1. We know: There was a political pressure campaign to get Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump’s political rival
We know this largely because we have evidence from Trump himself. In the July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the election, as well as former vice president Joe Biden over his son’s business ties to Ukraine.
We also know that, for months before that, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani dug up dirt from Ukrainians on Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
And we know that the officials Trump designated to work on Ukraine, diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, were trying to get Zelensky to announce investigations into the Biden family and the 2016 election. Zelensky was ready to go on CNN to announce those investigations, witnesses testified.
2. We know: Trump withheld an Oval Office meeting with Ukraine’s president and military aid
These happened in succession. Sondland, Volker and others were excited for the United States to work with Zelensky after seeing him inaugurated in Ukraine. They returned and urged Trump to meet with him. Trump didn’t want to, instead telling them “talk to Rudy.”
That was in May. In early July, Trump ordered $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine held up, which surprised a lot of people. Congress had approved it, the Defense Department signed off on it and budget officials worried about the legality of pausing the money beyond a few weeks. The White House started searching for rationales to do it.
3. We also know: Public opinion immediately after the public hearings remains the same as before them
When these hearings started, a majority of Americans supported the impeachment inquiry, but Americans were split down the line roughly 50/50 on whether the House should impeach Trump and whether the Senate should remove him from office.
Several polls conducted over the past two weeks show the country is still basically split 50/50.
And now, the least surprising sentence ever: Partisanship is driving how Americans feel about Trump. Democrats largely support impeaching Trump while Republicans largely oppose it. There are comparatively very few undecideds, and independents are split right down the middle on whether to impeach Trump, 50/50.
We don’t know for sure: Whether Trump explicitly ordered the quid pro quos on Ukraine
Trump has not definitively been tied to directing the hold of the military aid nor the Oval Office meeting in exchange for political investigations.
Diplomats doing his work in Ukraine testified that Trump’s personal lawyer, acting at the direction of the president, told them to get Ukraine to announce investigations in exchange for the Oval Office meeting. And Sondland presumed that the frozen military aid was conditioned on Ukraine’s president announcing investigations into Democrats, too.
The diplomats said common sense showed Trump wanted this stuff. And there is plenty of evidence that Trump’s decisions on Ukraine were politically motivated. Like:
* A budget official testified that Trump inquired about the aid June 19, the day there were also news reports that the U.S. was sending Ukraine weapons. Did Trump learn about the money going to Ukraine and decide to fold it into his plans to pressure Ukraine?
* Witnesses testified that they weren’t given a reason for the hold until September, which is when the existence of a whistleblower complaint was circulating in the White House. The New York Times reports that Trump knew of the complaint when he released the aid.
* Sondland testified that he held up the Oval Office meeting “at the express direction of the president of the United States.”
To sum up
We know Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Democrats, and we know Trump held up two things Ukraine very much wanted from him, an Oval Office meeting and military aid to fight its ongoing war with Russian-backed separatists.
People who thought they were doing Trump’s bidding tied those things together. We don’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump explicitly told them to.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And to my readers abroad, have a wonderful otherwise-normal Thursday. I’ll be taking a break for Thanksgiving and this newsletter will return Friday.
This is an edition of The 5-Minute Fix impeachment newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weekday afternoon.