The Corner

Elections

Sasse: Foreign Involvement in U.S. Elections Is ‘Really, Really Bad’

Sen. Ben Sasse (right) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Nebraska Republican senator Ben Sasse is reluctant to say much about allegations that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden until Congress learns more.

“I want any and all relevant information,” Sasse tells National Review. “That’s not to deny that certain pieces of this probably are susceptible to a claim of [executive] privilege, but I think it’s in the country’s interest, and I think it’s in the president’s interest, and the interest of public and civil health” for Congress to receive all relevant information.

Asked if the mere act of a U.S. president asking a foreign government to investigate the family of his American political rival is an abuse of power, Sasse said: “There’s a lot that we’re hearing about right now that’s leading people to ask a bunch of hypotheticals where we don’t really know all the underlying facts yet. So I don’t think it’s all that useful to speculate about a lot of highly particular hypotheticals. But in general terms, American elections should be for Americans. And the idea that we would have foreign nation-states coming into the American electoral process, or the information surrounding an election, is really, really bad.”

While much remains unknown about a whistleblower report regarding the president’s actions, President Trump has admitted that he raised the issue of investigating Biden’s son during a phone call with Ukraine’s president. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” President Trump said on Sunday. The transcript of the call will be released this week, according to the president.

Is a presidential request that a foreign government investigate the family of his political rival a potentially impeachable offense? “I don’t think it’s that useful for somebody who might be a juror in a case to start by talking about the political question of what the other body should pursue,” Sasse told National Review Tuesday night. “I think senators should do a lot less of the kind of instant-certainty about this than we’ve seen in the Democratic presidential campaign debates. So I think both people who think the president is the worst guy ever and people who are going to defend him until the end of the day, if they’re in the Senate, I think it would be more useful for people to go slower.”

How would Sasse’s view of the situation change if the president withheld aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country to open an investigation? “I think we should wait until we have the actual fact pattern in front of us,” he replied.

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