump — not an easy task in the face of such strong evidence of inexcusable behavior.

Here’s a field guide to some of the lines of attack that Republicans have used so far. See if you can recognize them if they appear during the public hearings scheduled to begin this week.

There was no quid pro quo.

This was the first and cleanest defense of Mr. Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr. Trump and his allies offered it up after the White House released a partial summary of the call.

Yet no matter how many times Mr. Trump exhorts Americans to “read the transcript,” the call summary itself establishes that immediately after Mr. Zelensky brought up the military aid, Mr. Trump said he wanted him to “do us a favor though,” and then mentioned investigating the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about the Democratic National Committee server in 2016.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/10/opinion/republicans-trump-impeachment.html

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