Updated Nov 2, 2019

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

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

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Trump sticks with "no quid pro quo" defense as testimonies mount

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump continued to insist Sunday that no quid pro quo took place over Ukraine aid in the face of mounting testimonies in the impeachment inquiry.

Go deeperArrowNov 4, 2019

Trump says he'd love Ukraine's Zelensky to visit the White House

Presidents Zelensky and Trump during a meeting in New York on Sept. 25. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump told reporters Saturday he "would love" to have Ukraine's leader visit the White House and he thinks "he’d like to come," Reuters reports.

Why it matters: His July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky is at the center of a whistleblower complaint and subsequent impeachment inquiry into whether Trump withheld Ukraine's military aid to encourage an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump denies any "quid pro quo" took place.

Go deeper: Trump-Ukraine scandal: All the key players, dates and documents

NYT: Trump was briefed on whistleblower complaint prior to releasing Ukraine aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In late August, White House lawyers briefed President Trump on the now-infamous whistleblower complaint about his dealings with Ukraine, the New York Times reports, citing "two people familiar with the matter."

Why it matters: The report suggests Trump knew officials had raised alarms about his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president two weeks prior to his decision to unfreeze military aid, which Democrats allege he was using as leverage to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Go deeperArrowNov 27, 2019