A House Republican open to the idea of impeaching President Donald Trump said he fears for his party’s future, calling the administration’s effort to taint Democrats with Ukrainian help “egregious” and its Syria policy even worse.
After announcing Saturday he won’t seek a third term in 2020, Representative Francis Rooney of Florida doubled down by questioning the integrity of Rudy Giuliani, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and the president’s quickly revoked decision to host a Group of Seven summit at one of his resorts.
“I just hate to see our diplomatic activities disrupted and, in some ways, corrupted by these actions,” Rooney, a businessman and former ambassador to the Vatican, said Sunday on CNN‘s “State of the Union.” Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is “an amateur diplomat, quasi diplomat,” Rooney said.
Rooney sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of three panels engaged in an impeachment inquiry of the president. He told reporters on Friday he’d given Trump “the benefit of the doubt” when the president said military aid to Ukraine was held up as leverage to demand more support from European governments.
But he said he was “shocked” when Mulvaney said Thursday that the funding was withheld, in part, to urge an investigation of a 2016 election conspiracy theory to discredit Democrats. “The only thing I could assume is he meant what he had to say, that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff,” he said.
Rooney, 65, is the rare Republican who is raising concerns about the president’s actions.
He said Sunday he hadn’t decided whether they’re “of a great enough magnitude to justify impeachment,” and suggested congressional testimony this week, including by William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, might provide more clarity.
Still, Trump’s short-lived attempt to host next year’s G-7 summit at his Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami “doesn’t send a very honest statement,” Rooney said. “And you’re just setting yourself up for people to say he’s abusing the office.”
Rooney expressed concern that the drift to populism under Trump is jeopardizing the Republican Party’s reputation and chances to win future elections.
“We are self-sorting for a declining demographic, a narrowing demographic of elderly people, rural people,” he told CNN. “We’ve got to be reaching out to young people. We’ve got to get back the suburban people that were George Bush and Ronald Reagan’s coalition.”
“We only have one thing in our life, and that’s our reputation,” Rooney said. “And so I’m not going to ruin mine over anything, much less politics.”
In a Fox News interview on Saturday, Rooney said he’d come to Congress to get the money for Everglades projects that have been languishing, and to address offshore drilling concerns, and that he has done that.
“I didn’t take this job to keep it,” he said, later tweeting: “I am in favor of finding out all of the factual information available in this process that is already under way. I did not endorse an impeachment inquiry.”
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