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

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By Ben Kamisar  with NBC News Politics
Image: Rep. Jim Himes, D-CT, speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on No
Rep. Jim Himes, D-CT, speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Nov. 10, 2019.   -   Copyright  NBC News

WASHINGTON — Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes Sunday accused Republicans 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 that 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 exclusive interview on "Meet the Press."

"What the President did is wrong and impeachable," Himes said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., argued in a separate exclusive interview with "Meet the Press" Sunday that the charges 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 beginning this week.

"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."

"Those are radically different things."

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

Himes said he believes the public will hear "new information" at these hearings because he doubts many Americans have read the full transcripts of witness depositions that have been released by the House 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 anonymous whistleblower who initially raised allegations against Trump, and others to testify, 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."