A number of Republicans in the Senate are starting to consider changing their strategy of defending President Donald Trump against what could become articles of impeachment, going from arguing a quid pro quo between him and the president of Ukraine didn’t happen, to acknowledging such an arrangement did occur but that it’s not as big a deal as Democrats in the House say it is.
Republican lawmakers raised the idea during a Senate GOP luncheon on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana purportedly stated that the argument could shift to acknowledging the quid pro quo happened, pointing out that foreign policy matters are often produced between the U.S. and other nations in order to influence policy within other countries’ borders.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also allegedly said that quid pro quos could only be seen as inappropriate if there’s a sign of “corrupt intent,” according to sources who knew about the conversations and spoke to the Post about them.
The idea being worked out, if these accounts are deemed true, is to shift the defense toward defending the president’s actions as not being technically illegal, and therefore not rising to the level of an impeachable offense.
That may be a tricky talking point to sell, however. According to a recent Economist/YouGov poll conducted late last month, a plurality of Americans believe that the type of actions Republicans are prepared to defend is indeed an impeachable offense.
Forty-seven percent said that a quid pro quo, specifically one that tried to initiate investigations of Joe Biden or his son to military aid to Ukraine, should result in impeachment, if proven true. Less than a third of respondents, 31 percent, said it wasn’t an impeachable action. Even 1-in-6 conservative participants in the poll said it was a matter that warranted impeachment.
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) November 2, 2019
Several depositions given so far also imply that the administration’s actions might not pass Cruz’s “corrupt intent” sniff test. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sits on Trump’s National Security Council, said that members of the administration, including EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, “emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma” in a meeting on July 10, CNN reported, which was 15 days before the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Similarly, Bill Taylor, who served as chargé d’affaires ad interim in Ukraine during the summer, testified last month that aid was being held up to Kyiv to compel the investigation of the Bidens and a supposed Democratic server that Trump believed was in that nation.
As more evidence compounds detailing Trump’s and his surrogates’ actions, the idea that a quid pro quo with Ukraine didn’t have “corrupt intent” may become harder for Republicans to defend, putting this strategy’s rate of possible success into doubt.