TRUMP: “More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No. Nineteen people were executed after being falsely accused of witchcraft in trials in colonial Massachusetts. Defendants, who typically lacked counsel, were convicted with no evidence other than personal accusations, the presence of a “devil’s mark” on their bodies or if they failed “witch tests.” The courts also accepted spectral evidence that was purportedly based on invisible spirits; defendants sometimes were tortured into confessing.
Trump has lawyers, a Republican-controlled Senate, the power of the presidency, constitutional protections and money behind him.
The Salem trials were so unfair that they have become the metaphor of choice for Trump in complaining about the “witch hunt” against him. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll urged Trump to “learn some history.”
TRUMP: “You know full well that Vice President Biden used his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect to say that Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, pressed to have the prosecutor fired while the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, the energy company in Ukraine where Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of directors. In fact, by the time Biden came out against the prosecutor, the investigation into the company was dormant.
Biden, among other international officials, was pressing for a more aggressive investigation of corruption in Ukraine, not a softer one.
Trump's team cites a video of Joe Biden from 2018. Speaking on a public panel, Biden recounted threatening to withhold a loan guarantee from Ukraine's government unless it fired the prosecutor, who was widely considered ineffective if not corrupt himself.
What Trump doesn't say is that in February 2016, a few months after Biden threatened to hold back a $1 billion loan guarantee, the International Monetary Fund threatened to delay $40 billion in aid unless Ukraine took action to fight corruption.
An investigation into Burisma's owner for money laundering, tax evasion and other alleged misdeeds began in 2012 and pertained to the years before Hunter Biden joined the board.
TRUMP, on Hunter Biden: “How about when he went to China? And he walks away with $1.5 billion to manage ... He gets $1.5 billion.” — remarks Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla., to a conservative student conference.
THE FACTS: There's no evidence Hunter Biden pocketed $1.5 billion from China.
In 2014, an investment fund started by Hunter Biden and other investors joined with foreign and Chinese private equity firms in an effort to raise $1.5 billion to invest outside China. That's far from giving Hunter Biden such a sum, as Trump describes it.
Hunter Biden's lawyer, George Mesires, says his client was an unpaid director of the fund at the time and pocketed nothing.
"Hunter has not received any compensation for being on BHR's board of directors," Mesires said, referring to the fund. “He has not received any return on his investment.”
TRUMP: “I have been denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: This is a distortion. In the House proceedings, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee that drafted the articles of impeachment invited Trump and his lawyers to take part and ask for witnesses. The witnesses who did come forward were questioned by Republicans on the committee as well as by Democrats.
Earlier hearings by the House Intelligence Committee did not invite Trump or his team. Those hearings were like the investigative phase of criminal cases, conducted without the participation of the person under investigation. But lawmakers from both parties questioned the witnesses. Trump complained about being shut out of that but when the Judiciary Committee hearings were opened to his team and him, he declined.
TRUMP: “This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No illegal takeover is afoot.
The impeachment process is laid out in the Constitution, giving Congress the authority to impeach and try a president as part of its responsibilities as a coequal branch of government to provide a check on a president who commits treason, bribery, or "other high crimes and misdemeanors."
The standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors" is vague and open-ended to encompass abuses of power even if they aren't illegal.
Some Democrats also cried “coup” when the House impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 and it wasn't one then, either.
TRUMP, referring to "the so-called whistleblower who started this entire hoax with a false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call that was made." — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: No, the whistleblower's accusations have not been shown to be incorrect. Key details have been corroborated.
For example, the White House account of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's new president showed that the whistleblower had accurately summarized the conversation, as relayed by unidentified U.S. officials, in the complaint sent to the acting director of national intelligence. Witnesses who heard the call testified to the accuracy of that account.
TRUMP: “Fortunately, there was a transcript of the conversation taken, and you know from the transcript (which was immediately made available).” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Not that immediate. Trump made the call in question to Ukraine's president July 25. The White House released the rough transcript Sept. 25, only (but quickly) after Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.
TRUMP: “The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes." — letter to Pelosi.
TRUMP: “How do you impeach? You had no crime.” — remarks Saturday to conservative student conference.
THE FACTS: This frequent defense by Trump and his Republican allies is misleading. The constitutional grounds for impeachment do not require a statutory crime to have been committed.
In setting the conditions of treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors, the Founding Fathers said a consequential abuse of office was subject to the impeachment process they laid out.
The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid as leverage; and obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House's investigation.
Frank Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and author of “A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump," said that while it seems “almost commonsensically right" that the House shouldn't impeach unless there's a crime, that has not been the requirement in more than 600 years of British and American law.
TRUMP: “Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress.” — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: He's overstating the exaggerated account by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of what Trump said in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Most of Schiff's details were accurate and not made up “out of thin air" nor a “fantasy.”
Schiff prefaced and concluded his account at a House Intelligence Committee hearing by saying he was giving the “essence” of what Trump said on the phone call, skipping the "rambling” parts. He invited people not to take him literally.
Trump routinely and coarsely mocks critics and invents dialogue that he attributes to them. He did so at an impeachment-night rally Wednesday in Michigan, when he put himself in the voice of Bill Clinton, as if advising Hillary Clinton to campaign in that state and Wisconsin on the eve of the 2016 election. “And he said, ‘You horrible human being, you had better start listening to me because you are going to get your ass whipped,’” Trump said to laughs.
TRUMP: “Ambassador Sondland testified that I told him: 'No quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do the right thing, do what he ran on.'" — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Trump is shading what Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, told House investigators.
As one of the officials most deeply involved in trying to get Ukraine to do Trump's bidding, Sondland testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo in the matter and “everyone was in the loop.” Specifically, Sondland said it was understood that Ukraine's new president would only get a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office if he publicly pledged to investigate the Bidens and the Democrats.
“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ Sondland asked in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. ”As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
Moreover, on the more serious matter of withholding military aid to Ukraine unless the country investigated Democrats, Sondland testified that a this-for-that explanation was the only one that made sense to him.
Testimony from other officials shored up the picture of a president and his associates systematically trying to get Ukraine to do what Trump wanted during a period when the military assistance approved by Congress was put on hold without explanation.
TRUMP, on his July call: “President Zelensky has repeatedly declared that I did nothing wrong, and that there was No Pressure." — letter to Pelosi.
THE FACTS: Trump misleads.
While Zelenskiy initially said there was no discussion of a quid pro quo, he told Time this month that Trump should not have blocked military aid to Ukraine. Zelenskiy also criticized Trump for casting the country as corrupt, saying it sends a concerning message to international allies.
On that call discussing military aid, Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s political rivals in the U.S.
“Look I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo,” Zelenskiy said. “But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness."
It’s true that in early October, Zelenskiy had told reporters “there was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S.” But he did not state Trump had done “nothing” wrong.
In any event, Zelenskiy knew months before the call that much-needed U.S. military support might depend on whether he was willing to help Trump by investigating Democrats.