WASHINGTON — As three full days of public impeachment hearings were wrapping up Thursday on Capitol Hill, Democrats hoped moderate U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, would sway in their favor.
But the Texas congressman made clear in the final day of the House Intelligence Committee's scheduled public hearings that, while he disapproves of Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy in Ukraine, he's still opposed to the idea of impeaching the president.
Many Republicans stuck to their routine tactics Thursday as they questioned Fiona Hill, Trump's former Russia adviser, and David Holmes, top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv: questioning the credibility, perceived political bias and relevance of the witnesses.
But during his five minutes of questioning, Hurd said Trump’s statements during his July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky were “inappropriate,” “misguided foreign policy” and “not how the executive should handle such things.” No other Republican on the committee has criticized the president’s handling of the phone call, during which Trump asked that Zelensky investigate the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, after arranging to withhold $391 million in foreign aid to Ukraine.
“I disagree with this sort of bungling foreign policy,” Hurd said.
But as he continued his statement, he went on to say that the evidence the committee has gathered does not show that the president committed a crime, disappointing those who expected the retiring two-term congressman to defect from his Republican colleagues.
"An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelming, clear and unambiguous,” Hurd said. “And it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I've not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion."
Hurd, a former CIA officer, then shifted his focus to national security, which he said is taking a backseat during the impeachment hearings. He also suggested Rudy Giuliani, Hunter Biden and the whistleblower should be subpoenaed. But as of now, he’s made it clear he’s not voting to impeach the president.
“I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all the foreign policy choices we have been hearing over the past few weeks,” Hurd said. “I hope we won’t let this very partisan process keep us from agreeing on how a free and prosperous Ukraine is important to the security of the Ukrainian people, the United States and the rest of the world.”
Ultimately, the House has enough votes to pass articles of impeachment; the issue is passing them through the Senate. But Hurd's support would have boosted Democrats' case that the proceedings are about more than partisan politics.