Rep. Francis Rooney announces retirement after criticizing Trump comments

Rep. Francis Rooney announced his retirement Saturday after two terms in office. Photo courtesy of U.S. Congress.

Oct. 19 (UPI) — After criticizing President Donald Trump’s comments on Ukraine scandal, Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney said Saturday he would retire at the end of his term in 2020.

Rooney, 65, who is in his second-term as a congressman from southwest Florida, told Fox News host Leland Vittert Saturday he would not run for re-election in 2020.

“I’ve done what I came to do,” Rooney told Vittert, adding that he got offshore drilling banned and money for the Everglades.

He also wanted to model term limits.

“People need to realize,” Rooney said. “This is public service, not public life.”

A day before his retirement announcement CNN reported on Rooney’s criticism of Trump’s comments on the Ukraine scandal, which is at the center of a House impeachment inquiry.

Rooney, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Community, told CNN that Trump had denied he engaged in a quid pro quo, but White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed there was one Thursday.

Mulvaney said that the United States withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine to put pressure on the country to investigate a Democratic National Committee server in the 2016 election. But later in the day, retracted that he ever said that in a written statement.

Rooney said that he wanted to get more information and was open to impeachment unlike many of his Republican colleagues who have called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

“I don’t think this is as much as Richard Nixon did,” Rooney said. “But I’m very mindful of the fact that back during Watergate everybody said it’s a witch hunt to get Nixon. Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt to get Nixon but it was absolutely correct.”

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He said fellow Republicans may be afraid to express similar skepticism.

“It might be the end of things for me,” Rooney told CNN. “Depending on how things go … I didn’t take this job to keep it.”

A whistleblower complaint surfaced last month, which is behind the impeachment inquiry.

The nine-page complaint by an unidentified intelligence official addresses a July 25 phone call where President Donald Trump pressed Ukrainian president Volydymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden’s son “as a favor.” The complaint also said Trump pressured the Ukraine leader to look into a conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 election.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine.

Before Rooney was elected in 2016, he oversaw construction projects for the libraries of two former Republican presidents and some Texas stadiums for his company. He also served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.

He is not related to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, who served a district in the St. Petersburg area of Florida until last ‘s year election and whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He joins several other Republicans announcing retirement in 2020. Rep. John Shimkus, who announced in August he would not see re-election after more than two decades representing southeast Illinois as a Republican, was also recently critical of Trump for a separate reason.

Shimkus said he would not support Trump after his move to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

“Pull my name off the ‘I support Donald Trump list,” Shimkus said he told staff in a KMOX NewsRadio 1120 interview, adding the decision was “despicable,” and he is “saddened for the Kurdish people.”

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