- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2019

A counsel for House Republicans argued at Monday’s Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing that President Trump had good reason to want an investigation of Ukraine interference in the 2016 election, pushing back on Democrats’ claims that such talk ignores Russia.

Steve Castor, the Republican counsel on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, drew a stark line between allegations against Ukraine and the full-on election-meddling scheme orchestrated by Russia.

Mr. Castor noted that allegations of senior Ukraine officials interfering in the 2016 election have drawn a “visceral reaction from most Democrats,” who contend the charge negates Russian’s election meddling.

“Let me say very, very clearly that election interference is not binary. I’m not saying that it was Ukraine and not Russia,” he said. “I’m saying that both countries can work to influence an election.”

During a July 25th phone call with Ukrainian Volodymyr President Zelensky, Mr. Trump asked him to look into a missing Democratic National Committee server that was hacked by Russians in 2016. Mr. Trump believes the unsubstantiated theory that it ended up in Ukraine.

Republicans have been under fire from critics for defending the president by suggesting that Ukrainians did attempt to somehow influence the 2016 election.

Most notably, Fiona Hill, a former Russia expert on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, told lawmakers last month that the Ukraine-meddling theory is a “fictional narrative” peddled by Russian agents.

She acknowledged there was a handful of Ukrainian officials who likely offended the president and sought to curry favor with the Clinton campaign, but it was nowhere near the scale of the Russian scheme.

Daniel Goldman, the Democratic counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, took the opportunity to slam the request as a boon to Russia.

“Not a single witness in our investigation testified that there was any factual support for this allegation,” he said. “Although no one in the U.S. government knew of any factual support for this theory, it did have one significant supporter — Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

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