Fox's Leland Vittert takes the "I know nothing" defense of Trump on Ukrainian extortion for a test run with Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Needless to say, it didn't go so well for Vittert.
November 10, 2019

We've been watching the Republicans and their defense of Trump extorting Ukraine to manufacture dirt on a political opponent evolve, to put it kindly, from day one. As Stephen Colbert discussed on The Late Show last week when he blasted Sen. Lindsey Graham's willful ignorance, saying he won't even read the transcripts that have been released from the impeachment depositions, these seem to be the Republican stages of impeachment grief:

This Saturday, America's News Headquarters host Leland Vittert gave us another defense of Trump to add to the list.

Here's Vittert trying--and failing--with Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski to pretend Trump had nothing to do with withholding the aid to Ukraine:

VITTERT: One thing that seems to be missing in all of this is the link between the behavior of possibly keeping aid from the Ukrainians, or trading aid for an Oval Office visit, et cetera, and an order specifically from the president. Can you find that? Do you have that?

MALINOWSKI: So thanks for having me, Leland. It's good to be back. And I think every single witness has told us that the order to freeze the aid came directly from the president. They're consistent on that. And they're also consistent in saying that nobody knew why he did it. The president ordered a freeze.

VITTERT: Do you have anybody who got that order specifically from the president?

MALINOWSKI: There were meetings at the National Security Counsel that included the Defense Department, the State Department, and they were told by the Office of Management and Budget, this order comes directly from the president of the united states.

VITTERT: They may have been told that, and you have the secondhand information of someone saying the president did order it. But you don't have anybody yet, just to be clear, who has said, the president told me, no aid without investigating the Bidens?

MALINOWSKI: There's no other explanation for why the president would have made that decision. There's no -- no other credible explanation has been given and, you know, the president could do that. He could send us Mick Mulvaney, he could send us a witness who could tell us something exculpatory here and they refuse to do that.

VITTERT: That's a different issue. Conceivably, what I'm hearing you say is you don't have anybody that got who order from the president. You have people who say they talked to people who got the order from the president.

MALINOWSKI: Well, we did speak to Amb. Sondland who spoke several times directly to the president and a who asked the president, and who asked the president, “What do you want from the Ukrainians?” This is when the aid was frozen, and everyone was trying to figure out, Mr. President, why have you frozen the aid, why won't you meet with the Ukrainans?

And Sondland asked him “What do you want?” And the president told Sondland, "I want you to do these investigations."

VITTERT: But Sondland also said though, in the testimony, he was told there is no quid pro quo, at least that was the conversation, he went back and revised a different part of his testimony.

MALINOWSKI: No, the same part actually. He said, the president said, there's no quid pro quo but I need them to do the investigations, which is the quid pro quo.

Malinowski also shot down the notion that Trump somehow didn't commit a crime because the aid wasn't withheld. As he rightfully noted, it was withheld, and the only reason it was released is because of the whistle-blower coming forward (or, as we now know, the State Department releasing the aid despite orders from the White House to the contrary.)

MALINOWSKI: Well, first of all, it's a really bad argument to say that the aid was ultimately restored and, therefore, he didn't commit a crime. That's sort of like saying attempted murders is not a crime. The aid was withheld, contrary to what Nikki Haley just said. It was frozen for weeks. It constituted 10 percent of the Ukrainian defense budget at a time when they were under attack by Russia and the only reason it was given to Ukraine was because the whistle-blower complaint blew up in the public and Republican senators started frantically calling the White House to say "Mr. President, you've got to stand down and release this money."

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