The best defense Republicans can muster is that nothing came of it. An ally was discomfited and yanked around for a couple of months before, ultimately, getting its defense funding. Just because a scheme isn’t carried out, it doesn’t make the scheme any better, but the gravity of the underlying offense must be weighed. Getting the Ukrainians to say publicly that they were going to investigate the energy company Burmisa was not — as is often loosely said — the same thing as digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
All of this bears some resemblance to Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation. How could Trump obstruct a probe that reached its natural conclusion under the auspices of his own Justice Department? He hated the investigation and wanted it to go away, and even plotted against it, but at the end of the day, Robert Mueller did his work. More specifically, the Ukraine mess is lot like Trump’s order, or purported order, to then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. After drama, confusion, internal contention and tragicomedy, nothing happened.