The Lead

Ex-Gov. Ridge: Trump’s Ukraine call was ‘an abuse of power,’ but impeachment is up to Congress

By: - December 10, 2019 1:32 pm

Former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge speaks at a House hearing on a proposed nuclear subsidy on April 8, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge told reporters Tuesday that he was “disappointed and troubled” by President Donald Trump’s conduct with the leader of Ukraine earlier this year.

That a sitting president “would ask a foreign leader, of a troubled country, who’s been besieged by an enemy of the United States, to do him a political favor? As far as I am concerned, it is an abuse of power,” Ridge said.

The remarks came on the same day as the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment for Trump over abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The articles date back to a July phone call, in which Trump asked for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “do us a favor though” by investigating the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

In the phone call, Trump also asked for Ukraine to look into an unfounded conspiracy theory about Ukrainin interference in the 2016 elections.

Further testimony by witnesses claimed that Trump withheld U.S. military aide to pressure the eastern European nation into action.

“Russia took over Crimea, Russia invaded the eastern province, they’re looking to us for help, and in that conversation when something like this comes up, it’s very troubling for me,” Ridge added. “I think it’s inexcusable, and I wish my president wouldn’t have done it.”

As governor, Ridge was known for holding views across the political spectrum. He supported abortion rights, opposed gay marriage, protected the environment and helped pass the state’s charter school law. A popular governor, he was reelected with 57 percent of the vote in 1998.

In 2001, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, former President George W. Bush appointed Ridge as a presidential homeland security adviser — before taking over as the first secretary of Homeland Security. 

He also served as a Republican congressman from northwestern Pennsylvania, including Erie, from 1983 to 1995.

In the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Ridge first endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, then former Ohio Gov. John Kasich after Bush dropped out. He never endorsed Trump.

However, while Ridge expressed disappointment with the sitting president, he did not take a position on impeaching and removing the president from office.

That, Ridge said, was a decision left to Congress.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.