Republicans slam Trump but back him for Senate acquittal | Daily News


Republicans slam Trump but back him for Senate acquittal

US President Donald Trump pumps his fist to the crowd as he arrives at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas. - AFP
US President Donald Trump pumps his fist to the crowd as he arrives at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas. - AFP

US: Leading Republicans took to the talk show circuit Sunday to defend their expected acquittal of US President Donald Trump at his Senate trial next week -- despite offering sharp criticism of his role in the Ukraine scandal.

The President was impeached in December for abuse of power over pressuring ally Kiev to announce investigations that would have helped him politically, including into Joe Biden, a leading challenger in this year's presidential ballot.

A day ahead of the Iowa Democratic caucuses -- the official start of the election season -- key Republican senators including Lamar Alexander and Joni Ernst said Trump's behavior was troubling but did not warrant removal.

"Hopefully, he'll look at this and say, 'Okay, that was a mistake. I shouldn't have done that, shouldn't have done it that way," Alexander told NBC.

Members of the media take photos of the articles of impeachment.

The Tennessee senator suggested Trump had been naive in asking a foreign ally to look into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine, which Republicans have claimed without evidence were corrupt.

But he added: "The bottom line: it's not an excuse. He shouldn't have done it."

Trump is all but assured of being acquitted at only the third impeachment trial of a US president, with Republicans holding 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats. A two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove him from office.

Ernst said it was "up to the American people" to decide on Trump's behavior, adding that she would vote Wednesday to acquit the president, who is also accused of obstruction of Congress. "I think generally speaking, going after corruption is the right thing to do, but he did it in the wrong manner... I think that he could have done it in different channels," she told CNN.

A narrow majority of Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress by withholding documents and testimony during the impeachment inquiry, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.

But they remain divided on whether he should be kicked from office, with 46 percent hoping to see him removed and 49 percent saying he should keep his job. Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher suggested Trump's conduct had forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hand when she would rather not have started impeachment proceedings. "Nine million more people voted for Democrats last time around than Republicans. We have winning messages without impeachment," he told NBC. On Friday, Democrats failed to muster the four Republican votes needed to allow witness testimony -- a departure from every other impeachment trial in US history.

They had been eager to hear from Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other key administration figures caught up in the scandal.

Bolton reportedly says in a forthcoming book Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev's investigating Biden -- corroborating the central claim against the president.

Alexander said however there was no need for more evidence and, with Washington awaiting the results of Monday's Iowa caucuses, it was better to let the American public decide who should be the next president.

The first vote in the US primary process will be closely watched as a sign as to which of 11 Democratic candidates are gaining early momentum to challenge Trump in November's election.


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