Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, offered the strongest rebuke of President Trump’s efforts to obtain a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden of any member of his party on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, but stopped short of calling them “bribery or extortion,” or of supporting Trump’s impeachment.
Hurd, a moderate Republican who has announced his retirement from Congress, has often clashed with Trump on a variety of issues and last month assailed the president for calling on China to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. But his remarks on Thursday were notable in that he had previously kept such differences with Trump out of view as he questioned witnesses during the impeachment inquiry.
“Throughout this process I have said that I want to learn the facts, so that we can get to the truth. So why are we here? Because of two things that occurred during the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. The use of the phrase ‘do us a favor, though’ in reference to the 2016 presidential election, and the mention of the word ‘Biden,’” Hurd began.
“I believe both statements were inappropriate, misguided foreign policy, and it is certainly not how the executive, current or in the future, should handle such a call. Over the course of these hearings, the American people have learned about a series of events that in my view have undermined our national security and undercut Ukraine, a key partner on the frontlines against Russian aggression,” he said. “We’ve heard of U.S. officials carrying uncoordinated, confusing and conflicting messages that created doubt and uncertainty in Kyiv at a time when a new reformist administration has just taken office and was ready to fight corruption and work with us on other U.S. objectives. I disagree with this sort of bungling foreign policy.”
While those remarks stood out against the tireless defense that his Republican colleagues on the committee have offered on behalf of the president, Hurd then pivoted on the question of whether Trump’s foreign policy missteps warranted punishment by the House.
“While I thought the Intelligence Committee would actually be engaged in oversight of the intelligence and national security communities, unfortunately we are not. We’re here talking about one of the most serious constitutional duties we have as members of Congress, the impeachment and removal of the president of the United States,” Hurd continued.
Balancing Democratic and Republican demands in the impeachment probe, he went on to say he’d like to know more about the activities in Ukraine of both Hunter Biden and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“Despite promises from Chairman [Adam] Schiff, we have also not heard from the whistleblower, something that can occur in a closed setting without violating his or her anonymity,” he said. “We need to understand the motivations and level of coordination that happened prior to his or her submission of the complaint.”
Hurd also joined his fellow Republicans in noting that the Trump administration had reversed the policy of his predecessor and given lethal defensive aid to Ukraine in 2017. In a speech that is sure to be seen as emblematic of the difficulty Democrats face in persuading moderate Republicans to support impeaching Trump, Hurd then made clear that the hearings of the past two weeks had failed to sway him to voting yes.
“So where does this lead us? An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous, and it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said. “I’ve not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion. I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all the foreign policy choices we have been hearing about over these last few weeks.”
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