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After a key impeachment witness destroyed the GOP’s “no quid pro quo” defense of Donald Trump Wednesday, Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee struggled to come up with a new way to protect the leader of their party.

And it seems they settled on this: Trump was justified in withholding critical military aid to Ukraine in an effort to force the country to investigate Trump’s rivals because some Ukrainian government officials said mean things about Trump on social media.

That’s the argument Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) used on Wednesday, when United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was testifying in the impeachment inquiry. Nunes asked Sondland — who had just said Trump directly ordered a “quid pro quo” — whether he knew that some Ukrainian officials mocked Trump on Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 election.

“The Ukraine internal affairs minister … mocked and disparaged then-candidate Trump on Facebook and Twitter,” Nunes said to Sondland, asking if Sondland was aware of this.

Of course, a subjective mean tweet is not a green light to withhold military security assistance that Congress had already appropriated in order to use it as leverage to force politically motivated investigations into your rivals — as multiple witnesses have now said Trump did.

Nunes and other Republicans have used this line of argument before with other witnesses, and had it knocked down.

In the first public impeachment hearing, Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, said that of course Ukrainians were not supportive of Trump in 2016, as Trump’s policies threatened their way of life.

“In 2016, candidate Trump had made a statement saying that it was possible that he would allow Crimea to go back to Russia,” Taylor said in the hearing last week. “He expressed the sentiment or the opinion that it was possible that Crimea wanted to go back to Russia. What I can tell you, Mr. Nunes, is that that sentiment is amazingly inflammatory to all Ukrainians.”

Nunes, however, is particularly sensitive about mean social media comments. In fact, he’s suing a fictional cow on Twitter for mocking him.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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