John Kennedy at Press Club 070119

U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, July 1, 2019.

U. S. Sen. John Kennedy said Monday the impeachment inquiry targeting President Donald Trump hinges on Trump's motive in asking the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Kennedy said that, while Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies believe the president's request was simply aimed at hurting a potential 2020 presidential rival, the other theory is that Trump had a good faith concern about possible corruption in a country  that is "historically and organically corrupt."

House Democrats contend that Trump's request for a probe while delaying $400 million in foreign aid justifies their investigation, and possible articles of impeachment.

"If a president thinks as soon as he sends the money it is going to be stolen, I think there are rules that allow them to hold it up," Kennedy told reporters after addressing the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

"I think you can marshal a very persuasive argument that that is not inappropriate," the Madisonville Republican said.

Hunter Biden collected $50,000 per month while on retainer with a Ukrainian energy firm.

Aside from political questions no wrongdoing has been alleged in the arrangement.

Kennedy said what Hunter Biden did for the money needs to be answered, especially since his father, as vice-president, oversaw foreign affairs over Ukraine and China.

"And Hunter Biden walked away with extraordinarily lucrative contracts in both countries," he said.

The Republican also disputed Democrat arguments that proving a quid pro quo -- a Ukrainian investigation linked to foreign aid or other benefits -- resolves the controversy.

The key point, Kennedy said, is whether it was a legal quid pro quo.

"Just because it was a quid pro quo doesn't tell you anything," he said.

However, Kennedy also said he could not say whether he would vote to acquit the president if the Democrat-controlled House votes to impeach Trump.

Doing so would put the president's fate in the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate.

"I can't answer that," he said. "I haven't heard any of the testimony."

The House is about to begin public hearings on the issue after weeks of closed-door sessions.

Kennedy said the process has been blatantly unfair to Republicans and that he doubts Pelosi, a California Democrat, will allow Republicans to call their key witnesses.

"I don't think any fair-minded person thinks Speaker Pelosi or Chairman Schiff is impartial," he said, a reference to U. S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the panel leading the impeachment probe.

Kennedy said during closed sessions House leaders or their surrogates would leak selective parts of transcripts to advance their cause, and then the press would "lap it up like a puppy and print it."

"I think what the speaker is doing is very dangerous. This will be the first partisan impeachment in the history of our country." 

He said the risk is that, in the future, some Republicans will cry out for impeachment over alleged wrongdoing by a Democrat president.

"They are going to demand that we impeach him or her," Kennedy said. "They will say 'Look, you did it to Trump.'"

  

     

  

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.