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New GOP Ukraine Defense: Trump Was Just a Patsy for Sondland

“President” Donald trump Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Washington Post reports House Republicans are formulating a new impeachment defense of President Trump. Rather than deny that the extortion scheme took place, or defend the extortion as a legitimate exercise in foreign policy, they plan to make the case that his deputies “could have acted on their own to influence Ukraine policy.” So the whole scheme was going on right under Trump’s nose, without his knowledge or participation?

This line of defense’s advantage, such as it is, is the relative dearth of direct evidence of Trump’s orders to his subordinates. “There is no direct linkage to the president of the United States,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told reporters.

shady and outright criminal schemes, to any of his advisers taking notes in a meeting with him. Several accounts have depicted Trump lashing out at lawyers for taking notes, and insisting that Roy Cohn — an attorney Trump shared with several leading Mafia dons — never took notes. The new book by an anonymous senior Trump official has another scene of the president berating an aide: “Are you [expletive] taking notes?”

testified that Trump directed him to withhold diplomatic favors from Ukraine to compel investigations of Trump’s domestic enemies, he has no physical evidence. That makes it Sondland’s word against Trump’s. And Trump can then run his usual play of denying everything, calling Sondland a Never Trumper — any person who opposes Trump is either a Democrat or, by Trump’s definition, a Never Trumper — who is bitter and resentful.

reminiscent of Bart Simpson getting a job working for the Mafia, only for them to tell the court that Bart was the family don:

admitted a quid pro quo, was not following orders from Gordon Sondland when he held up military aid to Ukraine. Mike Pence was not following orders from Sondland when he publicly affirmed that the aid was tied to Ukraine investigating the Bidens.

And Rudy Giuliani spent months carrying out his work in broad daylight. Giuliani has stated repeatedly that his work was undertaken at Trump’s direction (“I don’t do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client.”) He continues to regularly remind the world on Twitter that he is following Trump’s orders and absolutely not working alone:

October 30, 2019

Then there is the wee fact that Trump actually has revealed his own involvement. In a series of candid remarks to reporters all the way back in September that have somehow fallen down the memory hole, Trump made clear that “corruption” is his code word for “Biden,” and that he did demand investigations of this to Ukraine (“It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”). Then of course there’s the rough transcript of Trump pushing Ukraine’s president to do exactly that.

confirming he has demanded investigations of his rivals, and indeed keeps demanding new ones in broad daylight.

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