The New York Times is already botching impeachment. Just look at The Daily.

The Daily cover image
Ceci Freed / Media Matters

On the November 14 edition of New York Times podcast The Daily, host Michael Barbaro and his guest presented Republican arguments from Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing without crucial context that undermines them.

Barbaro and Times national security reporter Michael Schmidt presented Republican arguments without providing context that undermines them. Barbaro privileged the Republican spin by noting, “The military aid gets to the Ukrainians, so that takes away one half of it, and those investigations that were sought? They never happened, which they argue takes away the other half of it.” Schmidt agreed, glibly quipping, “It’s the argument of quid pro so -- so what?” Barbaro continued: “Can both those things be true, though -- that you can ask for something and not get it and it still be wrong?”

But Barbaro and Schmidt’s witty commentary failed to address why the aid was released when it was, and why those investigations never happened. They don’t discuss the timeline of events surrounding the release of the military aid, which is crucial to understanding what happened: 

  • On August 12, the whistleblower complaint was officially filed.

  • On August 28, Politico reported that Trump was holding up Ukrainian military aid meant to help the country fight off Russia, which was irritating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

  • On September 9, the intelligence community inspector general informed the House Intelligence Committee that the whistleblower complaint had been filed.

  • On September 10, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire demanding more information about the complaint. 

  • On September 11, Trump finally released the military aid to Ukraine after withholding it for nearly two months. 

Trump’s decision to release the aid two days after the intelligence committee was informed of the whistleblower complaint is not the exculpatory case that Republicans, or apparently Barbaro and Schmidt, think it is. Additionally, while it is true that the investigations Trump sought “never happened,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was reportedly set to announce on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN program that Ukraine was opening an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump undoubtedly would have succeeded in forcing Zelensky to issue a public announcement of investigations into the Bidens had the whistleblower complaint not surfaced when it did. It is disingenuous for Barbaro and Schmidt to claim that the aid was released and investigations didn’t happen without explaining that this was seemingly only because Trump was caught. 

Schmidt and Barbaro also amplified another right-wing talking point: that the case for impeachment is harmed by the lack of firsthand information provided. Schmidt said that Republicans feel that “if we are going to take this extreme measure of removing a president for the first time in American history, we need more evidence than just these people who were not talking directly to Trump.” Schmidt correctly noted that this argument is “a little disingenuous because the White House is blocking” many primary witnesses from testifying. 

Schmidt and Barbaro failed to mention that three witnesses who listened in to Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky -- and thus had direct, firsthand knowledge of its content -- have already testified privately to the intelligence committee and will be testifying publicly next week. 

  • Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman privately testified that during the call, he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen” and that he felt Trump’s actions ultimately undermined national security. 

  • According to CNN, Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, privately testified that “she found the conversation to be unusual because it was political in nature” and that she “said the phone call did not have the normal tone of a diplomatic call.”

  • Top Russia and Europe adviser Tim Morrison testified that he twice contacted National Security Council attorneys to express concerns about Trump’s conversations relating to Ukraine policy, including the July 25 phone call. Morrison’s testimony also reportedly corroborated much of acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s testimony.

As impeachment hearings continue over the next week, Republicans and their allies will try their best to confuse the public on the complex story. Journalists have a responsibility to fully explain to their audience the context and details behind key aspects of what happened this summer and not uncritically promote partisan talking points.