Right-wing media carry the White House's “policy” take on Ukraine plot

Conservative media are already advancing a remarkable take about Tuesday’s heavily damaging testimonies by White House national security aides during the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry: Their testimony confirms that the White House carried out U.S. policy in withholding military aid to Ukraine.

Such a hot take is a plainly fraudulent interpretation of what was said, and anyone who actually watched the hearing would have to be fully conscious that it is such. The attempted plot to force an investigation into Trump’s potential 2020 political opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter is, to be blunt, exactly what the witnesses have been testifying about.

During Fox News’ Tuesday coverage of the impeachment hearings, chief White House correspondent John Roberts characterized the White House’s attitude about the day’s earlier proceedings.

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Citation From the November 19, 2019, edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime

JOHN ROBERTS (CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT): But the White House's perspective on all of this today is that this has been a debate, the White House believes, over minutia. No one has talked about what the president actually did here and that Vindman and Williams confirmed a couple of things that the White House believes were correct — that the aid was withheld to ensure consistency with U.S. policy and that the transcript of that telephone call that the White House released back in September was essentially accurate.

Fox host Sean Hannity is already running with this idea. “Both witnesses today made clear the aid was withheld to ensure consistency with administration policy,” Hannity boldly declared during his radio show, later going on to call the inquiry “an unprecedented impeachment sham, based on policy disagreements, based on opinions.”

Sean Hannity on Lt. Col. Vindman's public testimony

Sean Hannity
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Citation From the November 19, 2019, edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show

But Fox News’ own online report stated: “In his testimony, [Lt. Col. Alexander] Vindman has said he recalled U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland saying during White House meetings on July 10 that Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens to receive the aid.”

Vindman also testified that though the prepared talking points for Trump included issues regarding broader anti-corruption efforts, Trump did not bring them up during the phone call, instead choosing to discuss his specific desire to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens.

In addition, Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams told the committee that the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had “involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”

Claiming that Trump’s conduct was mere carrying out of U.S. “policy” is reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s infamous remark to journalist David Frost in 1977, when Frost asked about the various illegal activities of Nixon’s men: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”