New GOP report defies reality with Trump exoneration

Article Image

CNN's Bianca Nobilo explores the history of impeachment in the United States as the fate of the Trump administration is debated in Congress.

Posted: Dec 2, 2019 5:56 PM
Updated: Dec 3, 2019 12:30 PM


A new report aimed at defending Donald Trump against Democratic claims of abuse of power represented a remarkable demonstration of the President's greatest political achievement -- the transformation of the Republican Party in his image.

The 123-page document written by GOP members on three House committees formalized the President's own cycle of distraction and denial that he used to ride out the Russia scandal. He's using the same tactic to save his job now that he's faced with impeachment over his political pressure on Ukraine.

'I think it's very unpatriotic of the Democrats,' Trump said of the impeachment process Tuesday in London alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 'I think it's a bad thing for our country. Impeachment wasn't supposed to be used that way.'

Trump isn't waiting to hear the formal case against him because he doesn't have to. Ultimately, it will make little difference since his defense was long ago unmoored from fact and is based on selling a disinformational narrative to his followers that sows confusion and devalues truth for everyone else.

The report released by the President's House Republican allies on Monday was in effect the prebuttal of a report on the Democratic impeachment investigation set to be released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday.

The message of the document -- less a defense of Trump on the merits but rather an endorsement of his counterfactual denials -- was simple: Nothing Trump did when it came to Ukraine was wrong. His scheme run by personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to coerce Ukraine to investigate a political foe, Joe Biden, was just fine, according to the partisan document. Contrary to what top officials testified, there was no quid pro quo, House Republicans claim. And the whole Ukraine drama amounts to a coup by his 'deep state' enemies -- despite an avalanche of evidence otherwise.

The report, which ignores significant and incriminating testimony against Trump, is a clear sign of confidence among Republicans that the pro-Trump conservative coalition will hold and that despite the apparent strength of the Democratic case, it will not cause a political earthquake in a tribalized nation that could see the President ousted.

The report's refusal to even acknowledge any inappropriate behavior by Trump -- in the face of direct evidence -- also offers a marker for how Republicans may approach an eventual Senate impeachment trial.

The report is so overtly partisan that it may undermine its own effectiveness among all but the President's strongest supporters.

'I think they overplayed their hand, whatever hand they had,' said Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department special counsel on 'Erin Burnett OutFront.'

'It defies what we just learned in the past two weeks in the public hearings,' he said, citing testimony of Trump-appointed officials alarmed by the President's behavior.

In a significant evolution of the defense of the President that tests the GOP's credibility, the report argued there was nothing wrong in Trump's concern about business activities of Biden's son Hunter in Ukraine -- even though there is no evidence of wrongdoing and the President stood to gain politically.

A jury that has made up its mind

The House GOP rebuttal was an example of what lawyers do -- frame a counter-narrative to the prosecution case using selective evidence to paint their client in a favorable light.

It encapsulated many GOP complaints about the Democratic process aired during televised impeachment hearings last month.

'The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations and none of the Democrats' witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion or any high crime or misdemeanor,' the report released on Monday said.

But the report's function was primarily political. Unlike a defense lawyer's appeal to a jury, this read more like a case designed specifically to people who had already made up their mind -- the Trump-voting American public that they hope is large enough to save the presidency.

As such, it will tell a tale for history of the current political moment in which the President gambled on ruling by division rather than uniting the nation in a broad coalition.

It's a political maneuver in which Trump does not contest facts -- he categorically calls on supporters to ignore the evidence of their own eyes and blows smoke to thwart wider understanding.

This was most clear when the GOP report addressed the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 when he asked for a 'favor' -- a probe into a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the election and suggested Kiev also look in the activity of the Bidens.

The report however, barely credibly, describes the rough transcript of the call as reflecting 'laughter, pleasantries and cordiality.'

It also takes Trump's own claim that there was no pressure on Zelensky on the call as credible evidence there was none. In this, the report contradicts clearly established facts and Trump's habit of crushing the constraints of his office in public view.

As well as the evidence of the call, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has publicly said that quid pro quos related to aid are a normal part of foreign policy and told reporters to 'get over it.'

Trump said at the White House on October 3 that if Ukraine was 'honest' it would investigate the Bidens, in a possible abuse of his authority in shaping foreign policy for personal political gain.

Adopting Trump's vision of the presidency, the report kept faith with Trump's mantra of never admitting a scintilla of wrongdoing. It said Trump had a deep seated suspicion of corruption in Ukraine -- though one witness, US diplomat David Holmes, said he was told by the US ambassador to the Ukraine that Trump only cared about 'big stuff' like investigating Biden.

The 'deep state' is back

The GOP report also fleshed out a narrative of a thwarted 'deep state' coup inside the US government and conspiracies that Trump and conservative media allies have been spreading even before he took office as a glue to firm up his voting base.

