Inhofe, Lankford not persuaded by House impeachment team
After 21 hours of House arguments that President Donald Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress, Oklahoma’s senators remained unpersuaded Saturday and said they were looking forward to hearing the president’s rebuttal.
Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, both Republicans, said in interviews that the House case relied more on speculation than evidence. They said they expected White House counsel to answer questions raised about the president’s motivation in withholding military aid to Ukraine.
Lankford said the arguments made by House managers over three days in the impeachment trial in the Senate raised “reasonable questions that reasonable people should ask.”
“But I’ve not seen anything that I look at — with this phone call and the actions around the phone call — that the president should be removed from office for this,” Lankford said.
The Democratic-led House last month approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power and another for obstructing Congress’ investigation of his actions. The articles allege that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to force that country to conduct an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and then refused to cooperate with the House investigation of his actions.
In a July 25 phone call, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Trump discussed U.S. military aid to Ukraine, and Trump told Zelenskiy that he wanted a favor. The House article alleging abuse of power contends the favor was investigations of Biden and his son and of a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election won by Trump.
Inhofe said the White House legal team, which began its rebuttal on Saturday, “made a very clear statement that there is no case (against the president). There’s no direct evidence. … There’s not a case of abuse of power. I think they covered that very well.”
The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit the president, possibly next week. Removal of office would require approval by two-thirds of the 100-member Senate.
Before considering acquittal, senators are expected to vote on whether to call witnesses and force the White House to turn over more documents. Democrats would need four Republican senators to join their side for either action.
Inhofe said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who argued a good portion of the House case, made a major misstep Friday night that could hamper Democratic efforts to win Republican votes for witnesses. Schiff mentioned an anonymous news report that GOP senators were threatened by the White House that their heads would be on a pike if they sided with the House impeachment managers on votes.
Inhofe said he was sitting near Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican considered a possible vote for witnesses, when Schiff made the comment. Collins "gasped," Inhofe said, "because she knew it wasn't true. In my mind, that worked against (House managers)."