That came after two October lunches at the White House between Trump and a total of 19 Republican senators, in which Trump discussed impeachment with the same people who will vote to convict or acquit him.
Despite some senators’ vow of silence on impeachment, many Republicans dismiss the notion of trying to remain a neutral juror.
“I’ve talked to the president about this,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 4 Senate GOP leader. “This is a political process. So, you’re not going to remove the political elements from this process. So, you’ve got to be realistic about that.”
“Technically, I think we are the jury,” said Cornyn, who lunched at the White House last week. “But I wouldn’t call it an impartial jury.”
Some Republicans are still tracking the revelations shaping the historic impeachment inquiry.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), for instance, said Sondland’s testimony contradicted his own conversation with the president about the Ukraine aid earlier this year.
“I never heard that. And I had a specific conversation with the president and all he talked about is Europe” paying its fair share in Ukraine, Portman said.
But the number of Republicans focused on the Democrats’ case against Trump is dwindling.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she’d reserve making judgments until the Senate considers the impeachment trial, echoing McConnell’s remarks that he would not comment on the day-to-day developments.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has previously said she would be concerned if Ukraine aid was tied to a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden, said she hasn’t changed her mind. But she would not comment on Sondland’s testimony
“Don’t summarize anybody’s testimony. We all know that gets you in deep dark trouble,” Murkowski said when informed of Sondland’s remarks. “If I don’t have the opportunity to hear it myself, review it myself, I don’t like to speculate.”
Despite not being familiar with Monday’s transcript releases, some senators said they planned to catch up on them later. But by the time they get around to reading them, there’s likely to be more public depositions to sift through, adding to the piles already released.
And even as House Democrats move into the public phase of their inquiry, Republicans are still dinging them for previously working behind closed doors. It’s a dynamic that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
“It’s hard to keep up with the constant ticktock,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said. If Democrats “would have a more open transparent process I think it would be easier for everybody to stay more informed.”