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Senate Republicans prepared to acknowledge Trump's Ukraine quid pro quo

In this image, Trump stands in front of a large American flag with his hands clasped together.
Trump at a MAGA rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, on Nov. 1, 2019. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Several Senate Republicans discussed a strategy shift on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Wednesday, per the Washington Post: acknowledging that Trump withheld Ukraine's military aid to encourage an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The big picture: Trump has denied that there was any "quid pro quo" between himself and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in their July 25 phone call, in which the whistleblower accused Trump of trying to "pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President's 2020 reelection bid."

What they're saying: Republicans acknowledging the possibility of a quid pro quo are emphasizing that they believe the president's request was legal and standard foreign policy that doesn't constitute an impeachable offense.

  • Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) "argued that there may have been a quid pro quo but said that the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine," multiple people familiar with the session told the Post.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said that "a quid pro quo is not illegal unless there is 'corrupt intent' and echoed Kennedy’s argument that such conditions are a tool of foreign policy."

Between the lines, per the Post: "Republicans are frantically seeking a new strategy and talking points to defend the president" after House Democrats on Thursday voted to formalize and open their impeachment investigation.

Go deeper: Mulvaney walks back claim that DNC investigation was reason for Ukraine aid freeze