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14 Republicans and Trump appointees who have indicated his Ukraine call was hardly ‘perfect’

President Trump talks to reporters before he departs the White House en route to a campaign event in Georgia. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

President Trump felt the need Sunday to rally the Republican troops. In a tweet, he again urged them to defend him to the hilt on the Ukraine scandal — and suggested they weren’t quite doing it.

“The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT,” he declared. “Read the Transcript! There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

So why the sudden outburst? Probably because that particular view was suddenly in vogue this weekend. No fewer than four Republicans — former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) and Reps. Mac Thornberry (Tex.) and Will Hurd (Tex.) — all said that asking for an investigation of a political opponent isn’t okay. And by Monday, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice added her name to the list.

None of them said Trump should be impeached — Kennedy suggested Trump’s request of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky might not have been so directly aimed at former vice president Joe Biden, even though Trump asked Zelensky specifically to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who worked in Ukraine — but there seems to be an increasing willingness not to pretend the call was nearly as “perfect” as Trump claims.

We now count 13 Republicans and Trump appointees — including three ambassadors and ambassador nominees — who have offered some version of this talking point. A couple applied it to China, whom Trump also said should investigate Biden, but the sentiment is largely the same.

All of them are making it more difficult for Trump to argue there’s nothing to see here. Here’s the list:

  1. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley: “It is not a good practice for us ever to ask a foreign country to investigate an American.” But “I don’t see it as impeachable.”
  2. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.): “I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. ... I believe it was inappropriate. I don’t believe it was impeachable.”
  3. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.): “What I am telling you is that, if it can be demonstrated that the president asked for and had the requisite state of mind, that the president asked for an investigation of a political rival, that’s over the line. ... But if he asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival, that’s not over the line.”
  4. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.): “I think if you’re trying to get information on a political rival to use in a political campaign, it is not something a president or any official should be doing.”
  5. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice: “I don’t like for the president of the United States to mention an American citizen for investigation to a foreign leader. I think that is out of bounds.”
  6. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “I thought it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.” But “I also do not think it’s an impeachable offense.”
  7. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.): “While the conversation reported in the memorandum relating to alleged Ukrainian corruption and Vice President Biden’s son was inappropriate, it does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
  8. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah): “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
  9. Russia ambassador nominee John Sullivan: “Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent — I don’t think that would be in accord with our values.”
  10. European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland: “I believe I testified that it would be improper to do that.” Asked whether it would be illegal: “I’m not a lawyer, but I assume so.”
  11. Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): “It is highly inappropriate if it was done.” (Kinzinger said this before the rough transcript of Trump’s call was released.)
  12. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.): Trump’s conduct with regard to Ukraine is “not OK.”
  13. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): “Hold up: Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps.”
  14. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): “I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent. It’s completely inappropriate.”