WASHINGTON - For weeks, as Democratic critics of U.S. President Donald Trump have called for his impeachment, the U.S. leader has repeatedly described his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as "perfect."
Though it is a violation of U.S. campaign finance law to seek foreign government help in a U.S. election, Trump had asked Zelenskiy to investigate one of his top 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden's son's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked theory that Ukraine rather than Russia meddled in the 2016 election, as the U.S. intelligence community has concluded.
To Trump's chagrin, some of his normal Republican supporters are rejecting his "perfect" characterization of the phone call, saying it was wrong, improper or inappropriate, albeit not rising to the level of an offense that Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
With public hearings set to start Wednesday targeting him and his three-year presidency, Trump is recoiling at any retreat from full-bore Republican support, though no Republican official has called for Trump to be the first U.S. president to be removed from office in the country's 243-year history.
Even if the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives votes to impeach him in the coming weeks, as numerous Washington political analysts are predicting, his conviction by the Republican-majority Senate remains unlikely.
At least 20 Republican senators would need to turn against Trump to oust him from the White House.
"The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT," Trump said Sunday on Twitter. "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!"
The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2019
While dozens of Democratic lawmakers have criticized the Trump request for "a favor" from Zelenskiy — the investigation of the Bidens -- some Republicans are also voicing their opposition.
The Washington Post said it had found 13 Republicans who had criticized Trump's overture to the Ukraine leader.
Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, "It is not a good practice for us ever to ask a foreign country to investigate an American." But she added, "I don't see it as impeachable."
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said, "I thought it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political opponent," while adding, "I also do not think it's an impeachable offense."
John Sullivan, Trump's nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said at his Senate confirmation hearing, "Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent — I don't think that would be in accord with our values."
Sen. Mitt Romney, the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and a frequent Trump critic, said, "By all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."