President Trump highlighted a key moment during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing to suggest the case against him was decidedly undercut by the witnesses, despite claims to the contrary by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and fellow Democrats.
After reviewing the circumstances of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, asked the witnesses to state what impeachable offense Trump committed with the call. He did not get an answer.
".@RepRatcliffe asked the two ‘star’ witnesses, ‘where is the impeachable event in that call?’ Both stared straight ahead with a blank look on their face, remained silent, & were unable to answer the question,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “That would be the end of a case run by normal people! - but not Shifty!”
The case hinges on Trump's effort to convince Ukraine to launch politically advantageous investigations, and the question of whether he withheld U.S. aid to get what he wanted.
Ratcliffe had asked top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor about whether Zelensky was aware of any hold on military aid when the July 25 call discussing those probes took place, and Taylor confirmed that he was not. Ratcliffe asserted that this was proof that Trump could not have used the call to pressure Zelensky into investigating the Bidens. Ratcliffe also noted that Trump eventually released the aid without any investigation taking place.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘What did President Zelensky actually do to get the aid?’ The answer is nothing," Ratcliffe said. "He did nothing. He didn’t open any investigations, he didn’t call Attorney General Bill Barr, he didn’t do any of the things that House Democrats say that he was being forced, and coerced, and threatened to do. He didn’t do anything because he didn’t have to."
At the conclusion of his time, Ratcliffe asked Taylor and State Department official George Kent if they could name any impeachable offense that took place in the July 25 phone call:
“In this impeachment hearing today, where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes, where was the impeachable offense in that call? Are either of you here today to assert that there was an impeachable offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?”
Neither witness had an answer, but Taylor did say that he was not there to make that kind of decision.
Democrats, however, were buoyed by the hearing after it presented a new allegation tying Trump closer to his administration's efforts to seek the investigations.
Taylor testified that the president was overheard by a member of his staff on July 26 asking EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about “the investigations,” to which Sondland responded that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”