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'I just don't think that's the question at hand': GOP punts on Trump conduct

Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO) quotes lines from a "Harry Potter" film to persuade the Senate to vote to convict President Trump.

Posted: Feb 3, 2020 10:10 PM
Updated: Feb 3, 2020 10:10 PM

A number of Republican senators on Monday dodged questions about whether President Donald Trump acted appropriately with Ukraine, underscoring the internal GOP divide about his conduct even as the Senate is poised to acquit him later this week on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Many Republicans instead are eager to shift the attention away from the President's conduct and onto House Democrats, whom they argue failed to prove that Trump's actions warrant his removal from office. Yet they won't say if Trump acted appropriately in urging Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, highlighting the fine line many are walking as they seek to avoid angering the President while not endorsing his actions.

"I just I don't think that's the question at hand," Senate Majority Whip John Thune said Monday when asked if Trump's conduct was appropriate. "The question is whether or not what he did is impeachable or whether it warrants removal from office in a Senate conviction."

Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection, would not comment about Trump's conduct after the closing arguments were delivered on Monday. Gardner last week joined 50 of his GOP colleagues in voting to block any witnesses or subpoenas for documents in the Senate trial.

"We're still in the middle of this trial," Gardner said when asked if Trump's conduct was appropriate. "We still have tomorrow to deliberate and consider. I made my comments about witnesses, and I'm not going to go on screen now that I still think we're in the middle of an important process."

After a reporter noted that closing arguments had ended, Gardner said he would reserve his comments for the Colorado press. "I'll talk to them," he said.

The comments underline how Republicans may be united in their opposition to convicting Trump -- but are divided over the propriety of Trump's actions. While some are offering a full-throated defense of Trump's actions, like Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and James Lankford of Oklahoma, others are far more critical, like the senior GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who said Trump's ask for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals was "inappropriate."

While Alexander said that Trump's conduct did not rise to the level of impeachable conduct, he conceded that Democrats had proven their case that the President used his office to press a foreign country to announce investigations that could help Trump politically.

"Let me be clear," GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Friday. "Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us."

But Sasse didn't respond to a question when asked if he agreed with Alexander that Trump did not act appropriately.

Asked about Trump's conduct, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a member of GOP leadership, on Monday instead criticized the "purely partisan way" House Democrats mounted their inquiry.

Some Republicans, however, did side with Alexander's assessment. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said "I would concur" when asked if she agreed with Alexander's comments. GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio also reiterated his concerns with some aspects of Trump's conduct.

A number of senators plan to make their views known more clearly by taking to the Senate floor before the Wednesday afternoon acquittal vote. Yet on Monday, few seemed willing to publicly embrace what Alexander said.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a freshman who also hails from Tennessee and is a staunch defender of Trump, would not answer directly when asked if she agrees with her home-state senator's assessment that Trump acted inappropriately.

"We want to make certain that we finish up this impeachment, that we move away from this, and that we get back to things that people want to focus on. And we always want to be certain that people act appropriately within their offices," Blackburn told CNN.

Asked again if Trump acted appropriately, Blackburn wouldn't say as she walked onto the Senate subway.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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