Republicans prepare to acquit Trump
WASHINGTON : Leading Republicans took to the talk show circuit on Sunday to defend their expected acquittal of US President Donald Trump at his Senate trial next week - despite offering sharp criticism of his role in the Ukraine scandal.
The President was impeached in December for abuse of power over pressuring ally Kiev to announce investigations that would have helped him politically, including into Mr Joe Biden, a leading challenger in this year's presidential ballot.
A day ahead of the Iowa Democratic caucuses - the official start of the election season - key Republican senators including Lamar Alexander and Joni Ernst said Mr Trump's behaviour was troubling but not impeachable.
"Hopefully he will look at this and say, 'Okay, that was a mistake. I shouldn't have done that, shouldn't have done it that way,'" Mr Alexander told NBC.
The Tennessee senator suggested Mr Trump had been naive in asking a foreign ally to look into Mr Biden and son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine, which Republicans have claimed without evidence were corrupt.
But he added: "The bottom line: It is not an excuse. He shouldn't have done it."
Mr Trump is all but assured of being acquitted at only the third impeachment trial of a US president, with Republicans holding 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats.
A two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove him from office.
Ms Ernst said it was "up to the American people" to decide on Mr Trump's behaviour, adding that she would vote tomorrow to acquit the President, who is also accused of obstruction of Congress.
"I think generally speaking, going after corruption is the right thing to do, but he did it in the wrong manner... I think that he could have done it in different channels," she told CNN.
Last Friday, just two Republicans - Mr Mitt Romney of Utah and Ms Susan Collins of Maine - joined Democrats in voting to introduce witnesses, following the example of every other impeachment trial in US history.
In the impeachment trial, Democrats failed to muster the four Republican votes needed to allow testimony from Mr Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others.
Democrats had been eager to hear from Mr Bolton following reports that, in a forthcoming book, he says Mr Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev's investigating former vice-president Biden. This is the crux of the charge against Mr Trump, coming from someone close to him.- AFP