WASHINGTON – The summary of U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone call showing he pressed Ukraine to investigate his political rival and potential 2020 election adversary, Joe Biden, is “deeply troubling,” Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday.
“This remains deeply troubling and we’ll see where it leads. But the first reaction is troubling,” said Romney, his party’s 2012 presidential nominee and one of the only Republicans on Capitol Hill to publicly express major concerns about Trump’s actions during the call.
Romney, speaking at an Atlantic magazine forum, declined to say whether he believed the transcript showed evidence that Trump sought to condition military aid to Ukraine’s opening an anti-corruption investigation of Biden’s son.
But “clearly if there were a quid pro quo that would take it to an entirely more extreme level,” he added.
According to the declassified transcript, Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and brought up Biden and his son, Hunter, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy company when his father was vice president.
As Barack Obama’s deputy, Biden and other Western leaders pressured Ukraine to get rid of the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was seen as not tough enough on corruption.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the (U.S.) attorney general would be great,” Trump said according to the transcript.
The reaction by Romney, a party elder and one of the few congressional Republicans willing to criticize Trump, jibed with several others in the GOP, including Sen. Thom Tillis who tweeted that the transcript “debunks the Democrats’ false claims against President @realDonaldTrump.”
A day earlier the top Democrat in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced the launch of an official impeachment inquiry of Trump in the aftermath of revelations about the call and a whistleblower’s complaint which reportedly focuses on Trump’s behavior.
“We will see where that leads,” Romney said of the impeachment effort against Trump. “There will be additional information that comes out as the whistleblower is heard from.”
Romney said the Senate Intelligence Committee has been working to quickly get the whistleblower, whose identity remains concealed, before the panel.