Oct 7, 2019

GOP Sen. Rob Portman breaks with Trump on Ukraine request

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

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Lindsey Graham invites Giuliani to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Rudy Giuliani and Lindsey Graham. Photos: Roy Rochlin; Pier Marco Tacca via Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Tuesday that he would offer Rudy Giuliani a chance to testify before the committee about his "concerns" — which have not been substantiated — that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating his son.

"Have heard on numerous occasions disturbing allegations by @RudyGiuliani about corruption in Ukraine and the many improprieties surrounding the firing of former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Given the House of Representatives’ behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine. Therefore I will offer to Mr. Giuliani the opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to inform the committee of his concerns."
Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

Trump-Ukraine scandal: The key players, dates and documents

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House's impeachment inquiry has been driven forward by new disclosures of what exactly President Trump wanted the government of Ukraine to do — revealed in 3 key documents, but nonetheless distorted and disputed along the way.

We've gathered the key players, events and disclosures of the Trump-Ukraine saga in one place to clear up what's happened so far and examine where we go from here.

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

Diplomat told House committees that he flagged Hunter Biden's Ukraine work in 2015

Hunter Biden. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA

A top U.S. diplomat told the House committees investigating President Trump's dealings with Ukraine Tuesday that he raised concerns about Hunter Biden's board position at a Ukrainian gas company in 2015, but was brushed off by an aide to former Vice President Joe Biden, reports the Washington Post.

Why it matters: George Kent's testimony is "the first known example of a career diplomat who raised concerns internally in the Obama administration" about Hunter Biden's work, writes the Post.

Go deeperArrowOct 18, 2019