State Politics

Sen. Risch on whistleblower complaint: ‘Democrats are going to need more than this’

Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation has been largely steadfast in its support of President Donald Trump.

Following the public release on Thursday of a whistleblower complaint alleging the president is using “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” the Statesman asked all four members for a response to the controversy.

“The transcript of and whistleblower report related to President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky were not compelling to me, after reviewing both,” said Sen. Jim Risch, who serves as chairman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is also a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“We heard all kinds of allegations of arm-twisting and bullying, and it’s just not there,” Risch continued. “I know evidence when I see it, and the Democrats are going to need more than this if they want to build an impeachment case. But, don’t take my word for it — every American should read the report, which is easily understood, and make up his or her own mind.”

Freshman Congressman Russ Fulcher, who represents Idaho’s 1st congressional district, also responded.

“Having recently reviewed the whistleblower report and telephone call transcripts between President Trump and Ukraine President Zelenskyy, I believe the objective observer will not only find there is no impeachable offense, but that former Vice President Biden has much to answer for,” Fulcher said via email.

“In particular, Mr. Biden describes his threat to then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, if they do not immediately fire the Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was leading the probe into the largest gas company in Ukraine Burisma Holdings, where his son, Hunter Biden, was paid $50,000 per month to serve on the board,” said Fulcher, who provided a link to a video of Biden discussing the issue on Jan. 23, 2018.

Sen. Mike Crapo said he wants more information.

“The ‘whistleblower’ accusations have turned out to be second-hand accounts, some of which have already been proven false. I am still interested in seeing the outcome of the Senate Intelligence Committee members’ evaluation of these accusations,” Crapo said.

Democrats have been threatening to impeach President Trump before he was sworn into office, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“To date, I have seen nothing that warrants impeachment, and there have certainly been ample opportunities to analyze their many accusations during their countless investigations,” he said. “However, they have their constitutional right to proceed in their relentless endeavor.”

The United States faces more pressing issues, he said, including immigration reform, cybersecurity, and funding the federal government for fiscal year 2020, which starts next week.

Simpson’s office said it is working on an updated response to today’s news. This article will be updated when his response is received.

Risch said he met with the president on Wednesday morning after the White House released a summary of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, according to a KTVB report on Wednesday.

“I looked at the transcript at that time. I had talked to him about this conversation a number of times previous to that. I had also talked to him about the issue on Ukrainian funding before that. These are absolutely normal, ordinary, regular things,” Risch told KTVB.

When asked about the president’s phone call by New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin on Wednesday, Risch responded, “I saw nothing in the conversation that was inappropriate. We are done here,” according to Martin’s social media post.

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.