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Agencies
December 8, 2019

Democrats shift impeachment focus to Russia

World

A
Agencies
December 8, 2019

WASHINGTON: House Democrats are bringing the impeachment focus back to Russia as they draft formal charges against President Donald Trump.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is connecting the dots — “all roads lead to Putin,” she says — and making the argument that Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine was not an isolated incident but part of a troubling bond with the Russian president reaching back to special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on the 2016 election.

“This has been going on for two-and-a-half years,” Ms Pelosi said on Friday.

A day earlier she said: “This isn’t about Ukraine ... It’s about Russia. Who benefited by our withholding of that military assistance (to Ukraine)? Russia.”

The framing is taking on greater urgency and importance, both as a practical matter and a political one, as Democrats move seriously into writing the articles of impeachment. It’s an attempt to explain why Americans should care that Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate rival Joe Biden while withholding $400 million in military aid that Congress had approved for the struggling Eastern European ally fighting a border war with Russia.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Well I don’t know about Ukraine. I don’t know that much about Ukraine’,” Pelosi said on Thursday after announcing the decision to draft formal charges. “Well, our adversary in this is Russia. All roads lead to Putin. Understand that.”

At the same time, tracing the arc of Trump’s behaviour from the 2016 campaign to the present, stitches it all together. And that helps the speaker balance her left-flank liberals, who want more charges brought against the president, including from Mr Mueller’s report, and centrist Democrats who prefer to keep the argument more narrowly focused on Ukraine. Ms Pelosi and her team are trying to convey a message that impeachment is indeed about Ukraine - Trump’s asking-for-a-favour phone call that sparked the probe - but also about a pattern of behaviour that could stoke renewed concern about his attitude toward Russia ahead of the 2020 election.

“It shows that a leopard doesn’t change his spots,” said Representative Eric Swalwell, a member of the Intelligence Committee, which drafted the 300-page report on the Ukraine inquiry that serves as the foundation for the impeachment proceedings.

With articles of impeachment coming in a matter of days and votes in the House expected by Christmas, Trump’s team is hardening its argument that the president did nothing wrong. They say voters will stick with him at the Democrats’ expense next November.

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