Though written in legalese, the report often appeared to formalize the President's Twitter feeds and the monologues of conservative news show hosts who support the President.

'The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected President based on the accusations of assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump's policy initiatives and processes,' the report read. 'They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President's 'outside the beltway' approach to diplomacy.'

Current and former US officials testified last month that they were shocked at Trump's efforts to hijack foreign policies based on long understood interests for his own political gain.

Trump has used similar fact-bending defenses for years.

The reappearance on the scene this weekend, for instance, of the former FBI agent Lisa Page -- who was accused of political bias against the President in the Russia investigation -- let him revive a familiar unfounded conspiracy theory against the FBI.

The President did not take long to demonstrate the political game at work over impeachment Monday -- sending a tweet from Britain where he just landed for a NATO meeting.

Activating a mutual cycle of reinforcement with GOP allies, Trump warmly praised the GOP allies who wrote it and who rely on his support for their careers.

'I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn't even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?' he tweeted.

Trump used the same attaboy tactic to praise Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who again suggested equivalence between critical comments about Trump from some Ukrainian officials and a state-sponsored Russian spy operation targeting the 2016 election.

And the President's daily cycle of disinformation whirled on with his selective quote from an interview with Time magazine and several European outlets in which Zelensky denied he discussed a quid pro quo with the President but appeared to rebuke him for holding back aid when his government is waging a bitter war with pro-Russian separatists.

'Thank you to President Zelensky. Case over. The Do Nothing Democrats should finally go back to work!' Trump wrote.

Democrats to vote on the report

Democrats on Monday made available their report detailing the case about Trump to members for viewing. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to formally hand the case to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, ahead of the panel's scheduled first impeachment hearing on Wednesday.

Trump's lawyers have elected not to attend the meeting -- a move possibly designed to suggest a consideration of the merits of impeachment is illegitimate.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Monday released the witness list for the meeting.

The witnesses are all constitutional law experts: Noah Feldman, Pamela S. Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley -- professors, respectively, at Harvard, Stanford, North Carolina and George Washington university law schools.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35712

Reported Deaths: 2207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10037594
Lake3806202
Allen174371
Cass15927
Elkhart143529
St. Joseph132035
Hamilton118094
Hendricks118074
Johnson1120110
Madison59761
Porter55329
Clark52841
Bartholomew52238
Howard43734
LaPorte43624
Tippecanoe4214
Shelby39822
Jackson3942
Delaware38740
Hancock34928
Floyd32140
Boone31835
Vanderburgh2902
Morgan28324
Noble25121
Montgomery24417
Clinton2401
White2389
Decatur23031
Grant22123
Dubois2053
Harrison19622
Henry18412
Vigo1758
Greene17125
Dearborn17021
Monroe17012
Warrick16728
Kosciusko1661
Lawrence16524
Marshall1472
Miami1411
Putnam1377
Orange13122
Jennings1314
Scott1223
Franklin1158
Ripley1086
LaGrange1022
Daviess9516
Carroll933
Steuben872
Wayne865
Wabash802
Fayette797
Newton7810
Jasper701
Jay530
Clay522
Washington511
Rush503
Randolph503
Fulton501
Pulaski490
Jefferson471
Whitley443
DeKalb431
Starke393
Sullivan371
Owen341
Perry340
Huntington342
Brown331
Benton320
Wells320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams201
Gibson182
Parke180
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin120
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0175

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36792

Reported Deaths: 2300
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6112290
Cuyahoga4669247
Hamilton2739164
Marion267931
Lucas2296256
Pickaway209537
Summit1487181
Mahoning1463188
Butler93333
Columbiana88952
Stark75299
Lorain70960
Montgomery69516
Trumbull58451
Belmont43914
Warren39021
Medina36623
Miami36230
Tuscarawas3604
Ashtabula34537
Delaware34414
Portage33257
Lake31812
Fairfield3108
Clark3067
Wood30348
Geauga29533
Wayne28851
Licking26510
Mercer2207
Clermont2165
Allen21433
Richland2093
Darke18423
Erie18216
Madison1627
Washington11819
Crawford1174
Morrow1071
Ottawa10217
Greene1025
Putnam9514
Sandusky8512
Monroe7914
Auglaize763
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Hardin640
Huron601
Williams561
Union551
Muskingum521
Hancock511
Shelby463
Holmes463
Clinton451
Fulton450
Wyandot442
Coshocton400
Logan400
Fayette400
Preble391
Guernsey362
Defiance342
Carroll313
Brown301
Lawrence300
Champaign281
Highland261
Knox251
Seneca242
Vinton212
Ashland210
Perry191
Athens181
Henry170
Scioto170
Paulding140
Jackson140
Adams101
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Noble60
Meigs60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Warm & Humid Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events