House Democrats circulate memo rebutting GOP impeachment defense

House Democrats circulate memo rebutting GOP impeachment defense
© Greg Nash

House Democrats circulated an internal memo Tuesday rebutting Republican talking points in defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE as the lower chamber's impeachment investigation ramps up into a public phase on Wednesday.

The document, which was obtained by The Hill, comes after Republicans outlined their strategy to defend the president by focusing on "four key pieces of evidence" they say are "fatal" to Democrats' allegations about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

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The memo rebuts GOP arguments that there was no pressure on a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign emails supporters encouraging mask-wearing: 'We have nothing to lose' Cuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE, that Ukraine was not aware of a hold on $400 million in military aid to Kyiv, and that Democrats’ allegations that the funds hinged on the probe into Biden are moot since the aid was ultimately released.

The Democrats' memo says there was clearly pressure leveraged on Zelensky during the July call, citing a rough transcript released by the White House showing that Trump repeatedly mentioned his desire for Kyiv to work with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiNunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden Democratic attorneys criticize House Judiciary Democrats' questioning of Barr Swalwell: Barr has taken Michael Cohen's job as Trump's fixer MORE, Trump’s personal attorney, and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrats' silence on our summer of violence is a tactical blunder Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Rep. Raúl Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19 MORE to investigate Biden on unfounded corruption allegations. Additionally, the memo cites several witnesses who have already testified behind closed doors that they felt there was a pressure campaign to link the aid to the inquiry.

The memo also cites two officials who testified that Ukraine was in fact aware of the hold on the aid.

“I knew from my Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE conversations and also from sort of the alarm bells that were coming from Ambassador Taylor and his team that there were Ukrainians who knew about this,” the memo cites Laura Cooper, a top Defense official who oversees Ukraine, as testifying, referring to other officials involved in the investigation. 

Democrats finally note that the military aid to Kyiv was released only after members of Congress expressed alarm over the hold.

The memo comes a day before the House is set to hold its first public hearings in its impeachment investigation. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and George Kent, a top State Department official, are set to testify Wednesday, while former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is expected to testify Friday.

House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry in September over concerns that Trump threatened to withhold the military funds to Zelensky unless he publicly launched an inquiry into Biden and 2016 election meddling. Republicans have dismissed concerns that Trump’s request was inappropriate, arguing he was working to make sure taxpayer dollars were properly spent in a country known for corruption. 

However, several witnesses have testified that they were uncomfortable with Trump’s request and that they believed there was a quid pro quo surrounding the president’s dealings with Ukraine.