Some of President Donald Trump’s top allies said Sunday that they see no problems with the president’s conduct regarding Ukraine — and, in particular, a July phone call with Ukraine’s president — that caused the House to move forward this week with a formal impeachment inquiry.
“No, I don’t have any problem with the call,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We have now seen the transcript. The president of Ukraine said that there was no pressure, he was not pushed.
“Look, if Democrats want to impeach because Rudy Giuliani talked to a couple Ukrainians, good luck with that,” he continued, referring to Trump’s personal lawyer. “I don’t think the American people think that’s the appropriate course of action.”
Speaking with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he has “zero problems” with the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“There is no quid pro quo here, but I do have a problem with Nancy Pelosi,” Graham said of the House speaker. “If you believe that Donald Trump did something to hurt this country, you owe it to vote not talk about impeaching the president. The only way to open up an impeachment inquiry is to vote.”
Those remarks come after the whistleblower complaint at the center of the scandal was released late last week. In that complaint, the whistleblower said White House officials were so concerned about what the president said in the July call with Zelenskiy that they intervened to “lock down” the transcript of the conversation.
In the call, Trump asked Zelenskiy help investigate the Biden family’s business dealings. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company that was previously under investigation by the country’s former top prosecutor.
The whistleblower, whose name and gender have not been released, lodged the formal complaint out of a belief that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 election.
The whistleblower also wrote of learning about a “sudden change of policy with respect to U.S. assistance for Ukraine” in mid-July that executive branch officials could not explain. The Trump administration froze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, releasing that hold just before Democrats in Congress revealed the existence of the whistleblower complaint.
The White House released a summary of the president’s discussion with Zelenskiy on Wednesday, which showed Trump asked the Ukrainian president to look into why that country’s top prosecutor apparently had ended an investigation of the natural gas company, Burisma Holdings.
On Sunday, Trump’s allies turned their focus to Biden. Graham suggested having “somebody like” former special counsel Robert Mueller look into the then-vice president’s push to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired.
“I think somebody ought to look at whether or not Joe Biden had the prosecutor fired in an improper way,” Graham said. “I love Joe Biden. I don’t want to look at it. I want an inspector general, somebody like Mueller. Did Biden know that his son was receiving $50,000 a month from a gas company being investigated by the prosecutor.”
On CNN, Jordan said to “try telling” the American people “who don’t make $50,000 in a year” that Hunter was not engaged in wrongdoing.
Trump and his allies’ allegations of wrongdoing on Biden’s part stem from the former vice president’s 2016 call — widely backed by the international community — for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective and was later removed by the country’s parliament. One of the cases that Shokin was investigating involved Burisma Holdings.
However, earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, told the news agency that he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported that it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.” Members of the European Union and International Monetary Fund also have said Biden was justifiedin pushing for Shokin’s removal.
Speaking with “Fox News Sunday,” White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said the whistleblower amounted to a “deep state” operative whose “seven-page little Nancy Drew novel” of a complaint was a “partisan hit-job.”
Host Chris Wallace pointed out that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, a Trump appointee, said the whistleblower “acted in good faith,” while the Trump-appointed intelligence community inspector general deemed the complaint credible, although it was based on secondhand information that White House and other U.S. officials provided to the whistleblower.
“I know the difference between a whistleblower and a deep-state operative,” Miller said. “This is a deep-state operative, pure and simple.”
On CBS, Graham called the ordeal “a sham as far as I’m concerned.”
“Who told the whistleblower about the phone call?” he asked.
Democrats press case
Democrats, meanwhile, took to the Sunday shows to explain why the president’s conduct regarding Ukraine was so “damning” that it led Pelosi and many Democrats who had not backed impeachment action to support a formal inquiry.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told ABC’s “This Week” that “we have seen in that call record is a president of the United States use the full weight of his office with a country beholden to America for its defense, even as Russian troops occupy part of its land. And the president used that opportunity to try to coerce that leader to manufacture dirt on his opponent and interfere in our election. It’s hard to imagine a series of facts more damning than that.”
On “Face the Nation,” Rep. Terri Sewell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she shifted to support impeachment because the “whistleblower allegation is so serious it gets to the very heart of our nation’s democracy,” noting that her Alabama district included the sites of many pivotal demonstrations for voting rights in the 1960s.
The “integrity of our elections are in question,” she said, adding, “I don’t think it gets more important than that.” She called the whistleblower complaint a “roadmap” for the impeachment inquiry.
“You don’t need a quid pro quo,” she said. “The reality is that the complaint speaks for itself and it corroborates the partial readout we received earlier in the week.”