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Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told the Columbus Dispatch on Monday that President Trump should not have asked Ukraine or China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and he disputed a key element of Trump's defense for the plea.

Why it matters: In rare criticism of the president, Portman said the Ukrainian prosecutor was not doing enough to battle corruption. The prosecutor's ouster is at the heart of Trump's baseless allegation of wrongdoing against Biden.

  • Trump insists that Biden only sought the prosecutor's removal because he was investigating a company his son, Hunter, was involved in.
  • Portman said “it may have been inappropriate” for Trump to offer the assistance of Attorney General William Barr and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani with the inquiries, according to the Dispatch.

Portman confirmed Trump cited a lack of help from the Europeans as the reason for withholding security aid that Congress had authorized.

  • But Portman told the paper he only heard that explanation in a conversation the two had on Sept. 11. In prior conversations, Trump administration officials, including VP Mike Pence, gave no reason.

Of note: CNN reported last week that Portman was among a group of senators who signed a 2016 letter that echoed Biden's push to reform the Ukraine prosecutor general's office.

  • Hunter and Joe Biden's involvement in Ukraine had nothing to do with that letter, Portman said.
  • “That didn’t even enter into our calculus as far as I know, one way or the other. It certainly didn’t into mine. Because that was something that nobody was even talking about.”

Yes, but: While Portman said Trump's actions were inappropriate, they don't warrant impeachment.

  • "I think the House frankly rushed to impeachment assuming certain things" that haven’t panned out yet, Portman said, per the Columbus Dispatch.

Go deeper: Susan Collins condemns Trump's call for China to investigate Bidens

Go deeper

5 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

6 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 6 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."