WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — Sen. John Thune’s (R-SD) comments about the impeachment inquiry are making national headlines.
“The picture coming out of it based on the reporting that we’ve seen is, yeah, I would say is not a good one,” Thune said Wednesday about Bill Taylor’s testimony.
Taylor was the former United States ambassador to Ukraine. The comments are substantial given Thune’s role as the majority whip in the Senate according to Lisa Hager, an assistant professor of political science at South Dakota State University.
“Up until this point, we’ve really seen Republicans, especially Republican party leaders, really following the president, really trying to say all of this is outlandish,” Hager said.
Thune appeared to walk back his quote in a statement Thursday to KELOLAND News.
“I’ve seen press reports, tweets, and other secondhand commentary about what continues to unfold behind closed doors,” Thune said. “But until House Democrats decide to be more transparent, open these hearings up to the public, and afford the president and his team with equal opportunities to participate, it’s hard for anyone to provide a fully informed response to what’s happening throughout this secretive House process.”
He made similar comments to CNN on Thursday.
The process is happening behind closed doors in the U.S. House, but members of both parties on the committees leading the impeachment proceedings are invited along with staff.
As CBS News has reported, Democratic leaders have said transcripts of the closed-door proceedings will eventually be made public and they will hold hearings in public.
“(The initial quote) makes it seem as if there are some cracks in the GOP,” Hager said.
Hager said President Donald Trump’s biggest concern should be if his own party will defend him.
“Right now, with the Republicans having the majority, we would not expect Trump to be impeached on the Senate side. However, if there’s cracks in the GOP, there’s the possibility they could flip on him and he could, in fact, find himself impeached,” she said.
Hager points out, though, it would still require quite a few of them to break.
As The Hill reported, after a closed-door GOP lunch, Thune’s tune changed.
“That really tells me within that lunch they were having talks about, as a party, this is what we need to be saying to toe the party line,” Hager said.
CNN reported Thursday afternoon that Thune had lunch at the White House.
Thune’s office declined an interview with KELOLAND News, saying the Senator’s schedule was too busy.