In their opening remarks in the Senate impeachment trial, the Democratic impeachment managers, headed up by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), portrayed the Trump administration’s decision to delay nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine as a betrayal of the vulnerable country, whose sovereignty has been under threat from an aggressive Russian regime. But all the Democrats’ current outrage, says President Trump, is undermined by the previous adminsitration’s past actions.
The military aid was “designed to help Ukraine defend itself from the Kremlin’s aggression,” Schiff said in his opening argument Tuesday. “More than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies. 15,000.”
Rep. Adam Schiff: Ukraine military aid was "designed to help Ukraine defend itself from the Kremlin's aggression. More than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies. 15,000." https://t.co/C7AyPvvSTr pic.twitter.com/PUmMDzRcy1
— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2020
Schiff’s alarm over his administration temporarily withholding the aid, Trump suggested in a Thursday morning tweet, falls flat in light of the way foreign aid was handled by the previous administration.
“The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations, are refusing to state that the Obama Administration withheld aid from many countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, & Mexico. Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.
The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations, are refusing to state that the Obama Administration withheld aid from many countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, & Mexico. Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
Trump’s reference to Obama falls in line with a general tactic of his impeachment team, which has been repeatedly using the Democrats’ glaring difference of opinion about the actions of the two administrations against them. Of particularly interest to Trump’s legal team is the Democrats’ past defense of Obama’s executive privilege compared to their current accusations about Trump’s alleged “obstruction of Congress.”
As highlighted by Tyler O’Neil, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow quickly brought up the Obama Administration in his opening arguments Tuesday, quoting past statements by the House Democrats’ leaders, including Schiff, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), “each of whom defended Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder when he was held in contempt of Congress in 2012.”
“On June 28, 2012, Eric Holder became the first attorney general to be held in both civil and criminal contempt. Why? Because President Obama asserted executive privilege,” Sekulow said in his opening argument.
Sekulow then quoted from a 2012 op-ed by Schiff: “With respect to the Holder contempt proceedings, Mr. Manager Schiff wrote, ‘the White House assertion [of privilege] is backed by decades of precedent that has recognized the need for the president and his senior advisors to receive candid advice and information from their top aides.'”
“Indeed that’s correct, not because manager Schiff said it, but because the Constitution requires it,” Sekulow said, as reported by O’Neil. “Mr. Manager Nadler said that the effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to comply with various subpoenas was ‘politically motivated,’ and Speaker Pelosi called the Holder matter ‘little more than a witch hunt.'”
“But to say that the courts have no role, the rush to impeachment, to not wait for a decision of the court on an issue as important as executive privilege, as if executive privilege hasn’t been utilized by presidents since our founding. This is not some new concept,” Trump’s lawyer said. “The president’s opponents in their rush to impeach and refuse to wait for complete judicial review, that was their choice.”