CHICAGO — They don’t like the talk of impeachment, but there’s a small and growing number of Republicans who want the Democratic-run House investigation of President Donald Trump to proceed.
Several House Republicans have said in recent days that they want answers to questions about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president. By contrast, Republican leaders in the House have vigorously defended Trump and accused Democrats of trying to undo the 2016 election. Trump has gone on the offensive, responding at times with name-calling of his critics and expletives .
The handful of lawmakers who say they’re “troubled” or concerned by the allegations account for a small fraction of the 197 House Republicans. Still, their comments represent thin cracks in what has been a solid foundation for Trump, a sign that some rank-and-file Republicans are unwilling to dismiss the inquiry as baseless. It’s creating distance for them from the president as they consider the political consequences and wonder whether other damaging information may emerge.
“I want to know what happened,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Thursday.
But he and some others, including moderates in tight reelection races, say Democrats went too far by starting an impeachment inquiry. These lawmakers say the process began before Democrats had all the facts, and that their rush will stymie progress on other issues and further divide the country.
“You can get answers to those questions without raising the temperature as they have,” said Kinzinger. He represents a safe Republican district in northern Illinois that supported Trump in 2016, though Kinzinger has at times criticized the president.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents a Washington state district that Democrats have targeted, said in a statement that the “allegations are serious and efforts to get all of the facts demand continued transparency.”
She said that based on the rough transcript released by the White House of Trump’s call in July to Ukraine’s leader and a whistleblower’s complaint raising concerns about the president’s dealings with Ukraine, “the allegations of coercion remain unproven. No one is above the law, but for the sake of this nation we should all follow a process that does not put conclusions before facts.”
In that conversation, Trump repeatedly prodded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, while Trump’s administration delayed the release of military aid to help Ukraine fight Russia-backed separatists.
The GOP lawmakers’ comments reflect the difficult search for middle ground in the polarized political climate.
Last week, Rep. Mark Amodei , R-Nev., was forced to clarify his remarks after he was asked about the inquiry and responded by saying, “Let’s put it through the process and see what happens.” After calls from GOP leaders and posts on Facebook that called him a “traitor,” Amodei said he was not endorsing the impeachment process but wanted House committees to investigate.
GOP Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, a retired Air Force brigadier general who narrowly won his Omaha-centric district in 2018, also is treading carefully.
“I disagree with the overall impeachment line of the Democrats,” Bacon said this week. “The Democrats … some of them, not all of them … it’s been impeachment and resistance since Day One of the Trump administration.”
But he wasn’t as staunch in his defense of Trump as some of his Republican colleagues.
“I thought it showed poor judgment to make these contacts to Ukraine,” Bacon said, adding that most Americans want to see Washington move beyond partisan gridlock. “I think our president could do better. He’s part of the animosity that gets spread out there. But he’s also the recipient of a lot of it, as well.”
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said he doesn’t support the impeachment inquiry but does back efforts by House committees to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations.
“There are legitimate questions that have to be asked, and people are going to be required to answer them,” said Upton, who has represented his southwestern Michigan district for more than 30 years. He won in 2018 by his smallest victory margin, receiving slightly more than 50% of the vote in a three-candidate race, and Democrats are eyeing the district again in 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doesn’t need Republican votes to pass articles of impeachment out of the House, though for months she said she wouldn’t support impeachment unless there was bipartisan backing. That changed last week, after the whistleblower’s complaint prompted several Democrats, including several with national security backgrounds, to change course after expressing reluctance to endorse impeachment.
Other Republicans also have voiced concern about the allegations and a desire to facts brought to light.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney described the rough transcript of the call as “deeply troubling.” He said on Twitter that if Trump “asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival…it would be troubling in the extreme.”
Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, a vulnerable Republicans seeking reelection in 2020, said, “Let’s get to the bottom of this.” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., cautioned his GOP colleagues “not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no ‘there’ there when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the allegations “should be taken seriously” and “the facts have to be developed.” Govs. Phil Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts have said they support the impeachment inquiry.
Associated Press writers Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, and Chris Grygiel in Seattle and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.