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Texas Republicans Defend Trump As Impeachment Movement Continues To Roil The U.S. Capitol

Marjorie Kamys Cotera
The Texas Tribune
President Donald Trump gives a speech to a large crowd during a MAGA rally at the Toyota Center in Houston on Oct. 22, 2018.

During a day of confusion, umbrage and new levels of discord at the U.S. Capitol, Republicans in Texas’ congressional delegation joined their party in closing ranks around President Donald Trump.

GOP lawmakers launched a full-throated offensive on Wednesday to beat back the Democratic push to impeach Trump, as the Congress processed new disclosures about the president’s July phone call with the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. A record of the call released by the White House early Wednesday detailed how Trump implored Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Meanwhile, support for an impeachment inquiry continued to solidify among Democrats from Texas.

“I don’t think asking another country to do an investigation into corruption concerns is objectionable,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously, the ‘Biden’ name was mentioned. That’s too narrow a construction of what’s actually going on here.”

His fellow Texan in the Senate, Ted Cruz, released a statement charging Democrats with "working to find any reason under the sun to impeach the president and undo the results of the last election."

House Republicans made equally incensed remarks, in response to Tuesday's onslaught of Democratic statements against the president.

“This is more of the bloodlust for impeaching our President, not because of ‘high crimes,’ but because they hate him – they hate his personality, they hate his policies, but that’s no justification," U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock said on the House floor. "We’re better than that, as a country, and we should be more responsible about how we faithfully carry out our Constitutional duties.”

In a statement, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, said, "In their desire to undo the 2016 election and destroy President Trump, Democrats have today unequivocally and irreparably harmed our national security and compromised an important ally. Instead of forming an impeachment line, Democrats should consider forming an apology line.”

The most watched member of the delegation continues to be U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes. The retiring congressman has a background in intelligence and has had an occasional maverick streak against the administration. But he showed no signs of crossing over to the impeachment side in the near term.

"I don’t think what I’ve seen so far reaches the level of impeachment." he told MSNBC.

But Hurd and the rest of the Texas Republicans joined the full House in unanimously approving a resolution calling for a whistleblower report about the phone call to be released to the House and Senate intelligence committees. By the time of the vote, however, the White House had already turned the report over.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee were able to read the document in a secure facility within the Capitol. U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, a Republican who is the senior-most Texan on that committee confirmed to the Tribune he had read the complaint but declined to comment further. He said he intended to weigh in "when it's made public and let everybody make up their mind."

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio immediately indicated he had concerns.

"This thing is bigger than I thought," he tweeted after reading the report.

Some Democratic members have been calling for the president's impeachment for years. Others remained apprehensive in calling for impeachment, many of them waiting for more evidence to become available.

U.S. Rep Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said the rough transcript of Trump’s phone call was the last straw.

"It is my duty as a patriot and as a member of Congress to defend the Constitution, and that is why today I must support the formal impeachment inquiry,” he said.

Later that day, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters he found the record of the call “deeply troubling,” making him one of the only Republicans to not defend the president.

Cornyn said the conversation is subject to interpretation. And he criticized U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her announcement of the impeachment proceedings, which was made the night before the White House released the transcript notes from the conversation.

“I think it's possible to find some of the conversation troubling without finding it a basis for impeachment,” he said. “I think there’s nothing in the conversation that justifies impeachment.”

Most insiders expect Thursday to be a pivotal day in the drama. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee. And now both the House and Senate intelligence Committees are moving forward with investigation proceedings, though Cornyn assured that “without any evidence, the Senate will never convict president Trump.”

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Abby Livingston joined the Tribune in 2014 as the publication's first Washington Bureau Chief. Previously, she covered political campaigns, House leadership and Congress for Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. A seventh-generation Texan, Abby graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. She grew up in Fort Worth and has appeared in an episode of "The Bold and The Beautiful." Abby pitched and produced political segments for CNN and worked as an editor for The Hotline, National Journal’s campaign tipsheet. Abby began her journalism career as a desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, working her way up to the political unit, where she researched stories for Nightly News, the Today Show and Meet the Press. In keeping with the Trib’s great history of hiring softball stars, Abby is a three-time MVP (the most in game history —Ed.) for The Bad News Babes, the women’s press softball team that takes on female members of Congress in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball breast cancer charity game.