Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Sunday that President Trump's call with Ukraine's president was "inappropriate" — but it did not warrant his impeachment.
"I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival," Thornberry told ABC's "This Week" moderator Martha Raddatz.
Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, added: "I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable."
The comments represented a rare GOP rebuke of the president as the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry barrels towards public hearings later in the week.
Republicans, with some exceptions, like Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have largely avoided directly criticizing Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the July 25 call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had business dealings in Ukraine. Trump also called on Zelensky to probe a debunked conspiracy theory that Democratic servers hacked during the 2016 election are in Ukraine.
One of the ongoing questions of the House impeachment probe is whether the Trump administration explicitly made foreign assistance to Ukraine contingent on opening an investigation into the Bidens.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, revised his testimony last week to admit he had linked unfreezing nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev publicly opening the investigations.
But despite damning testimony from Sondland and other Trump administration officials, Thornberry strongly criticized the House Democrats' impeachment effort, which he repeatedly labeled "one-sided" and "partisan" during his ABC interview.
If Democrats vote in the House to impeach Trump, the process then moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a vote to convict and remove the president remains unlikely.
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