A Guide to the Case For and Against Removing Trump

A Guide to the Case For and Against Removing Trump

On Wednesday, House impeachment managers are expected to begin their opening arguments for the articles of impeachment against President Trump. Later this week, the president’s defense team is expected to portray the case as invalid and offer alternative explanations for the behavior underlying the charges.

Here are the key excerpts from the impeachment articles and a summary of how the two sides diverge on the evidence, based on legal briefs, reports from the impeachment inquiry and public statements.


Abuse of Power

The first article of impeachment written by House Democrats alleges that in order to benefit his re-election, Mr. Trump used the power of his office to solicit Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.


Excerpt:

“President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government — corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations …”

Evidence for:

In a July phone call, immediately after a discussion of military aid, Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and pursue investigations that could give him personal political benefits.

Mr. Trump instructed officials to work with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani on Ukraine matters. A new set of documents shows that Mr. Giuliani expressed to Mr. Zelensky that he was working with the president’s “knowledge and consent.”

One witness said that Mr. Giuliani was representing Mr. Trump’s desires when he demanded that “Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma.”

Republicans have argued:

There was no explicit quid pro quo in the reconstructed transcript of the phone call, and Mr. Zelensky has said that he did not feel pressured by Mr. Trump.

While Mr. Trump did not mention any consequences for not fulfilling his request, officials testified that they came to believe that a foreign aid freeze and a delayed White House meeting were being tied to an announcement of investigations.

Mr. Trump told Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union working on his behalf in Ukraine, that he wanted “no quid pro quo” from Mr. Zelensky.

One witness testified that Mr. Sondland had told him the president had said that they would be at a “stalemate” if Mr. Zelensky did not make a public announcement.

Democrats have relied on the testimony of officials who largely do not have firsthand knowledge of what Mr. Trump himself was privately saying about the withholding of a White House meeting and military aid.

The White House blocked key witnesses who interacted directly with Mr. Trump from testifying to the House and refused to turn over internal documents.

Even if Mr. Trump did coerce the Ukrainians for his personal gain, his actions were not impeachable because the House did not accuse him of any violation of the law.

While Mr. Trump did not mention any consequences for not fulfilling his request, officials testified that they came to believe that a foreign aid freeze and a delayed White House meeting were being tied to an announcement of investigations.

One witness testified that Mr. Sondland had told him the president had said that they would be at a “stalemate” if Mr. Zelensky did not make a public announcement.

The White House blocked key witnesses who interacted directly with Mr. Trump from testifying to the House and refused to turn over internal documents.

It is widely accepted among scholars that an official does not need to commit an ordinary crime to be impeached.

Excerpt:

“President Trump … corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into — (A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

Evidence for:

In the White House’s record of the July phone call, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, based on the theory that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that had given a lucrative board seat to his son Hunter Biden.

One witness testified that the next day, he heard Mr. Sondland on the phone with the president. Afterward, Mr. Sondland told the witness that Mr. Trump cared only about “big stuff” like the “Biden investigation” being pushed by Mr. Giuliani.

Republicans have argued:

Mr. Trump was acting within his authority to conduct foreign relations and was merely concerned about combating corruption in Ukraine as a foreign policy objective.

Mr. Trump’s concerns about Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma were legitimate, because Hunter Biden had no related expertise and was paid large sums for his position on its board while his father was in office.

There is no evidence to support allegations that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately to benefit his son. The prosecutor whose removal Mr. Biden sought was widely seen as corrupt by the United States and Western European governments.

There is no evidence to support allegations that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately to benefit his son. The prosecutor whose removal Mr. Biden sought was widely seen as corrupt by the United States and Western European governments.

Excerpt:

“President Trump … corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into — (B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”

Mr. Trump was warned by his own staff that there was no evidence to support the assertion that there was an organized effort by Ukraine’s government, as there was by Russia, to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

Evidence for:

During the July phone call, Mr. Trump also asked Mr. Zelensky to look into a theory that Ukraine colluded with Democrats in the 2016 election and is in possession of a related server.

Mr. Trump was warned by his own staff that there was no evidence to support the assertion that there was an organized effort by Ukraine’s government, as there was by Russia, to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

Mr. Giuliani had been promoting the theory on cable news and Twitter for months. His efforts to push the Ukrainian government to pursue an investigation into the matter, as well as into the work of Mr. Biden’s son, were well documented.

Republicans have argued:

The theory has merit, based on the activities of Alexandra Chalupa, a contractor paid by the Democratic National Committee who traded information and leads” about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, with the Ukrainian Embassy.

