“The president has said many times there wasn’t a quid pro quo . . . and now Mick Mulvaney goes up and says, ‘Yeah, it was all part of the whole plan.’ ” Rooney said in the Capitol.
Mulvaney later reversed his comments in a written statement, but Rooney said that did not erase the impact of his earlier comments: “The only thing I could assume is he meant what he had to say, that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff. . . . It’s not an Etch A Sketch.”
“So you didn’t buy the walk-back?” a reporter asked him.
“What is a walk-back?” Rooney said. “I mean, I tell you what, I’ve drilled some oil wells I’d like to walk back — dry holes.”
Rooney is a 65-year-old businessman, former ambassador to the Vatican and longtime GOP donor who has participated in the House impeachment probe’s closed-door interviews as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is the first Republican involved in the proceedings to signal he is open to voting for impeachment.
He said he had started taking a broader view of Washington politics as Democrats have moved more firmly toward impeachment.
“I’ve been real mindful of the fact that during Watergate, all the people I knew said, ‘Oh, they’re just abusing Nixon, and it’s a witch hunt,’ ” he said. “Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt. It was really bad.”
Rooney made clear that he did not see the allegations against Trump rising to the level of Nixon’s wrongdoing. “But I think we need to get all the facts on the table,” he said.
“I’m a business guy, okay?” he added when asked if he’s considering a vote to impeach Trump. “I’m used to being open to all points of view and making the best decision I can. But there’s . . . a lot of water still to flow down under the bridge on this thing.”
The Oklahoma-born Rooney is among the wealthiest members of Congress, the former chief executive of a family holding company that owns one of the oldest construction companies in the United States, as well as real estate and oil-and-gas interests. He has had close ties to the Bush family and is squarely in the establishment wing of the GOP but has, until now, been a loyal supporter of Trump and his administration as he represents an affluent southwestern Florida district that voted for Trump by 22 points in 2016.
As a former U.S. ambassador, he said he has “great respect” for the State Department officials who have chosen to testify over the Trump administration’s objections.
“These are not partisan people,” he said. “These are professional diplomats who are over there working in these foreign countries, and they’re trying to do something they feel is very important for our country.”
Rooney told reporters he was especially keen to hear testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush administration when Rooney was at the Vatican: “I have tremendous respect for John Bolton. I’ve worked with him for years. We’ve been friends. I’ve learned a lot from him . . . and I can’t wait to hear from John.”
Other Republicans who have been critical of Trump have found themselves targeted by the president, such as Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who left the GOP in July to become an independent. One former congressman, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, lost his GOP primary after Trump endorsed his opponent.
Rooney told reporters Friday he was not especially concerned.
“I didn’t take this job to keep it,” he said. “I took this job to do the right thing at all times — the right thing. And if that means I got to go find, go back to my other job, that’s okay, too. I like building buildings and drilling oil wells.”
He added, “I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking to anybody in this building.”