Here’s a new one. We’ve gotten to the stage of the Ukraine scandal where at least one prominent Trump-supporting Republican has stopped arguing that a quid pro quo didn’t happen and begun insisting that actually, quid pro quos aren’t that big of a deal. The culprit is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who appeared on stage with President Donald Trump himself at a rally last week, where he insisted that the identity of a whistleblower who revealed the Ukraine scandal should be printed. Now, Paul says that everybody — except him, of course — tries to extort Ukraine, so there’s no reason to worry about what the whistleblower said in the first place.
He told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press:
‘I think we’ve gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo, and I think Senator Kennedy kind of hit the nail on the head, in that if you’re not allowed to give aid to people that are corrupt, there’s always contingencies on aid… I think it’s a mistake to say oh, he withheld aid until he got what he wanted. Well, if it’s corruption, and he believes there to be corruption, he has every right to withhold aid. So I think it’s a big mistake for anybody to argue he didn’t have a quid pro quo. And I know that’s what the administration’s arguing — I wouldn’t make that argument. I would make the argument that every politician in Washington — other than me virtually — is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes… Trump’s tried it… They’re all doing it. They are all trying to manipulate Ukraine to get some kind of investigation.’
WATCH: @SenRandPaul says “it is a big mistake for anybody to argue quid pro quo,” and “there is always contingencies on aid” #MTP
“Every politician in Washington other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes” pic.twitter.com/fVGR8D2UKY
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 10, 2019
That’s false. Other presidents have not enacted schemes where already approved military aid for Ukraine gets put on hold while they pressure the country to produce dirt on their domestic political opponents on the basis of debunked conspiracy theories.
During a widely scrutinized phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump even asked his counterpart to look into whether or not a Democratic email server was in their country. There is not and has never been evidence that it was there.
It’s not just the Trump administration itself that’s arguing the exact opposite of what Paul said this weekend — House Republicans are doing the same, and technically, they’re on the front lines of the impeachment inquiry at present since that’s where it’s based for now.
Just the other day, prominent House Republican and new intel committee member Jim Jordan told reporters:
‘The facts are the facts and those facts will not change… We got the transcript where there’s no quid pro quo… We’ve got the two people on the call — President Zelensky and President Trump — who say: no pressure, no pushing, no quid pro quo.’
On Twitter, Trump himself has insisted:
‘No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!’
Now, we’ve got Rand Paul on live television saying the exact opposite and incriminating the president. In other words, Republican defenses are falling apart.