House Democrats could pursue evidence to bolster the impeachment case against Donald Trump after a blockbuster Washington Post report this week. The piece alleges that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself may have convinced Trump into thinking Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
According to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, the sources for the above story should be called as witnesses by the House Intelligence Committee.
The narrative that claims Ukraine attacked the 2016 election — and that Russia is therefore innocent — has been widely debunked, including in sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee by former Trump White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill. In fact, she testified that the narrative isn’t just phony, but was also created as deliberate disinformation by Russian intelligence services.
But the “theory” that Ukraine rather than Russia was behind the election hack has been repeated publicly by numerous Republicans. Most notably, Trump himself has repeatedly denied or expressed skepticism of the United States intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia perpetrated the election attack, and that the operation was ordered personally by Putin.
Trump was reportedly shown evidence that Putin ordered the attack as far back as January 2017 but has continued to publicly deny it anyway, asserting instead that Ukraine was the culprit, and that the country was attempting to stop his election, not support it as the intelligence agencies say Russia was trying to do.
The conservative site The Bulwark has assembled a video compiling how the propaganda flowed from Russian media outlets to Republican politicians.
In the Washington Post scoop published on Thursday, former White House aides say that Trump seized on the Ukraine “theory” early in his term, convinced that the country had somehow worked to undermine his campaign.
But after a meeting with Putin in July 2017 at a Group of 20 summit in Germany, “Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him,” according to the publication.
Trump continued to forcefully reject the intelligence agency’s conclusions that Russia — and Putin himself — was behind the election attack, insisting that Ukraine had orchestrated the activities. Per The Washington Post, this led aides to believe that “Putin himself helped spur the idea” that Ukraine interfered in the election.
In her Friday Washington Post column, Rubin questioned why those former White House officials “would anonymously say that Trump was a Putin puppet but refuse to come forward to provide testimony.”
Democrats, who passed articles of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday, have withheld those articles from the Senate until they get a pledge that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow a fair trial with witnesses giving testimony. But according to one legal expert quoted by Rubin — former Justice Department spokesperson Matt Miller — documentation of the president’s communications with his Russian counterpart must now be part of the impeachment trial, “if it is true that Trump was literally repeating talking points given to him by Putin.”