Graham: 'I don't know' if quid pro quo is impeachable offense

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break MORE (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said it was unclear to him whether it would be an impeachable offense if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine's president.

“I don’t know,” Graham said, adding that the answer depends on the details.


“We put conditions on aid all the time," he told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "But if you said I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically, that would be completely out of bounds.”

Graham, who has consistently defended Trump amid the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, said it would be OK if Trump withheld military assistance to Ukraine to push for a policy concession beneficial to U.S. interests.

Trump mentioned former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFighting a virus with the wrong tools Trump bucks business on Defense Production Act Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — US coronavirus cases hit 100,000 | Trump signs T stimulus package | Trump employs defense powers to force GM to make ventilators | New concerns over virus testing MORE in his phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a rough White House transcript, though it’s unclear whether he explicitly linked U.S. military aid to an investigation of the Democratic presidential candidate or his son Hunter Biden.

“There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the transcript.

Other Senate Republicans shared Graham's view that the motivation behind the quid pro quo should be the determining factor.

“If the hypothetical is you’re going to get $1.8 billion in U.S. aid if and only if you spend $50 million promoting my candidacy, that would be a problem,” said a GOP senator, adding that the important question is whether Trump was pursuing U.S. interests or something that would benefit him personally.

The majority of Senate Republicans at this point say they do not believe the contents of the July 25 call show that Trump withheld military aid to Kiev to force Ukrainian officials to conduct a damaging investigation of Biden, a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Graham's remarks came just hours after Democrats released a transcript showing a top diplomat appointed by Trump had revised his testimony to lawmakers in the impeachment inquiry to say the president’s dealings with Ukraine amounted to a clear quid pro quo.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said Trump withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine in an effort to secure investigations into the 2016 election and the president’s political adversaries, according to a transcript released by Democrats on the three House committees leading the impeachment probe.