President Donald Trump has described his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “perfect,” insisting that he has done nothing wrong in his dealings with the Ukrainian government.
According to a new report from The Washington Post, a “growing number” of Republicans in the Senate wants Trump to change his strategy, and admit to having a quid pro quo agreement with the eastern European country’s government.
During a private lunch earlier this week, a number of lawmakers reportedly agreed that denial is not a good long-term strategy to fight against impeachment. Instead of denying a quid pro quo, Trump should admit to it, but he should insist that his conduct does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, Senate Republicans allegedly believe.
Among those who believe Trump needs to change strategy is Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who argued during the dinner that Trump should claim that a quid pro quo is not actually illegal unless there is “corrupt intent,” according to individuals familiar with the matter.
Some GOP senators have publicly echoed this sentiment.
Notably, Sen. John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana said in a recent interview that “it all turns on intent, motive.”
“Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind,” he said.
Furthermore, according to Senate GOP officials, the White House’s ever-changing strategy has frustrated Senate Republicans, many of whom demand that the president and his allies design a coherent messaging strategy.
The complaints reportedly reached fever pitch following acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s hectic press conference, during which he appeared to state that Trump had indeed had a quid pro quo agreement with the Ukrainian government.
Mulvaney later backtracked on his claim, but Trump’s allies went back to their “get over it” message.
"Clinton, she was easy. Obama was easy. The Bush dynasty was easy — but Sleepy Joe I'm worried about. So then I say to myself, 'Gee, I guess there's only one way. Let's call up Ukraine for help.'"
— The Hill (@thehill) November 2, 2019
Insisting that there is nothing wrong with having quid pro quo agreements with foreign governments, while at the same time claiming that there was no such agreement with Ukraine, Trump’s closest allies have not only sent mixed signals to the public, but also to Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, House Republicans have supported the president’s narrative, insisting that Democrats are pursuing impeachment to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well even if he did it, it’s fine.’ The problem with that is: I know that he didn’t do it,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina told The Washington Post, echoing statements from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.