McConnell Urges GOP Senators To Defend Trump Even If His Actions Are Indefensible
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Republicans at a private lunch meeting Tuesday to mount an effective defense of President Trump on impeachment, even as he recognizes that some members of his conference are uncomfortable defending Trump on charges his administration linked aid to Ukraine to that country’s government running politically motivated investigations meant to help Trump.
During the private meeting, Senate Republicans made the point that it’s difficult to defend Trump on the substance of the charges against him because so much remains unknown, The Hill reports.
There are also outstanding questions about the nature of interactions between Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials over an investigation of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
One GOP lawmaker, summing up McConnell’s message to Republicans, quoted the GOP leader as saying, “This is going to be about process” suggesting that “Trump’s actions may be indefensible.
McConnell said Democrats in the minority were treated better by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) during the impeachment of President Clinton than today’s Republicans.
“What is clear and not in dispute, as Sen. Blunt has pointed out, is the process in the House to which the president is being subjected is totally unprecedented and totally unfair,” McConnell told reporters after the lunch.
McConnell’s effort came a day after Trump, at a Cabinet meeting, complained that Democrats are much more unified than Republicans on impeachment.
On Tuesday, Trump compared his impeachment process to a “lynching,” language Senate Republicans did not want to defend. McConnell later told reporters that Trump’s use of the word was “unfortunate.”
“Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching,” he told reporters.
The GOP leader also distanced himself from Trump’s Oct. 3 claim that McConnell had expressed approval of the content of his controversial July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which prompted the House to launch impeachment proceedings.
“He read my phone call with the president of Ukraine. Mitch McConnell, he said, ‘That was the most innocent phone call that I’ve read.’ I mean, give me a break,” Trump said.
McConnell said he did not recall the conversation.
“We have not had any conversations on this subject,” he said Tuesday.
Other Republicans have expressed discomfort with Trump’s conduct.
Romney called Trump’s call with Zelensky “deeply troubling.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said there was “terrible stuff” in the transcript of the call and warned, “We shouldn’t be having any American officeholder or any American candidate looking for foreign nations to come in and be involved in U.S. elections.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said last week it was wrong for the administration to hold up foreign aid to Ukraine.
Given those divisions, McConnell is focused on the process instead of the president’s actions when it comes to Trump’s defense.