House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insists 'there's nothing' wrong with Trump's repeated requests that Ukraine investigate his political rival.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy mounted a full-throated defense of Donald Trump on Wednesday, arguing to reporters that, despite evidence, Trump "did nothing wrong" in asking Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
McCarthy also claimed that Trump was not, in fact, trying to investigate Biden, even though a partial transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump's own remarks from the White House lawn proved otherwise.
At his weekly press conference, a reporter noted that McCarthy and other Republican leaders have attacked the impeachment inquiry on procedural grounds but have given Trump a pass thus far, despite his troubling requests.
"Did any of you think it was okay for the president to ask more than one foreign nation to investigate his campaign rival?" the reporter asked.
"The president wasn't investigating his campaign rival," McCarthy replied.
McCarthy then claimed that Trump was simply "trying to get to the bottom" of outside interference in the 2016 election and proceeded to invoke a Fox News conspiracy about Ukrainian research being used by Democrats during that race.
Trump himself apparently tasked his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, with investigating the long-debunked conspiracy. Giuliani has claimed he was provided statements from Ukrainian officials who said they were supposedly brought into the Obama White House and told to "do dig up dirt" on Trump and former campaign chair Paul Manafort during the 2016 election, though he's provided no proof to back this claim.
"This is an open case that the attorney general is investigating," McCarthy said Wednesday, referring to Attorney General William Barr's ongoing actions to validate the conspiracy theory.
McCarthy then claimed Trump's solicitations for foreign help were actually Trump "simply" asking "would you work with the attorney general?"
"Every day in America we work with other countries to solve open cases," McCarthy concluded, "There's nothing that the president did wrong. There's nothing that the president did within that call that is impeachable."
The McCarthy argument echoes the case Trump has made for himself, but outside of Republican circles the sentiment is far less likely to fly.
Democratic leaders and other independent observers, like former federal prosecutor and New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, have said that Trump's solicitation of help was an admission of guilt.
It is illegal to solicit or accept election help for foreign nationals, according to the Federal Election Commission.
McCarthy has emerged as one of Trump's key defenders and an ally in Congress looking out for Trump's interests in the wake of an impeachment inquiry into that behavior.
In an earlier interview with "60 Minutes" last month, McCarthy seemed to stumble when presented with quotes from Trump's July phone call with Zelensky.
"President Zelensky says, ‘We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.’ And President Trump replies, ‘I would like you to do us a favor though,'" reporter Scott Pelley read.
"You just added another word," McCarthy replied.
Pelley noted that he was reading from the partial transcript, verbatim.
"He said, 'I'd like you to do a favor though?'" McCarthy asked. Pelley confirmed that Trump had.
McCarthy responded by dodging the question entirely. "Why would we move forward with impeachment?" he asked, criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement days earlier that the House would launch a formal inquiry into the matter.
"...The president did nothing in this phone call that's impeachable," he added later.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.