Republican Senator On Trump Soliciting Foreign Interference: Humans 'Make Mistakes'

"Things happen," Richard Shelby of Alabama said, referring to the president's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Sunday shrugged off President Donald Trump’s requests for foreign countries to interfere in U.S. elections, stating that the president is “human” and makes mistakes from time to time.

ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a series of questions about the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.

“Do you think it was proper for the president to solicit foreign interference in our election?” Stephanopoulos asked Shelby, who claimed it’s “in dispute” whether Trump actually did so.

The House voted to impeach Trump over his efforts to get Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, as well as over his decision to block witnesses from testifying during the chamber’s impeachment inquiry.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) speaking to reporters last February about a bipartisan compromise to avoid a government shutdown.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) speaking to reporters last February about a bipartisan compromise to avoid a government shutdown.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Stephanopoulos pointed out that Trump has publicly called on Ukraine and China to investigate Biden. Trump also urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails when they were both candidates in the 2016 presidential election.

But Shelby said such statements were simply “political.”

“So it’s OK?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I didn’t say it was OK,” Shelby responded. “But people make ’em ― people do things. Things happen.”

“Well, this is the president of the United States,” Stephanopoulos said.

Shelby noted that Trump is human. “He’s going to make mistakes of judgment and everything else,” he said. “They have historically ― both parties ― from the beginning of our republic.”

The senator added that he does not believe Trump’s actions rise “to the standard of an impeachable offense” but said he would wait to see what comes out of the Senate trial.

Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub reminded Americans during the House impeachment inquiry that seeking foreign interference in a U.S. election is illegal.

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” Weintraub wrote in a statement in June that she shared again on Twitter in October.

“Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginning of our nation,” her statement continued. “Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.”

The House impeachment managers delivered two articles of impeachment against Trump ― abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ― to the Senate last week. The president has denied any wrongdoing.

Opening arguments in the impeachment trial are expected to begin Tuesday.