Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican senator from Louisiana, came to the defense of President Donald Trump on Sunday, saying the president’s motivations matter when it comes to the question of impeachment.
Kennedy, who recently made headlines calling Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “dumb” during a campaign rally for Trump in his home state, admitted on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that if Trump’s actions, in which he allegedly engaged in a quid pro quo with a foreign leader to investigate a rival, were political and personal, they could render a reasonable call for impeaching him.
Kennedy, however, doesn’t see evidence yet that demonstrates Trump’s behavior wasn’t merely a request to investigate corruption of someone who merely “happens to be a political rival.”
“I think this case is going to come down to the president’s intent — his motive. Did he have a culpable state of mind?” the National Review reported Kennedy as saying.
Kennedy’s language is demonstrative of a general shift in defense of the president emanating from the Republican Party in recent days. Instead of defending what Trump has called a “perfect call” between himself and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Republicans are instead putting focus on Trump’s “state of mind, according to a GOP memo that Axios reported on earlier this week.
However, that strategy may hit a few hiccups. For starters, there’s no evidence that Joe Biden, whom Trump had pressed Zelensky to investigate, engaged in any behavior that one could deem as requiring an investigation, NBC News reported, much less necessitate a withholding of military aid to Ukraine in order to secure such an investigation.
Furthermore, testimonies from some of Trump’s own aides to impeachment investigators in the House already suggest that Trump’s request to Zelensky was specifically tailored with Biden in mind, rather than an attempt to root out corruption in the country in a general way.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 11, 2019
Trump’s demands for Zelensky were more “tactical” than “strategic and institutional,” his top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, said in his deposition, per a prior report from HillReporter.com.
If evidence continues to permeate from the impeachment inquiry that shows Trump’s behavior was more political and personal rather than coincidently requesting an investigation on a person who happens to be a rival, as Kennedy has suggested, then it will undoubtedly become more difficult for Republicans to defend the behavior of the president as something that is not an impeachable offense.