Rep. Himes accuses Republicans of a false equivalency between Trump, Biden on Ukraine

"What the president did was wrong and impeachable," Himes, D-Conn., said in an interview with "Meet the Press."
Image: Rep. Jim Himes, D-CT, speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Nov. 10, 2019.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019.NBC News

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., accused Republicans on Sunday of creating a false equivalency between accusations that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden's public posture toward the same country during the Obama administration.

"The president of the United States demanding — extorting — a vulnerable country to do his political bidding, to go after his opponent, has nothing to do with Joe Biden executing the foreign policy of the United States," Himes said in an interview on "Meet the Press."

"What the president did is wrong and impeachable," said Himes, who is a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., argued in a separate interview with "Meet the Press" on Sunday that allegations that Trump and other top officials threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate Biden and his son's business dealing there is "exactly" what the former vice president did while in office.

Paul's argument echoed one of several defenses Republicans have mounted as the House prepares for public impeachment hearings this week.

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"The American people want fairness, and I don't think they're going to judge fairness when they are accusing President Trump of the same thing Joe Biden did, threatening the aid if some kind of corruption is not investigated," Paul said.

"It seems like everybody, both parties, have been threatening aid if some kind of investigation either doesn't happen or has ended."

But Himes argued Sunday that getting rid of a controversial Ukrainian prosecutor was an international priority, not a domestic political one, which makes the two situations different.

"This was American foreign policy, this was European Union policy, this was IMF policy that this prosecutor needed to go," he said.

"Those are radically different things."

In public hearings this week, the House is expected to hear from career diplomat William Taylor, State Department official George Kent and and the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Himes said he believes the public will hear "new information" because he doubts many Americans have read the full transcripts of witness depositions that the House has released in recent days.

"They are going to hear immensely patriotic, beautifully articulate people telling the story of a president who — let's forget quid-pro-quo; quid-pro-quo is one of these things to muddy the works — who extorted a vulnerable country by holding up military aid," he said.

House Republicans are calling for Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son,to testify, as well as the anonymous whistleblower who initially raised allegations against Trump. Paul said that it's essential that Democrats grant that request.

"I'm very open-minded and fair-minded. You'll not meet a person more fair than I am," he said.

"One of our traditions about finding justice is that the defense should be able to present their witnesses. So if you can't call Hunter Biden and you can't call the whistleblower, that's sort of a sham."