House Democrats are inching closer to an impeachment investigation of President Trump, with some once-reluctant members jumping off the fence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi planning to spend Tuesday meeting with colleagues to coordinate a response.
But impeaching Trump will require Republican support, and Republicans don’t appear to be inching anywhere. The Senate returned late Monday to Capitol Hill, where they faced questions about Trump’s apparent calls this past summer for the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. In interviews with more than half of Senate Republicans, many took the position of having no position at all.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a former critic turned election-year cheerleader for Trump, refused to engage VICE News on the subject. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sasse used to tweet critically of Trump, but on the way to re-election in 2020, he seems to have lost his 280-character tongue.
“You’re welcome to talk to James in my office,” Sasse told VICE News. But press secretary James Wegmann never responded to a request for comment.
Freshman senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted about the news report over the weekend, and expounded upon his position with reporters in the Capitol Monday evening.
“Right now all we have is conjecture and various sources that are unnamed, so let’s get the facts out, and with that, we’ll be able to proceed,” he said. He said he wants to see a transcript of a conversation the president had with the Ukrainian leader, plus more from the whistleblower.
“Let’s find out exactly what he said,” Romney said. “It’s one thing to mention someone’s name; it’s another thing to say, 'Would you please carry out an investigation of this person on behalf of my campaign.'”
“What actions might be taken [by Congress] would depend upon what actually happened," Romney said. "So I’m not going to speculate on what actions might be taken until we know exactly what happened.”
They’re practiced at this, the wait-and-see-the-report approach.
“I’m not going to speculate until I know what was truly said in there,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters while waiting for her car outside the Capitol. “In this case, I'm going to assume it’s a serious, legitimate complaint until I determine otherwise.”
“We don’t know the context of how. He said he mentioned it,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told VICE News on her way to a vote.
“Should presidents be talking about their political opponents with foreign leaders?” VICE News asked.
“Probably not,” Capito said as the elevator doors closed. “But ...”
The see-no-evil crowd also had its say at the Capitol on Monday.
“I’ve been on a plane all day and I didn’t look at the news over the weekend,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told VICE News.
As did those who can always see evil across the aisle.
“I’m somebody that is for transparency, but what I really see happening is the Democrats are cranking up the outrage machine again, beating the impeachment drum,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the number three Senate Republican, told VICE News. “They didn’t get what they wanted out of the Mueller investigation. They’re hoping they have something here. I just don’t see it.”
“This isn’t a political matter,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told VICE News in the Capitol. “This is a matter of congressional oversight responsibilities, and I think Mr. Schiff and Mr. Schumer have done a disservice to everybody involved by bringing in politics.”
“But if the president went after a political opponent with a foreign leader, that is a political matter, right?” VICE News asked. Cornyn waved, and the elevator doors shut closed on him.
Sen. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) talks with reporters after a vote in the Capitol earlier in September. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)