No. 2 GOP senator: 'Picture coming out of' diplomat's testimony 'not a good one'

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.D.) said on Wednesday that it was difficult to draw "hard, fast conclusions" from a top U.S. diplomat's closed-door testimony but that the "picture" from initial reports was "not a good one."

"The picture coming out of it based on the reporting that we've seen is, yeah, I would say not a good one," Thune told reporters when a reporter characterized William Taylor's testimony as "troubling."

"But I would say also that, again, until we have a process that allows for everybody to see this in full transparency, it's pretty hard to draw any hard, fast conclusions," Thune added.

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Thune noted at the time that he had not read Taylor's testimony but had seen only initial reports.

Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, said he believes the Trump administration withheld aid to Ukraine in an effort to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations, according to his opening statement and multiple sources familiar with his testimony

Thune, like most Republicans, also took issue with how House Democrats are running the impeachment inquiry, which has focused so far on closed-door depositions with current and former officials.

"I think whatever he said in private, it ought to be done in public, and I think the House Republicans are right to point out that this has been very much a sort of rigged process relative to previous impeachment exercises," Thune said.

Thune, speaking to reporters later on Wednesday, was more circumspect about Taylor's testimony, which he noted he had read since initially speaking to reporters earlier on Wednesday.

"Right now, it's a one-sided story, and I think we've got to get the full picture, which we don't have because it's been a very rigged process," Thune said after a closed-door GOP lunch.

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He added in reference to Taylor’s testimony that “there’s an awful lot of second hand.”

Republicans have seized on the process as they've looked for a foothold in the political fight with Democrats over impeachment.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) noted that he hadn’t read Taylor’s testimony but brushed off a question asking if it was a game-changing moment.

"Of course not. I mean, how could you do that when you haven't heard anything from the other side? This is a one-side show trial. Don't they do that in Russia?” he said.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump MORE (R-Iowa) added that House Republicans were coming away with “an entirely different opinion.”

“It just brings very much to the surface that we ought to have more transparency. ... The Democrats ought to get this stuff out in the open,” he said.