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Trump meets with Romney, Collins, other Republican senators at White House during impeachment hearing

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 11/21/2019 David Jackson, USA TODAY

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Donald Trump and Mitt Romney in November of 2016. © DON EMMERT, AFP/Getty Images Donald Trump and Mitt Romney in November of 2016.

WASHINGTON – As House Democrats conducted another impeachment hearing, President Donald Trump lunched Thursday with a group of lawmakers who might well decide his political fate: Republican senators.

The meeting came after a rough week for Trump in the impeachment hearings in which his ambassador to the European Union and national security officials testified about the president's plan to extract a pledge to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in exchange for financial aid.

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Trump earlier appeared to appeal to the Republican-run Senate in a tweet in which he denounced House Democrats who are pursuing impeachment as "scum."

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"Keep fighting tough, Republicans, you are dealing with human scum who have taken Due Process and all of the Republican Party’s rights away from us during the most unfair hearings in American History," Trump tweeted.

He added: "But we are winning big, and they will soon be on our turf."

Trump did not define "turf," but Republicans do control the Senate and would conduct a trial of Trump if House Democrats decide to impeach him.

The White House lunch meeting included at least two GOP senators – Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine – who have questioned Trump's dealings with Ukraine that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

It was the latest event in a Trump outreach program to Republican lawmakers that began after the prospect of impeachment surfaced in mid-September.

Officials said Trump has probably spoken, either individually or in groups, with all 53 Republican senators – all jurors in a potential impeachment. Two officials discussed the outreach on condition of anonymity, citing the private nature of the meetings.

Several administration officials have said they would not be surprised if the Democratic-run House votes to impeach Trump, albeit with no Republican votes. Officials also said they expect the Republican Senate to acquit Trump and perhaps dismiss the case outright.

Conviction and removal from office would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate; Republicans have 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate. That means impeachment advocates would need to flip at least 20 Republican senators.

Romney, a long-time rival of Trump, has criticized Trump for asking the president of Ukraine to investigate political rival Biden. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, called Trump's actions "wrong and appalling."

Trump responded by calling Romney "a pompous ass," while allies described him as a fake Republican.

The two men also clashed during Trump's 2016 campaign. During the primary process, Romney cast the New York businessman as a threat to the Republican Party, while Trump branded Romney "a loser."

Yet, after his election, Trump interviewed Romney for the secretary of State job before nominating Rex Tillerson to the post.

As for a potential impeachment trial in the near future, Romney told USA TODAY last month that "I will study the law and the facts and on that basis make an informed judgment consistent with Constitutional duties."

House impeachment investigators are also looking into evidence that Trump halted military aid to Ukraine if it did not agree to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had business interests in the state.

Collins, a moderate Republican senator, has said she will not comment on the evidence unless or until it comes before the Senate.

The Maine senator has criticized some of the president's tweets about the case.

“I think the president would be better served by not tweeting at all on the testimony,” Collins told WMTW-TV. “His attorneys will be representing him should this come to a trial in the Senate and that's the time for them to have their say on the president's behalf.”

Other Republican senators at the White House included Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (a fierce critic of impeachment), Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Hoeven of North Dakota, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

The meeting also featured Johnny Isakson of Georgia, one of at least four Republican senators who do not plan to see re-election in 2020. Impeachment supporters have eyed those retiring senators as potential pickups, though White House officials expressed confidence that the party is united.

Meanwhile, future steps in the House impeachment inquiry are uncertain.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not provide any timeline for where the inquiry goes after Thursday's hearing, including the question of whether Democrats would begin to draw up articles of impeachment.

“We haven’t made any decision yet,” Pelosi said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump meets with Romney, Collins, other Republican senators at White House during impeachment hearing

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