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Key Republicans split with Trump on Biden investigation push

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules Trump allies launching nonprofit focused on voter fraud DOJ asks for outside lawyer to review Giuliani evidence MORE is pushing hard for an investigation of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCensus results show White House doubling down on failure Poll: Americans back new spending, tax hikes on wealthy, but remain wary of economic impact True immigration reform requires compromise from both sides of the aisle MORE and his son, but the prospect of using the Oval Office to go after a political rival is prompting some GOP senators to speak out.

Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBudowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal Kinzinger backs Cheney on criticism of Republican Party MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRomney defends Cheney: She 'refuses to lie' The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base Allies of GOP leader vow to oust Liz Cheney MORE (Maine), Ben SasseBen SasseNYT's Stephens says Ted Cruz more 'unctuous' than Eddie Haskell GOP worries fiscal conservatism losing its rallying cry Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech's antitrust fight MORE (Neb.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMichael Flynn flubs words to Pledge of Allegiance at pro-Trump rally Police reform talks ramp up amid pressure from Biden, families Victims' relatives hold Capitol Hill meetings to push police reform MORE (S.C.) have raised concerns, to varying degrees, about launching a politically motivated probe into the Bidens.

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Romney on Friday said Trump's call for China to investigate Biden was "wrong and appalling."

"When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated," Romney said in a statement, which he also tweeted.

A day later, Collins said it was "completely inappropriate" for Trump to urge China to investigate Biden and his son.

"I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent," Collins told the Bangor Daily News. "It’s completely inappropriate."

The Maine Republican has at times broken with her party on key votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.

Graham said earlier that he has no interest in conducting an investigation into the Bidens’ business dealings.

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He told reporters before the two-week October recess that any investigation of Biden and his son should be conducted outside the sphere of politics.

“We’re not going to do anything,” Graham said when asked what action he was going to take as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman regarding Hunter Biden's dealings with Ukraine. “I have no interest in opening up that front.”

“I don’t want to turn the Senate into a circus,” said Graham, who is considered one of Trump's strongest allies on Capitol Hill. “I want somebody to look at the conflict of interest outside of politics.”

The remarks were the latest example of occasional friction between Trump and Graham, who in September criticized the president's approach to Iran.

Romney's sharp remarks about Trump's effort to enlist China in a Biden investigation came a few days after he warned at a closed-door meeting of GOP senators that pushing for an investigation of Biden’s son Hunter was treading on dangerous ground that could boomerang on the party.

Romney made the point to lawmakers before the October recess that he’s not intimately familiar with the business dealings of his own children, suggesting that politicians should not be attacked because of the private employment of family members, according to a GOP senator in the room during the meeting.

“He said, ‘I don’t discuss my son’s business dealings with them,’” the GOP senator recounted, referring to Romney’s comments that he doesn’t vet the business and financial conduct of his five sons.

The implied message was that once Republicans go down the path of attacking political rivals over their family members, they open themselves up to the same types of criticisms.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands Lobbying world The Memo: Biden moves into new phase of COVID-19 fight MORE (R-Ky.) has already come under scrutiny for the business dealings and personal wealth of his father-in-law James Chao, the founder of a shipping company worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Forbes.

And Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRepublicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate GOP attorneys general group in turmoil after Jan. 6 Trump rally Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (R-Mo.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, has family members who have worked as lobbyists for a variety of corporate interests, according to McClatchy News. His wife Abigail has lobbied for Altria, which recently bought a major stake in e-cigarette maker Juul.

Democratic strategists say Trump’s attacks on Hunter Biden, whom the president called “stone-cold crooked” at a nationally televised press conference with the president of Finland, make his eldest sons, Eric TrumpEric TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden convenes world leaders for Earth Day The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Chauvin conviction puts renewed focus on police reform Lara Trump is wild card in North Carolina Senate race MORE and Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpTrump Jr. shares edited video showing father knocking Biden down with golf ball Trump: 'I can't imagine' any Republican would beat me in 2024 primary if I run Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE, fair game to similar attacks.

“What the hell are Trump’s kids doing all around the world right now? It’s a minefield for Trump in many ways to me, attacking somebody’s family given what he does himself and what he has his family do,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist.

“I just don’t see this as some kind of golden bullet that’s going to hurt Biden and take him out in the primary process,” he added.

Trump’s second-eldest son, Eric, who is helping run the president’s business empire as executive vice president of The Trump Organization, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill on Thursday that media outlets would be all over him if he engaged in some of the same deals as Hunter Biden.

“If the situation were reversed, I would have been front page news in every newspaper, online publication, and cable news outlet for the rest of my life,” Eric Trump wrote.

“Reporters would be camping outside of my door, my family would have been picked apart, my name would have been smeared in the news every single week, and my father arguably would not even be president of the United States today,” he wrote.

But while some Republicans would like to see the media comb through Hunter Biden’s business dealings, others like Romney have expressed reluctance about making him and his father the target of official probes — a practice associated more with totalitarian regimes than the United States.

Trump, however, has ignored those concerns and instead doubled down on his calls for the Bidens to be investigated.

On Thursday he caused an uproar when he declared “China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”

That statement sparked pushback from Sasse, who Trump has endorsed for reelection in 2020.

“Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps,” Sasse said in a statement to the Omaha World-Herald.