Excerpt:

“President Trump … conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested — (A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended.”

“President Trump … conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested — (A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated …”

Mr. Sondland testified that he only presumed the aid suspension was linked to the announcement, and that no one had told him explicitly that was the case.

Mr. Mulvaney later backed away from his remarks, saying, “There was absolutely no quid pro quo.”

Evidence for:

On July 18, the White House budget office told agencies that the president had directed a hold on military aid to Ukraine. No reason was provided, and several senior officials worked to reinstate the aid.

William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, testified that Mr. Sondland told him that the release of the aid was conditional on the announcement of investigations.

Mr. Sondland testified that he only presumed the aid suspension was linked to the announcement, and that no one had told him explicitly that was the case.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, effectively confirmed the quid pro quo in October, saying: “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Mr. Mulvaney later backed away from his remarks, saying, “There was absolutely no quid pro quo.”

Republicans have argued:

It was within Mr. Trump’s lawful power to freeze the aid, and making sure there was no corruption was a legitimate basis for doing so.

On Thursday, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency said the Trump administration violated the law when it withheld the funds even though they had been allocated by Congress.

The charge that the budget office broke the law in withholding the aid is irrelevant because it was not included in the articles of impeachment.

The Ukrainians were apparently not yet aware the aid had been frozen at the time of Mr. Trump’s phone call with Mr. Zelensky. Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, testified that the Ukrainians did not raise concerns to him about the aid until the freeze became public.

Another witness testified that the Ukrainians began inquiring about the aid as early as July 25, the day Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor.”

The aid was released without the announcement of investigations.

It was released on Sept. 11, after the White House learned of a whistle-blower complaint alleging that Mr. Trump abused the power of his office.

On Thursday, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency said the Trump administration violated the law when it withheld the funds even though they had been allocated by Congress.

Another witness testified that the Ukrainians began inquiring about the aid as early as July 25, the day Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor.”

It was released on Sept. 11, after the White House learned of a whistle-blower complaint alleging that Mr. Trump abused the power of his office.

Excerpt:

“President Trump … conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested — (B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the Government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.”

“President Trump … conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested — (B) a head of state meeting at the White House …”

Evidence for:

The conditions for the meeting were laid out in a text message from Mr. Volker to Andriy Yermak, President Zelensky’s top aide. He wrote that “assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.”

Mr. Sondland testified that there was a “quid pro quo” with regard to the meeting.

Republicans have argued:

The meeting was delayed for other reasons — “Ukraine’s long history of pervasive corruption and uncertainty about whether President Zelensky would break from this history and live up to his anti-corruption campaign platform,” according to a House Republican report.

The two leaders did end up meeting without the announcement of investigations.

Mr. Sondland merely presumed there were preconditions; he was not told that by Mr. Trump.



Obstruction of Congress

The second article alleges that Mr. Trump violated the House of Representatives’ “sole Power of Impeachment” by directing the defiance of subpoenas and seeking to control the impeachment inquiry into his own conduct.


Excerpt:

“In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas.

Evidence for:

The White House released a letter calling the impeachment inquiry “illegitimate” and saying that it would not comply. Several administration officials defied requests and subpoenas to testify.

The White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the Departments of State, Defense and Energy defied subpoenas for documents.

In a trial memorandum, House impeachment managers argued that Mr. Trump’s claim of executive privilege does not apply because he did not cite specific materials that contain protected information, and because he cannot invoke it to conceal wrongdoing.

Republicans have argued:

Mr. Trump was exercising executive privilege and his right to confidential deliberations.

Closed-door hearings during the House Intelligence Committee’s initial investigation and the rejection of some witnesses requested by Republicans contributed to an “unfair, abusive, and partisan” process.

The initial hearings were conducted behind closed doors, with Democratic and Republican members of three House committees allowed to sit in.

Some of the witnesses requested by Republicans did appear, while those connected to unsubstantiated theories that Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate — like Hunter Biden — were rejected.

Democrats did not follow procedures required when there are disputes between Congress and the executive branch because they did not go to the federal courts when witnesses defied subpoenas.

House Democrats defended their decision not to wait to pursue the subpoenas all the way to the Supreme Court, saying that there was “proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election,” and that litigation would run out the clock.

The initial hearings were conducted behind closed doors, with Democratic and Republican members of three House committees allowed to sit in.

Some of the witnesses requested by Republicans did appear, while those connected to unsubstantiated theories that Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate — like Hunter Biden — were rejected.

House Democrats defended their decision not to wait to pursue the subpoenas all the way to the Supreme Court, saying that there was “proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election,” and that litigation would run out the clock.



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