In their latest impeachment salvo, House Democrats released selected texts between State Department officials expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats are acting as though the texts are a damning indictment of Trump, proving a quid pro quo: that Trump conditioned U.S. military aid to Ukraine on Zelensky opening a corruption investigation into Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic candidate.
“American Presidents should never press foreign powers to target their domestic political rivals,” Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter publicizing the texts. The texts came from Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations; William B. “Bill” Taylor, the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine; and Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the E.U.
“These text messages reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian President without further delay,” the Democrats wrote.
“Earlier today, selected portions of these texts were leaked to the press out of context,” they continued. “In order to help correct the public record, we are now providing an attainment with more complete experts from the exchanges. The additional excerpts we are providing are still only a subset of the full body of materials, which we hope to make public after a review for personally identifiable information.”
In other words, the Democrats claimed texts were quoted out of context, but they refused to release the full texts. Their selections may also be criticized as being released out of context.
As the Daily Wire’s editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro wrote, “we should see the entirety of the texts, not merely the Democrats’ excerpts of them.”
1/10. So, these Volker texts obviously re-open the quid pro quo quo questions — which means we should see the entirety of the texts, not merely the Democrats’ excerpts of them.https://t.co/uOJVIVXSSu
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 4, 2019
The most damning excerpt came from Bill Taylor. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote.
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland responded. “The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”
As HotAir’s Ed Morrisey explained, this situation presents a kind of Rorschach test. Democrats and liberals who think Trump can do nothing right will interpret Taylor’s text as damning. Republicans and conservatives who are inclined to defend the president will champion Sondland’s response.
“The only thing supporting the notion that this reveals a quid pro quo arrangement are Taylor’s texts, and Taylor was well away from the White House as the charges d’affaires in Ukraine,” Morrisey noted. “The texts themselves show that Taylor was taking his cues from Sondland and Volker, not directly from the White House or Mike Pompeo, which is why he keeps asking Sondland for clarification. The suggestion of a quid pro quo is Taylor’s analysis — which may well have been correct, but disconnected analysis is not evidence, and barely qualifies as hearsay.”
These texts are no smoking gun to prove a quid pro quo, but it remains to be seen if they truly are bad for the president’s case.
It is impossible to analyze exactly what the texts mean without the full context. Like so much of the news surrounding the Ukraine call that Democrats have based their impeachment inquiry around, this latest bit of evidence boils down to this: which side has the corruption? As with Ukraine’s politics, Republicans will focus on the corruption of Hunter Biden, while Democrats will focus on what they see as the corruption of Donald Trump.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.