Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
As Democrats are preparing to begin public hearings in the House of Representatives laying out the evidence of President Donald Trump’s misconduct, his more intellectually inclined defenders head toward consensus on a key fact: The White House did, indeed, propose a quid pro quo with Ukraine, leveraging military aid in exchange for investigations of the president’s political opponents.
Andrew McCarthy, one of Trump’s breathless propagandists when it comes to the Russia investigation, recently wrote a piece for the National Review telling fellow defenders of the president: “Stop Claiming ‘No Quid Pro Quo.’” Rich Lowry, also writing in the National Review, similarly wrote:
The line that there was “no quid pro quo” has become steadily less plausible as more testimony has emerged suggesting that Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine in the hopes that Ukraine would announce an investigation into the 2016 election and the gas company Burisma and/or Joe and Hunter Biden.
Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire also argued Friday: “The White House should stop saying there was no quid pro quo. There was a quid pro quo.”
The idea we’re now supposed to accept, these right-wingers argue, is that despite the fact that there was, undeniably, a quid pro quo, it wasn’t impeachable. Never mind that this may amount to one of the biggest goal-post moves in history. Trump himself has been proclaiming “no quid pro quo.” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, after having clearly admitted that there was a quid pro quo a couple weeks ago, immediately denied that he had said what he said and blamed the media for reporting on his comments. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who has argued on Oct. 3 that the improper request for an investigation into former Vice president Joe Biden was wrong, had then claimed that it wasn’t impeachable in part because “The president did not, as was first reported, offer a quid pro quo to the Ukrainians.”
But now that a quid pro quo is expected to be demonstrated before the American people beyond a shadow of a doubt, don’t expect Trump and company to admit defeat.
They’ll likely adopt the tactics of Shapiro, McCarthy, and Lowry, who all say, for various reasons, that Trump nevertheless shouldn’t be impeached.
One move proponents of this argument like to make is to argue that Democrats were always looking to impeach Trump, and Ukraine is just an excuse, as McCarthy argued:
They have never accepted the voters’ election of Trump. They are not seeking to deduce unfitness from impeachable offenses. They predetermined the unfitness finding and have spent three years looking for some misstep — any misstep — that might pass the laugh test as an impeachable offense.
This is a common refrain, but in many ways, it is obviously false. Democrats were not committed to impeaching Trump no matter what. Were that true, they could have begun impeachment proceedings much earlier on any number of counts, or right after Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report. Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to much criticism — held back her party from embracing impeachment. She didn’t change her mind until September when the scale of Trump’s misconduct in the Ukraine affair became clear, and a wave of moderate House Democrats began vocally supporting an impeachment inquiry.