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With less to lose, will retiring Republicans desert Trump?

FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2019, file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.Retiring House and Senate Republicans are a natural group to watch for defectors as Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump builds steam. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON — Retiring congressional Republicans are a natural group to watch for defectors as Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump builds steam. But they’re not crumbling yet.

Four GOP senators and 17 House Republicans are not seeking reelection next year.

While most are leaving politics and feeling less pressure to defend Trump, they sound much like their GOP colleagues who are staying in Congress.

They’ve downplayed Democrats’ case against Trump, criticized the impeachment investigation, been vague or said nothing.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is ending his four-decade political career. He’s respected as an independent voice and is considered a Republican bellwether on the issue.

Alexander said this week that it was “inappropriate” for Trump to have prodded foreign governments to investigate political opponents. But he called impeachment “a mistake.”

Alan Fram, The Associated Press

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