GOP senator: Trump's actions to withhold Ukraine aid 'wrong' but not impeachable

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way GOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (Ohio), a prominent Republican moderate, criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE on Friday for actions “including asking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent” that he called “wrong and inappropriate.”

But Portman said in a statement that the conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense and said he would vote against a motion to call for additional witnesses and documents at Trump’s impeachment trial.

“I do not believe that additional witnesses are needed,” he said in the statement.

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While Portman said delaying military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE was “wrong and inappropriate,” he argued Trump’s actions did not “rise to the level of removing a duly-elected president from office and taking him off the ballot in the middle of an election.”

“Early voting has already begun in some states in the presidential primaries. The American people will have the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box,” Portman said.

Portman’s statement reflected a similar argument made by Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children MORE (R-Tenn.) on Thursday, when he criticized Trump for “inappropriate” conduct but said the offense fell short of a high crime or misdemeanor, the constitutional standard for impeachment.

Alexander said the House impeachment managers had proved that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure its government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter with a “mountain of overwhelming evidence.”

The Tennessee senator said “it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.”

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But he argued that “the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (R-Neb.), emerging from a Senate GOP lunch meeting Friday, told reporters: “Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

Portman also warned in his statement that subpoenaing witnesses and documents could extend the trial for weeks or months if the Senate got drawn into a protracted battle over executive privilege.

“Processing additional witnesses will take weeks if not months, and it’s time for the House and Senate to get back to addressing the issues the American people are most concerned about — lowering prescription drug costs, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and strengthening our economy,” he said.

Jordain Carney contributed