Sen. Mitt Romney calls Trump-Ukraine transcript ‘deeply troubling.’ Rep. Ben McAdams says Trump’s action was improper
(Alex Brandon | AP Photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, center, talks with reporters as he heads to the Senate for a vote, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington.
Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat who has not yet backed impeachment inquiries into President Donald Trump
’s actions said Wednesday that a newly released, rough transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president suggests Trump was abusing his power to hurt a political opponent and that a full investigation is needed.
“The phone call summary released by the White House today suggests the president was improperly using his influence with a foreign power to damage a political opponent,” McAdams said in a statement. “On this and other matters we need to get all the facts on the table before deciding how to proceed.”
McAdams hasn’t said whether he supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s launching of an impeachment probe of Trump relating to his asking Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to work with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and his dealings with a Ukrainian oligarch.
A declassified summary from the White House of a phone call between Trump and Zelensky
showed the president made no explicit promise of anything for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden but that Trump wanted the new president to do him a “favor.”
After unanimous votes in the House and Senate demanding access to a whistleblower complaint the Trump administration had withheld from Congress, the intelligence community handed over the document Wednesday afternoon.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the intelligence community’s inspector general are expected to testify Thursday before the House.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday he found Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president investigate a political opponent “deeply troubling,” but the Utah senator shied away from saying whether it rose to the level of impeachment.
“My reaction was the same as I had a few days ago which is that this remains deeply troubling,” Romney said Wednesday at The Atlantic Festival in Washington. “And we’ll see where it leads.”
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, by contrast, said he saw no problem with the phone call
, stating flatly: "President Trump did not ask his counterpart in Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival.”
Trump, at the time of his phone call with Zelensky, was withholding millions in U.S. aid to Ukraine, and Trump said he wanted a “favor” after Zelensky mentioned he wanted to buy more U.S. missiles, according to the now-declassified, rough transcript released by the White House.
The call, and possible other Trump-Zelensky discussions, prompted the whistleblower complaint that the inspector general official found credible.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the inspector general for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence forwarded the concern to the Justice Department for possible violations of election law, but the department declined to prosecute.
Romney declined to say Wednesday what the consequences of the news would be other than the impeachment inquiry Pelosi has announced.
“The consequences are being considered by the House — and I’m not going to give advice to Speaker Pelosi,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said at The Atlantic event. “She’s going to do whatever she thinks is in the best interests of the country and in the best interests of her position of power and her party. And she’s pursuing that. We’ll see where that leads.”
Romney also said he believes more information will come out when the whistleblower testifies before Congress, a move the unnamed official has requested through attorneys.
“So more information will come from that front,” said Romney, who has been both a vocal critic and a supporter of Trump.
As Trump was about to clinch the GOP nomination, Romney called him a “phony, a fraud” in a speech excoriating Trump. But he later sat down over dinner with the president-elect as he considered Romney for secretary of state.
Romney has voted for GOP policies and federal judges backed by Trump, though he has occasionally broken the Republican ranks.
On Wednesday, Romney said it’s his duty to speak out when needed.
“I mean, basically if the captain of your team says something really offensive — if you don’t say anything, it suggests that you go along with it,” Romney said.
But, the senator added, it’s often not in your best interest to beat up on your own team, especially if that means it might make you lose.
“It’s very natural for people to look at circumstances and see them in a light that’s most amenable to their maintaining power and doing things to preserve their power,” Romney said at the Atlantic event. “And I think part of that is that both parties feel very deeply that if the other party were in charge, that terrible things would happen for the country, for the people, and that it’s critical for them to hold onto their leadership so that those awful things that [Vermont senator and presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders is talking about won’t come to pass. And so I mean I think this is human nature to see things in a way that is consistent with your own worldview and your sense of what’s necessary for the preservation of your position of power.”
Even so, Romney said he doesn’t fall into that category.
“I don’t know why I’m not afflicted to the same degree as perhaps others are in that regard,” Romney said. “Maybe it’s because I’m old.”
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling for the intelligence community to forward the whistleblower complaint to Congress — a move that became moot later in the day when the complaint was sent to Capitol Hill.
Curtis said in a statement that impeachment inquiries are a “deeply serious matters,” and shouldn’t be taken lightly. He said it was good Trump released a transcript of his call — which was actually a rough summary of the call — and that intelligence officials would testify before Congress.
“It is imperative that all of the facts come forward," Curtis said, “and I am hopeful these matters can proceed without the influence of partisan politics.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, the state’s only member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet that he has read the whistleblower complaint and does not believe, by itself, it merits impeachment of the president.
“I have reviewed the whistleblower complaint made available to the House Intelligence Committee. I do not believe this alone warrants the impeachment of President Trump. This complaint should be declassified and made available to the public.”