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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, walks out of a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 5, 2019.

For weeks, as Democratic critics of U.S. President Donald Trump have called for his impeachment, the U.S. leader has repeatedly described his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as "perfect."

Though it is a violation of U.S. campaign finance law to seek foreign government help in a U.S. election, Trump had asked Zelenskiy to investigate one of his top 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden's son's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company.

Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked theory that Ukraine rather than Russia meddled in the 2016 election, as the U.S. intelligence community has concluded.

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York.

To Trump's chagrin, some of his normal Republican supporters are rejecting his "perfect" characterization of the phone call, saying it was wrong, improper or inappropriate, albeit not rising to the level of an offense that Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

With public hearings set to start Wednesday targeting him and his three-year presidency, Trump is recoiling at any retreat from full-bore Republican support, though no Republican official has called for Trump to be the first U.S. president to be removed from office in the country's 243-year history.

Even if the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives votes to impeach him in the coming weeks, as numerous Washington political analysts are predicting, his conviction by the Republican-majority Senate remains unlikely.

At least 20 Republican senators would need to turn against Trump to oust him from the White House.

"The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT," Trump said Sunday on Twitter. "Read the Transcript! There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don't be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!"

While dozens of Democratic lawmakers have criticized the Trump request for "a favor" from Zelenskiy — the investigation of the Bidens -- some Republicans are also voicing their opposition.

The Washington Post said it had found 13 Republicans who had criticized Trump's overture to the Ukraine leader.

Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, "It is not a good practice for us ever to ask a foreign country to investigate an American." But she added, "I don't see it as impeachable."

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said, "I thought it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political opponent," while adding, "I also do not think it's an impeachable offense."

John Sullivan, Trump's nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said at his Senate confirmation hearing, "Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent — I don't think that would be in accord with our values."

Sen. Mitt Romney, the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and a frequent Trump critic, said, "By all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

In this Oct, 27, 2019, photo, the carcass of an Elephant lies on the edges of a sun baked pool that used to be a perennial water supply in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe.

MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe is planning an enforced mass migration of wildlife away from a park in the country’s south, where thousands of animals are at risk of death due to drought-induced starvation.

At least 200 elephants have already died at two other parks due to lack of food and water, along with scores of buffalo and antelope, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) said on Monday.

“They will continue (to die) until the rains come. The biggest threat to our animals right now is loss of habitat,” Zimparks spokesman Tinashe Farawo told Reuters.

The El Nino-induced drought has also taken its toll on crops, leaving more than half of the population in need of food aid.

Farawo said Zimparks and private partners planned to move 600 elephants - as well as giraffe, lions, buffalo, antelope and spotted wild dogs - from Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe to three other national parks.

“This is the biggest translocation of animals in the history of wildlife movement here because we are talking of distances of more than 1,000 kilometres,” said Farawo.

It will start once the summer rains come. Those are expected to start this week, which would offer major relief for the stricken animals and for farmers who are preparing for the 2019/20 planting season.

The migration will also help to save the conservancy’s ecosystem by depopulating it because the animals “are now becoming a threat to their own survival,” Farawo said

Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, around a fifth of Africa’s total, conservationists estimate. Overall numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

Farawo said Zimparks, which does not receive government funding, requires $40 million annually for conservation efforts but only generates half the amount.

Zimbabwe, together with South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, unsuccessfully lobbied the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for controlled sales of their ivory stocks at a meeting in August.

Trade in ivory is banned to deter poaching. Zimparks says its ivory stockpile is worth $300 million, money it can use for wildlife conservation.

Zimbabwe has also exported nearly 100 elephants, mainly to China, earning $3 million, Zimparks statistics show. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Emma Rumney and John Stonestreet

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