GOP senators downplay developments in impeachment inquiry

Several Republican senators said Monday they had not seen anything “new” that changed their stance on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and there wasn’t anything impeachable in the President’s behavior, despite dramatic testimony by senior State Department officials and other Trump administration aides over the past few days.

GOP senators also repeatedly complained about what they call the “partisan” handling of the probe by House Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remained silent when he was pressed by a reporter in the Capitol if he was concerned about the testimony — including from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Ukrainian Embassy official David Holmes — that Trump had demanded Ukraine agree to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden before releasing almost $400 million in aid to the war-torn country.

Earlier in the day, at an event in Louisville, the Kentucky Republican predicted impeachment in the Democrat-controlled House would not lead to his removal in the GOP-led Senate, and he lamented that the Democrats’ focus on impeachment was preventing progress on Congress’s legislative agenda.

“It doesn’t look like there is anything new,” said Sen. John Thune, who is second to McConnell in the Republican leadership. “People can disagree about the way the President does things but it doesn’t seem like in the court of public opinion people’s minds are being changed by anything that’s come out so far.”

Thune also raised doubts about the much-anticipated testimony later this week of Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union who was deeply involved in pressing the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens, according to other witnesses, but who also had to amend his closed-door deposition, something that could raise doubts about his reliability as a witness.

“It all depends on what he says,” Thune said. “I don’t know though at this point, he’s changed it enough times, I don’t know how definitive his statement is.”

Thune also insisted that when he travels home to South Dakota, his constituents “really aren’t focused on this.”

Asked if she sees anything troubling or impeachable in the recent testimony, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, struck a similar tone.

“I see a lot of partisanship is what I see,” she said.

Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, insisted he has not focused on the fast-moving developments.

“I haven’t really paid any attention to it,” he said Monday. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Pressed if he’s concerned about Sondland’s testimony, Graham acknowledged, “it depends on what he says.”

When Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, was asked if he was swayed by any of the testimony, he said he would “wait until we get all the facts and see what the House does and when it comes over here, I’ll look at the whole case.”

Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican of Wyoming also was sharply critical of the Democrats handling of inquiry, calling it “a partisan impeachment process that has gone on since the day President Trump was elected.”

But when asked about the hours of public testimony from respected foreign service officials critical of Trump — played out live on all the major TV networks and reported broadly — Barrasso insisted, “I haven’t seen any of it. Haven’t seen any of it.”

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