Donald Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine’s president in order to get his government to announce a sham investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden amounted to “good government,” US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told a Fox News host on the third night of Trump’s impeachment trial.
“I am not going to live in a country where the Trump family can be investigated for years, spent millions of dollars on legal fees, and the Democratic Vice President’s son takes $3 million from the most corrupt gas company in the Ukraine, and nobody gives a damn,” Graham told Sean Hannity on January 25.
“We’re not going to live in that country,” said Graham, who was often a key figure in numerous Republican investigations of Bill and Hillary Clinton over the past 30 years, including the former Democratic president’s 1999 impeachment.
No Evidence of Biden Wrongdoing
Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, did accept a position as a board member at Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014. Viktor Shokin, formerly the country’s top prosecutor, had previously led an investigation into the owner of Burisma. There is no evidence, though, of any wrongdoing by either Biden.
While Trump allies point to the fact that Joe Biden pushed in 2016 for Shokin’s ouster, the vice president was representing the position of not only the US government, but also US allies who believed Shokin was soft on corruption. Shokin’s investigation into Burisma’s owner was no longer active by the time Biden and other US officials pushed for his removal.
Despite that, Trump began leveraging US aid to pressure Ukraine’s new president to announce an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma sometime last year. Trump believed that the former vice president would likely win the Democratic nomination and become his rival for the 2020 election.
Trump also began pushing for Ukraine to investigate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked the US election system in 2016 and had possession of the hacked Democratic National Committee’s server—a theory that some White House aids believe Russian President Vladimir Putin personally planted in Trump’s head, the Washington Post reported.
On January 24, though, a straight-faced Senator Lindsey Graham told Hannity that Trump was merely interested in rooting out corruption.
“When they say the administration betrayed the Ukraine, I would say it’s quite the opposite. They did more than Biden,” Graham told the Fox News host. “When they say that the only reason that President Trump wanted anybody to look at the Bidens, I would say, is that good government demands they look at the Bidens.”
Graham: ‘I’m Not Trying to Pretend to Be a Fair Juror Here’
Though Graham was frequently absent during US House presentations of the case for Trump’s impeachment over the past three days, House impeachment managers pointed to evidence that Trump berated the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for not re-hiring Shokin. Zelensky, whom voters elected after he ran on an anti-corruption platform, considered Shokin corrupt for his pattern of declining or dropping investigations into powerful figures and entities.
Evidence and witness testimony show that Trump was not concerned with whether or not Ukraine actually moved forward with a full-throated investigation, but instead wanted Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden to hurt the Democrat’s credibility and create a cloud of corruption around him.
To get Zelensky to agree to announce an investigation, Trump threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of congressionally-appropriated aid meant to help Ukraine ward off Russian attack—an act that the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan government watchdog, found to be illegal in a report earlier this month. Since 2014, Putin’s Russia has repeatedly invaded the country in an effort to reclaim territory that once belonged to the Soviet Union.
Graham and other Republican senators, who are supposed to act as jurors in the impeachment trial, have suggested they will not allow witnesses to testify during Trump’s trial unless Joe and Hunter Biden also testify—even though neither man has knowledge related to Trump’s actions.
Ahead of the trial, Graham, like other US senators, swore an oath that “in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
A month earlier, though, Graham said he had no intention of serving as an impartial juror.
“I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” he said.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican US Senate majority leader who is overseeing the structure of the trial, spoke even more clearly about his disregard for the impeachment oath last month.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell said. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision . . . I’m not impartial about this at all.”
‘If Right Doesn’t Matter, We’re Lost’
In arguments for Trump’s removal from office on January 23, though, Lead US House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff, a Democratic congressman from California, implored senators to do what is right rather than what is politically expedient. He pointed to the example of US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the US House impeachment hearings.
Before his testimony, Vindman’s Ukrainian-born father expressed fears that speaking out against Trump could endanger his son’s life, recalling memories of living under authoritarian rule during the Soviet Union’s reign. Vindman, though, assured him that he would be fine.
“This is America. … Here, right matters,” Vindman told his father.
As he finished his arguments on January 23, Schiff choked up.
“The American people deserve a President they can count on to put their interests first, to put their interests first. Colonel Vindman said, ‘Here, right matters. Here, right matters.’ Well, let me tell you something, if right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is,” Schiff said. “It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well written the Oath of Impartiality is.
“If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. … And you know that what he did was not right. That’s what they do in the old country that Colonel Vindman’s father came from. Or the old country that my great grandfather came from, or the old countries that your ancestors came from, or maybe you came from. But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth.
Schiff then urged senators to vote to convict Trump on charges of obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
“No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter any more,” the California congressman said. “And you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.
“This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”
In a video message the next morning, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat who is up for re-election this year, said the evidence was compelling and praised Schiff’s arguments.
“Last night, as we closed, and it was 10:30 or so, every eye on that chamber was focused on Mr Schiff. … That’s really the heart of this entire case. In America, right matters.”
Despite Republicans’ reluctance to allow witness testimony, Jones urged his colleagues to vote to call Trump associates and White House aids to testify. He also urged senators to allow more documented evidence at trial.
Trump’s attorneys are arguing in his defense from January 25 to January 27. The defense plans to keep its arguments short, though, anticipating that the Republican majority Senate will line up behind Trump, precluding the requisite two-thirds Senate majority needed to convict and remove him from office.
Follow Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman and on Instagram @ashtoninms. Send feedback to [email protected] and tips to [email protected]. Follow Deep South Voice on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @deepsouthvoice.