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

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill On The Money: Jobless rate exceeds 20 percent in three states | Senate goes on break without passing small business loan fix | Biden pledges to not raise taxes on those making under 0K 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.

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.

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 GrassleyGrassley: White House 'failed to address' if there was a 'good reason' for IG firings GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions 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.