On The Right
The points that the Republicans are hammering in is that you can't unquestioningly show that Trump had criminal intent in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden. This is because you:
- Don't have anyone telling people: "I won't release the aid unless they investigate Biden!"
- The Ukraine is corrupt so it would be legitimate to question the aid
- The call in question can be read so that Trump is asking for favors--and Zelensky wasn't aware the aid was held / wasn't being pressured (and Zelensky agreed on the record)
- The aid was released without any of the "pros" in the quid-pro-quo.
On The Left
- Everyone--Everyone--involved understood it was "aid for announcement of investigations." (Sondland, Volker, etc.). Giuliani certainly was going for that and Trump was in his thrall.
- Ukraine is corrupt but Trump doesn't seem to care about corruption in other countries (Turkey?) and he was focused on the one thing that could help his campaign.
- The call shows (1) Trump saying "We've done a lot for you--you haven't done enough for us." (2) Zelensky brings up the aid (3) Trump asks for favors relevant to the aid ("though")
- The only reason the aid went through is the jig was up--and maybe Bolton released it.
- The White House was getting questions about where the aid was on the night of the Zelenski call so certainly they knew something was up.
Looking at this, a few things are clear:
- Trump may not have told Sondland to investigate Biden but he sure told Zelensky to.
- The aid was being held for no reason anyone can articulate ("Trump doesn't like aid" doesn't cut it)--Ukraine had already cleared the check on corruption that was tied to it (which may be why Bolton could have released it on his say-so)
- Trump seems to have cleaned people out of the way who were interfering in Rudy's scheme in a way that was ugly.
What Isn't Being Said
The missing piece here is that everyone accepts that Trump and Rudy are boomers caught up in a conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that "hacked the 2016 election" and not Russia. This is a common belief on the right, currently. They may not be able to articulate it--but it underlies the entire set of theories. For example:
- The investigation into Ukraine is seen as "legitimate" because "we don't know what happened in 2016"--well, we do--and we know Ukraine wasn't part of that. There is no missing server and there isn't a big mystery about who hacked it.
- That Hunter Biden was doing something nefarious in Ukraine on the board. He wasn't--he probably wasn't doing anything. There isn't anything alleged that Hunter did. The theory is that Joe Biden tried to keep Hunter from being investigated--which would be corrupt--but we can plainly see that isn't what happened (Joe Biden was doing what the entire NatSec community wanted to happen--get the guy who was NOT investigating things out of there. Biden's replacement made it more likely Burisma would be investigated)--but on the right there is an ambient belief that Hunter was doing something illegal or bad.
- The theory that within the entire government are many, many "Deep State" agents who are trying to "get" Trump--that anyone who is testifying in a way Trump doesn't like must, by nature of saying anything bad about Trump be an agent of these nefarious forces.
In other words, again, the Right is consumed with bizarre conspiracy theories that don't just color what they believe--but actually underlie it all and distort any reported facts to alter the narrative. The core belief is that Trump is not wrong--and can do no wrong--and the facts will shift around whatever needs to keep that point clean.