Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Republican­s running for Congress stand by Trump

- Patrick Marley and Molly Beck

MADISON - Republican­s running in two congressio­nal races stood by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying an impeachmen­t inquiry is a witch hunt.

Scott Fitzgerald, the Wisconsin Senate leader running for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbren­ner’s suburban Milwaukee seat, said there was nothing wrong with Trump asking Ukraine’s president to investigat­e one of his political rivals. And he said there is no reason to take seriously Trump’s statement last week that China should investigat­e former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany of Minocqua and Jason Church — who are running in a Republican primary in northern Wisconsin — likewise backed Trump, saying Democrats were needlessly conducting an impeachmen­t inquiry.

“It sounds like everything that was done within that discussion was in the purview of what a president of the United States should be able to do with a foreign diplomat,” Fitzgerald said of Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. “And it shouldn’t necessaril­y be made public. So far nothing’s been proven.”

The White House released a readout of the phone call after a whistleblo­wer filed a complaint about the president’s conduct.

The readout shows Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor” and investigat­e the Bidens and look into whether Ukraine interfered with the 2016 elections. Trump held the call shortly after blocking nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Echoing the president’s views on the matter, Fitzgerald called the impeachmen­t inquiry a political witch hunt. He downplayed Trump’s statement that China should investigat­e Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

“I think a lot of people would take exception to anyone calling for a foreign government to investigat­e any political opponent. I get that,” Fitzgerald said. “I think what he was suggesting was something off the cuff that I don’t know that anyone would take it seriously.”

Despite his support for Trump, Fitzgerald said he believed there should be some review of his actions.

“Everything should be vetted and I think that’s what members of Congress are asking for now,” he said. “You can continue down the path of exploring all these different items but whether or not they’re legit is a whole different question or whether or not they’re politicall­y motivated.”

Tom Palzewicz, the Democrat running for the congressio­nal seat, supports the impeachmen­t inquiry.

“I understand our president wanting to root out corruption, but to specifically name someone who you know is probably going to be running against him is obviously something that’s inappropri­ate and no other president has done,” he said.

State Sen. Chris Kapenga, a Republican from Delafield, is also thinking about running for Sensenbren­ner’s seat in Congress. Sensenbren­ner announced last month he wouldn’t seek re-election next year.

Kapenga said Tuesday he would make his decision on whether to run by the end of the year.

He said he took no issue with Trump’s behavior on his call with Zelensky.

“I think it’s legitimate­ly his role to be able to do that when he’s talking with a foreign head of state,” Kapenga said. “So I don’t think it was inappropri­ate at all.”

He said he didn’t know whether Trump’s statement that China should investigat­e the Bidens was wrong.

“I haven’t looked at it,” he said. “I saw that it’s a headline, but I didn’t read into it . ... I’d have to look at what the background is on that to say yes or no.”

Tiffany, Church also back Trump

In northern Wisconsin, Tiffany and Church are facing each other in a Republican primary to replace Sean Duffy, a Republican who resigned from Congress last month. A special election will be held in the spring, and no Democrat has joined the race so far.

Tiffany and Church expressed strong support for the president, with Tiffany suggesting Congress should launch an investigat­ion of Biden as part of the impeachmen­t inquiry.

“If they’re going to do an investigat­ion, then let’s see all of it,” Tiffany told reporters. “And if that includes the Bidens, then so be it.”

He expressed no qualms about Trump’s comments on the Ukraine call or his public appeal for China to investigat­e the Bidens.

“We have a president that has a different style,” Tiffany said. “Every president has a different style . ... You go to northern and western Wisconsin and people understand that style. And they say, ‘Maybe I wouldn’t do it that way, but that’s his style.’ ”

Church, a veteran who until recently worked for U.S. Sen Ron Johnson, called the attempt at impeachmen­t a “political charade” orchestrat­ed by Democrats.

“It’s another attempt by Democrats in Washington to undo the 2016 election,” he said in an interview. “And quite frankly, I think it’s a slap in the face to the people of the 7th District who have overwhelmi­ngly voted (for) and still support President Trump.”

He repeatedly declined to say whether he thought it was appropriat­e for a president to publicly call for China or another foreign power to investigat­e a political rival. Instead, he said Democrats were avoiding taking up issues that are important to voters.

“I see this as a stunt by the Democrats, trying to distract us away from the actual issues that are facing the country right now,” Church said.

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