President's Lawyers: 'We Don't Impeach Presidents for Motives'

By Susan Jones | January 21, 2020 | 6:06am EST
(File photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(File photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Democrats are trying to impeach President Donald Trump based on what they believe his motivation to have been in withholding military aid to Ukraine -- aid that eventually flowed with no favors bestowed by Ukraine.

"The rejoinder from the Democrats really is, as was pointed out in the president's submission today, they're arguing for an impeachment based upon the president's motives. We don't impeach presidents for motives," Robert Ray, one of the president's lawyers, told Fox News Monday night.

Motives are subjective, and therefore, they are "not sufficient as a matter of law," Ray said.

"Think of how dangerous it is, when you start probing the motives of a president," attorney Alan Dershowitz chimed in:

Every president wants to win reelection, every president makes foreign policy decisions, domestic policy decisions, at least in part to enhance their electability.

Are we going to start psychoanalyzing every president's motives and creating impeachable offenses out of looking at the worst possible motives that they might have had?

No, you judge a president by his or her actions, and you judge a president by the effect and impact. You don't judge him by looking into the depths of his mind and trying to figure out whether somewhere in the back of his mind he was trying to get some advantage to his electability. That would be so dangerous.

In the case of President Trump, Democrats allege that he was trying to get dirt on a potential political rival, Joe Biden, when he told the Ukraine president: "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that [Joe] Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me."

The Ukraine president stated publicly that he never felt pressured by Trump; the investigations mentioned by Trump in the July 25 phone call were never announced and never happened; and U.S. security assistance did flow to Ukraine before the deadline. Those are the facts.

However, in an effort to impute nefarious motivation to President Trump, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), at a September hearing of the House intelligence committee, gave what he called a "parody" rendition of Trump's July 25 phone call with the Ukraine president, as follows:

"It reads like a classic organized crime shakedown," Schiff said:

Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates:

We’ve been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times so you better listen good.

I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I am going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my Attorney General Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him.

And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You’re going to love him. Trust me. You know what I’m asking. And so I’m only going to say this a few more times. In a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.

This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine.

Schiff has been roundly criticized by the president and by Republicans for making up a phone call to illustrate what he believes the president's motivation to be.


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