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

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), a prominent Republican moderate, criticized President Trump 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.

While Portman said delaying military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden 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 Alexander (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.”

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 Sasse (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

Tags Ben Sasse Donald Trump Joe Biden Lamar Alexander Rob Portman

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