The Corner

White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

(Leah Millis/Reuters)

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration were freaked out by the call, because it was so clearly inappropriate. Also, the “perfect” defense is premised on the idea that there was only a phone call, when obviously there was all sorts action before and after the phone call, which we are learning more about.

Mick Mulvaney provided a little more information yesterday at his presser when he said Trump mentioned “in passing” the DNC server/2016 issue in connection to the suspension of military aid. (The server thing is completely bonkers, by the way.) Mulvaney tried to walk his statement back immediately by saying there was no quid pro quo, but I’d be kind of surprised if Trump didn’t tell others the same thing, and perhaps also mentioned the Bidens.

Meanwhile, our old friend Byron York had a fascinating report on Kurt Volker’s deposition. Volker pushed back strongly against Adam Schiff’s insistence that the Ukrainians felt pressured over the the withheld funding. If Volker is right, it raises the possibility that Trump wanted to use the suspended aid as leverage, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason (bipartisan support for releasing the funds, push-back from the professional diplomats, and perhaps legal concerns, which Mulvaney mentioned yesterday).

If this is all correct (and I’m admittedly speculating), a truthful and sound defense would give ground on the impropriety of the focus on the Bidens, but emphasize that nothing came from any pressure campaign, which was quickly abandoned. Since Trump only very rarely admits any error, he is loath to do this.

Meanwhile, the black box of the controversy is Rudy Giuliani and his political machinations and business dealings in Ukraine. This is where there’s the most potential for truly explosive revelations, and where the White House has to be very nervous.

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