GOP senators prepared to acknowledge quid pro quo, plan to argue it was legal: report

An increasing number of GOP senators are preparing to acknowledge that there was a quid pro quo in President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE’s leveraging of military aid with Ukraine as a means to urge the country to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage MORE, The Washington Post reported Friday.

While some Senate Republicans have defended Trump’s insistence that there was no quid pro quo, a growing number of GOP officials in the chamber are adopting the stance that what Trump did was a quid pro quo but that his actions weren’t illegal and don’t constitute impeachment, the Post reported.

No Senate Republican has said the accusations against Trump rise to the level of an impeachable offense, but the continued damaging revelations against the president are quashing hopes that there could be a quick dismissal of the allegations against him, prompting lawmakers to adopt a more somber tone.

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The Post noted that the shift in tone comes after a private Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday, when Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said there may have been quid pro quo but that the leveraging of military aid to another country is something the U.S. government does often.

“To me, this entire issue is going to come down to, why did the president ask for an investigation,” Kennedy told the newspaper. “To me, it all turns on intent, motive. ... Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran Pompeo: US ending sanctions waiver for site where Iran resumed uranium enrichment MORE (R-Texas) also weighed in, saying a quid pro quo isn’t illegal except when there is “corrupt intent,” which he argued was not the case during Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Post.

The report comes as House investigators are continuing to call current and former Trump administration officials to Capitol Hill to testify for their impeachment inquiry. The chamber on Thursday approved a resolution laying out the rules governing future steps for the inquiry.

The report also follows outgoing top White House Russia expert Tim Morrison’s closed-door testimony, during which he corroborated the existence of quid pro quo — which Democrats touted as a victory in their probe — but insisted that he didn’t think anything illegal took place.