Jan 19, 2020

GOP Sen. Shelby on Trump soliciting foreign interference: "Things happen"

Pressed on whether it was appropriate for President Trump to solicit foreign interference from Ukraine and China, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on ABC's "This Week" that the president is a "human" and that "things happen."

The exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I asked if it was okay to solicit. We've seen the president in public ask the Ukrainians to get involved, ask the Chinese to get involved.
SHELBY: Well, those were just statements, political. They make them all the time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it's okay?
SHELBY: I didn't say it was okay, I said people make them. People do things. Things happen.

Why it matters: There has been a range of responses from Republicans on the question of whether Trump's conduct toward Ukraine was appropriate, with some arguing that it was improper but not impeachable — and others disputing the claim that he was soliciting foreign interference.

  • Shelby's response reflects the discomfort some Republicans have with admitting they had issues with Trump's behavior, when the president himself has insisted he did nothing wrong.
  • Shelby, who has been sworn in as an "impartial juror" in the Senate impeachment trial, said he doesn't believe Trump's conduct "rises to the standard of an impeachable offense," but added: "I still think we should wait and see what comes out in the trial itself."

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President Trump speaks at the White House. Photo: Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump unloaded on his former defense secretary via Twitter on Wednesday, hours after James Mattis condemned him for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in his response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

What he's saying: "Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was 'Chaos', which I didn’t like, & changed it to 'Mad Dog'"

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Why it matters: Obama has addressed the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed on social media and in a Medium post, but this was his first time speaking about the past week's events on camera. His voice will add weight to the growing pressure on local, state and federal officials to pursue policing reforms.

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Mattis on Fox in Septemnber 2019 in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis condemned President Trump for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in a statement to The Atlantic on Wednesday, saying he was "appalled" at the president's response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

Why it matters: Trump’s former defense secretary had refrained from publicly criticizing his former boss since resigning in 2018.