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Washington — Republicans have yet to find a challenger to run against freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, but they are fundraising anyway off the Holly Democrat's newfound openness to an impeachment inquiry for President Donald Trump. 

The Republican National Committee said it raised $350,000 in six hours Tuesday after Slotkin said she would back an impeachment inquiry if Trump leveraged taxpayer funds to coerce Ukraine into investigating a political rival.

The appeal was among a slew of fundraising emails Republicans sent this week asking donors to help defend Trump against House Democrats moving forward on impeachment.

"We will absolutely hold House Democrats accountable for this," RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted Wednesday. Trump "won Elissa Slotkin's district in Michigan, yet she's backing this baseless impeachment inquiry."

The RNC said half of the $350,000 raised would benefit the eventual Republican nominee in Slotkin's district, suggesting her shift on impeachment makes Slotkin more vulnerable. 

But their fundraising plea also highlighted how the Republican Party so far has been unable to recruit someone in the traditionally red district that Slotkin flipped last year when she defeated incumbent Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. 

Republicans indicated the money raised would be split between the Trump campaign, the RNC and a political action committee called "Take Back MI-08 Republican Nominee Fund 2020," referring to Michigan's 8th District. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, was reportedly recruiting for the race last weekend while on Mackinac Island, where he addressed the GOP conference there.  

In her first run for office, Slotkin, 43, beat Bishop by nearly 4 percentage points last fall, or just over 13,000 votes.

Bishop hasn't ruled out a rematch, according to party insiders, but he wouldn’t divulge his plans when asked at Mackinac on Saturday whether he would enter the race.

The significant war chest that Slotkin has amassed — over $1 million as of June 30 — could potentially intimidate challengers from jumping in. 

Her campaign sent out its own fundraising email Wednesday in response to the RNC, noting the GOP was targeting Slotkin specifically and raising money for her eventual opponent. 

Slotkin, a former top Pentagon official and CIA officer, had resisted backing an impeachment inquiry for months. But she said Monday that new information emerging about regarding Trump's actions on Ukraine had changed her thinking. 

She partnered with six other House freshmen with national security or military backgrounds in expressing alarm over the reports in a Washington Post essay. 

If Trump pushed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden at a time when hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Ukraine were being withheld, Slotkin said, it would “constitute an impeachable offense.” 

"We can't make it normal: The president of the United States of any party to go to a foreign leader — the Chinese, the North Koreans, or let's go to the Iranians, anybody — and ask for dirt in our political process. That should not be okay," Slotkin said Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.

"And that's my deep concern about that. Setting a precedent on that is why — despite the fact that it is controversial in my district — I came out."

Slotkin this week stressed that impeachment is a legal but also a political process, and that what had been missing for her up to this point was the ability to "bring along" the country and explain to the public why it's important. 

"​​​​​​I am doing everything I can to explain to people how I came to the decision because my hope is, even if they disagree with the decision, they give me the benefit of the doubt that I was judicious about it, that I did it based on my background, and a sense of integrity to the oath that I took," Slotkin said. 

"The institutions of our country are the bones that keep the body upright, and if we start pulling in dirt from foreigners and make that normal in our life, in our political life, it will just wear away and eat away at the bones of our democracy. That is a threat to national security in and of itself."

Asked if she worried about the potential blow back in her district, Slotkin said she understood the political risk, "but I can't be basing decisions of integrity based on that."

"Certainly, I'm aware of how controversial it is. But there comes a certain point as a national security professional that you have to look beyond the political calculation and just make a statement that you're not going to accept this behavior," Slotkin said. 

"And I didn't come to it lightly. It's not something I came to Congress to do. I didn't want to do it. To me, yesterday was an extremely somber day, and anyone who's gleeful about it is absolutely missing the big picture that our country is going to be going through a very difficult time."

A White House memo released Wednesday summarizing Trump's call with Zelensky showed the president repeatedly urged Ukraine’s new leader to work with the U.S. attorney general and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to probe former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to the memo, Trump on the call raised unsubstantiated claims that that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were involved in corrupt business activities in the former Soviet republic. 

"For me, it reaffirmed the nature of the conversation, which is that the sitting president of the United States used the full weight of his office to reach out to the president of another country and ask him for dirt on a political opponent," Slotkin said of the memo.

"He acknowledged that in the transcript. He did it explicitly and implicitly by being the most powerful nation in the world, to a country that's relied on us for almost a billion dollars of aid in total. So it reinforced it for me."

The conversation between Trump and Zelensky is part of a whistleblower’s complaint that prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

"I respect the responsibility of the president to engage with foreign leaders as part of his job. It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign," Pelosi said in a statement. 

“The transcript and the Justice Department’s acting in a rogue fashion in being complicit in the president’s lawlessness confirm the need for an impeachment inquiry," Pelosi added. "Clearly, the Congress must act."

The RNC said the transcript vindicated the president, showing no quid pro quo and no threats made by Trump to Ukraine. Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, claimed "the facts prove the president did nothing wrong." 

"This is just another hoax from Democrats and the media, contributing to the landslide re-election of President Trump in 2020," Parscale said. 

Staff writer Beth LeBlanc contributed 

mburke@detroitnews.com

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