GOP Rep. defends Trump: 'If there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one'

"Concern is different than rising to the level of impeachment," Rep. Tom Cole said.

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By Allan Smith

A Republican congressman defended Trump's conduct towards Ukraine by saying that "if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one."

"Concern is different than rising to the level of impeachment," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told NBC's "Meet the Press" when host Chuck Todd asked about allegations Trump tied Ukraine aid to an investigation of the Biden family. "I look at it this way: The aid is there and the investigations didn't happen. So, if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one."

He said what's "best" for the public is to read the White House's call summary of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and "make a judgment on whether what happened there is worth putting the country through an incredibly divisive process" of impeachment. The White House's summary of the call shows Trump asking for a "favor" from Zelenskiy shortly after the two discussed U.S. support for Ukraine.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway made similar comments on "Fox News Sunday," saying that if Trump conditioned military aid, appropriated by Congress, on Ukraine probing the Bidens, it would not be an impeachable offense.

"Is it a high crime and misdemeanor? I wouldn't think so," Conway said, adding that host Chris Wallace was giving her a "hypothetical that the Democrats want to be true."

Speaking to CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Conway said, "Let's be fair, Ukraine got the aid. As you and I sit here, one presumes they're using that aid. The Ukrainian president said he felt no pressure. He never knew aid was being held up."

And ABC's "This Week," Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., dodged multiple questions about whether the Trump-Ukraine call was appropriate. He instead insisted that Trump was not asking Ukraine to probe his political opponents despite the contents of the call summary.

"Even when the president said will you do me a favor, he then went on to ask about Crowdstrike, that wasn't about Joe Biden," Scalise said, adding, "That wasn't, first of all, about political opponents. The law, George, requires President Trump, or any president, when they're sending foreign aid, taxpayer money, to another country, to ensure that that country is rooting out corruption. He and Zelenskiy were talking about that on the phone call."

Republicans have struggled to defend Trump after several current and former administration officials spoke to House impeachment investigators in recent weeks detailing concerns with Trump's conduct.

According to a report from The Washington Post published Friday, Republicans are beginning to shift their defense of Trump from "no quid pro quo occurred" to "so what if it did?" This is counter to Trump and the White House's insistence that he was not attempting to trade military aid for an investigation into the Bidens.

Speaking with "This Week," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said "no other president in American history" had done was Trump is accused of doing with regard to Ukraine.

"He tried to essentially bribe a foreign power to interfere in U.S. elections on his side to go after one of his political opponents," Engel said, adding that he believed Trump acted illegally.

"First of all, the Ukraine, the president was saying, do us a favor to the president of Ukraine, asking him to interfere and smear Joe Biden and his son," Engel added. "That's unprecedented. It's never been done in American history before, where you essentially bribe a foreign power with money that's not the president's — it's the country's — and you try to get him to come against your political opponent."

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told CBS's "Face the Nation" there is now "no question" a quid pro quo took place, but now "Republicans are trying to throw out is whether there was corrupt intent."

"Well corrupt intent is defined in part by whether in part the president has lied, and he has lied over and over again," the House Intelligence Committee member added.