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As Evidence Piles Up, Trump Tries New Defense That Is More Damaging Than His Ukraine Call

Donald Trump Ukraine scandal

Drowning in an increasing sea of evidence against him, President Donald Trump on Friday tried a new strategy to defend his brazen call for foreign governments to interfere in the 2020 election by claiming he is duty-bound to encourage the probes into his political adversaries while insisting that “it’s not about politics.”

“This is not about politics. This is about corruption,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “And if you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption. I have an actual obligation and a duty.”

Trump has been road-testing several justifications on social media since declaring Thursday that China and Ukraine should pursue unfounded accusations of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — despite facing an impeachment inquiry for urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do just that during a phone call in July.

“As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time,” Trump wrote Friday morning on Twitter. “This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!”

Trump previously asserted in a tweet Thursday night that he has “an absolute right, perhaps even a duty” as president “to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) responded to that post Friday, urging his GOP colleagues to break with the president.

“It comes down to this. We’ve cut through the denials. The deflections. The nonsense,” he tweeted. “Donald Trump believes he can pressure a foreign nation to help him politically. It’s his ‘right.’ Every Republican in Congress has to decide: Is he right?”

Among Republicans, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Friday delivered the most forceful rebuke of Trump, calling the president’s appeal to the Chinese and Ukrainian governments “wrong and appalling.”

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney tweeted.

Trump’s latest rationale for his behavior came as Washington awoke Friday to news of damaging text messages exchanged in recent months among top American diplomats. Those communications — which Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, provided Thursday to congressional Democrats — detailed efforts by the administration to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and alleged meddling by the Eastern European nation in the 2016 election.

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