Some were literally at a loss for words when told that Trump was now claiming ― more than two months after the White House released a summary of the July 25 conversation ― that he was actually urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help the United States when he pushed the foreign leader to “do us a favor” by probing former Vice President Joe Biden and a 2016 election conspiracy theory.
“When I said, in my phone call to the President of Ukraine, ‘I would like you to do US a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.’ With the word ‘us’ I am referring to the United States, our Country,” Trump claimed in a tweet on Wednesday.
When asked about the tweet on Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) doubled over in laughter. Pressed to voice his response in words, the Democratic whip declined, shaking his head in apparent disbelief before walking into a caucus lunch.
Other senators on both sides of the aisle seemed equally amused by Trump’s latest explanation.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) smirked when asked if he agreed with the president’s reading of the call summary. But he declined to comment until the Senate receives articles of impeachment, which the House is expected to draft next week.
“I think the safest course is not to start analyzing all this until the House decides to send over whatever they send over, if they decide to send anything,” Blunt said on Thursday.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) reacted with a similar expression on his face.
“It would help if we actually have a full transcript,” Warner said, noting that the summary of the call the White House released was the product of contemporaneous handwritten notes and not a full transcript.
But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he viewed Trump’s call with Zelensky, including the portion for which the president was offering a new explanation, as unremarkable.
“I’ve talked to the president enough to have heard him say, ‘Ron, do me a favor.’ It’s almost in some respects a verbal tick. It’s not an unusual thing to come out of President Trump’s mouth. I view that whole conversation as pretty benign,” he said.
The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a 300-page report accusing Trump of abusing the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine by seeking to withhold military assistance until its government announced an investigation into Biden, one of Trump’s 2020 rivals.
The Senate is expected to take up articles of impeachment against Trump sometime next month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he’ll give the House case against Trump a trial, even though he does not believe there are enough votes in the upper chamber to remove the president.