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It's Been 1 Month Since The House Launched Its Impeachment Inquiry

Oct 21, 2019
Originally published on October 21, 2019 11:05 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week marks one month since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. More witnesses have been called up this week to tell lawmakers about the circumstances under which U.S. military assistance to Ukraine was held up. But are they going to show up this week, and what might we learn from them if they do? Joining us now in studio, NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So who's up this week?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, we're going to hear from - or congressional investigators are going to hear from folks at the State Department, Pentagon and the White House National Security Council. But the key witness this week is William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. He is a longtime U.S. diplomat who has worked in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Taylor is someone the Democrats are very eager to hear from. He was actually reluctant to take the job at first. He had raised concerns about Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. And as you'll recall, Taylor is also who, on September 9, texted the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, writing, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance to Ukraine for help with a political campaign.

MARTIN: Right. So they are definitely going to have a lot of questions for him. Can we spend a moment talking about Mick Mulvaney...

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...This morning? Sure. So he is at the center of all this recently because he was under the gun last week for suggesting at the podium in a White House briefing in the White House that there was a quid pro quo, and then he tried to clarify in a statement and on TV over the weekend. Where is his messaging at right now?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. He's had a really hard time walking back those comments of using foreign aid to potentially pressure Ukraine to investigate the 2016 campaign. Here he is defending his comments to Fox News' Chris Wallace.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

CHRIS WALLACE: You've described a quid pro quo, and you said, that happens all the time.

MICK MULVANEY: Again, reporters will use their language all the time. So my language never said quid pro quo.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, those comments raise concerns from the White House and more accusations from Democrats that President Trump was more focused on his personal ambitions rather than the interests of the United States.

MARTIN: But so when you think about Mick Mulvaney's comments and performance at that briefing, you think about all the testimony that the House has heard thus far, is there any indication, Franco, that any of this is changing anyone's mind in Congress on impeachment?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, I think there's no question that it's raising eyebrows, even among Republicans. Take Lindsey Graham, the senator. He had an interview with Axios where he said he was open to changing his mind if there turns out to be evidence of a crime.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Show me something that is a crime. If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, Graham is one of President Trump's most important allies on Capitol Hill, and this really shows what a difficult last few weeks it's been for the White House. And those kind of comments are not going to sit well with the Trump team, considering he really needs all the Republican support that he can get...

MARTIN: Right.

ORDOÑEZ: ...On impeachment.

MARTIN: And just to that comment by Lindsey Graham, we should just again point out that impeachment is - it is not a criminal trial. It is a political undertaking. And so there is no standard for meeting a crime that is required in that. President Trump and his supporters clearly have wanted to keep the focus on the Bidens throughout all of this. They did get help from one diplomat last week on that front, didn't they?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. George Kent. He's a senior State Department official who reportedly testified that he had raised concerns in early 2015 about then-Vice President Joe Biden's son serving on the board of Burisma. But that was turned away by Biden's people when he raised the issue with them. It's worth noting, though, that no investigations have found that Hunter Biden's role in Burisma was illegal, though it did raise some ethical concerns.

MARTIN: House Democrats still think they can get this wrapped up by the end of the year?

ORDOÑEZ: They are sure trying their best, but it's going to be a tough one.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.