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Lawmakers react to text of Trump's Ukraine call: 'A classic mob shakedown'

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, referred to the call as "a smoking gun."
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The newly released summary of President Donald Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy swept through Washington and the 2020 trail Wednesday, bolstering Democrats' calls for impeachment and eliciting defensive outrage from some Republicans.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: "The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her."

A description of the call, released earlier Wednesday morning, shows Trump asking the Ukrainian leader to "look into" why an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter had ended. The transcript came a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry in response to reports that Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden's son.

Pelosi on Wednesday said that "the release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security. The President has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad."

Biden released a statement later Wednesday, saying: "It is a tragedy for this country that our president put personal politics above his sacred oath. He has put his own political interests over our national security interest, which is bolstering Ukraine against Russian pressure. It is an affront to every single American and the founding values of our country."

"Congress must pursue the facts and quickly take prompt action to hold Donald Trump accountable," he added.

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, told NBC News the document was "a smoking gun."

"It's solicitation of help from a foreign government for his own political purposes. That is the smoking gun. It's right there in his own words. He's admitted it," Warren said. She also pushed back against the idea that the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn't vote to convict him in an impeachment trial.

"I actually am not so sure that it's DOA," she said. Republicans "may not want to go out of their way right now, but I think that vote has to be put in front of them. And look, at the end of the day, everybody will vote, and then they will live with that for the rest of their lives."

The July call was thrust into the spotlight following a whistleblower complaint by a member of the U.S. intelligence community that The New York Times and other outlets said was tied to the call. The complaint has been the subject of a weeks-long standoff between Congress and the White House. NBC News has not confirmed that Ukraine is at the center of the whistleblower issue.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, another 2020 candidate, issued a statement saying: "We said Trump has been corrupting the office since the beginning, and today the White House said they agreed. This document is apparent proof that Trump pressured a foreign nation to meddle in our democracy again — and in doing so he again disrespected our Constitution, subverted the rule of law, and ultimately undermined the very ideals of our country."

Congressional Republicans were far less critical of the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday took to the Senate floor to decry Democrats' impeachment efforts. He accused the Democrats of a "rush to judgment" to sate their "impeachment addiction." He never explicitly mentioned the call summary in his remarks, but chided the Democrats for their "never-ending impeachment parade in search of a rationale."

Trump ally and Senate Judiciary head Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Democrats had "lost their minds."

"Wow. Impeachment over this? What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger," Graham tweeted shortly after the summary was made public.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa also brushed off Wednesday's news.

"I’ve read the transcript in its entirety," he said in a statement. "It shows that there was no quid pro quo. The Ukrainian President admitted problems with corruption in the country and agreed that the issue at hand warranted looking into further."

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a close ally of Trump's, told MSNBC's Hallie Jackson that he and some other GOP lawmakers were invited to the White House in the morning to review the call summary, and that they spoke to Trump on the phone about what it contained.

"The bottom line here is that in this transcript there is no quid pro quo, there is no improper leverage and the overall tone of this transcript is that it is mutual laudatory," he said.

The ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Jim Jordan of Ohio, maintained the summary "shows no wrongdoing," and that "the real scandal" involves Biden and his son.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, however, sounded a note of concern, telling NBC News that he found the call summary "troubling in the extreme, deeply troubling."

Asked if he supported the impeachment proceedings, the former Republican presidential nominee said he wouldn't give advice to Pelosi, but noted that the Senate was continuing to look into the whistleblower complaint.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., said in a statement that the call was "inappropriate" but that the summary released Wednesday "reveals no quid pro quo" and "does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense."