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GOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: 'Those are just statements'

GOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: 'Those are just statements'
© Greg Nash

Republican Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Trump, Pelosi barrel toward final border wall showdown On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds MORE (Ala.) on Sunday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s requests for foreign nations to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Bniden and his son were “just statements” and that presidents were prone to "mistakes of judgement."

Shelby made the comments amid questioning on ABC's "This Week" about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial and whether Trump's dealings with Ukraine met the standard for an impeachable offense. Host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Top aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Chris Christie: Trump's legal team has been 'a national embarrassment' MORE pressed Shelby on whether it was appropriate for Trump to solicit foreign interference, regardless of whether he felt it was impeachable.

"Well, I don’t know that has actually been proven. That’s all in dispute. I’ve never seen anything where Trump was actually involved in it," Shelby responded, prompting Stephanopoulos to note that Trump publicly urged China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in early October. 

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Trump made the statements while speaking to reporters about a week after the White House released a partial transcript showing that he'd urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate unfounded theories about 2016 election interference and unsubstantiated allegations about the Bidens.

"We’ve seen the president in public ask the Ukrainians to get involved, ask the Chinese to get involved," Stephanopoulos said. 

"Well, those are just statements, political. They make them all the time," Shelby said. 

"So it's OK?" Stephanopoulos asked. 

"I didn't say it was OK. People do things. Things happen," Shelby responded, noting that the president is "human" and that he's going to make "mistakes of judgement." He argued that both Republican and Democratic presidents made similar mistakes in the past. 

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The House in December voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him just the third president in U.S. history to face Senate removal. The vote followed an inquiry into allegations that Trump used nearly $400 million in military aid as a source of leverage in his push to get Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals. 

Republicans in the House and Senate have roundly condemned the charges brought against Trump, though some have spoken out about Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky. In early October, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said that Trump's call with Zelensky was "inappropriate" but not impeachable. 

Echoing Trump's legal team's defense, Shelby said on ABC that the president's conduct did not meet the standard for impeachment. But he also noted that the Senate should "wait and see what comes out in the trial itself."

House Democrats on Saturday released a 111-page brief outlining their case to impeach Trump. The filing argues that Trump's conduct was the  “the Framers' worst nightmare” and that he should be removed from office.