Why the House is moving so quickly on Trump impeachment inquiry


JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress is headed home for
a break tonight, leaving a White House besieged
by impeachment revelations.
The disclosures and President Trump’s denials
kept coming today, and the top Democrat in
Congress kept up the pressure.
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor
begins our coverage.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: A historic week and, at
the end of it, both sides sounding off.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summed up the situation
from her point of view like this:
REP.
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The impeachment of a
president is as serious as our congressional
responsibilities can be, apart from declaring
war or something.
And so we have to be very prayerful and we
always have to put country before party.
The clarity of the president’s actions is
compelling, and gave us no choice but to move
forward.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: On Monday, President Trump
started the week in New York upbeat.
He was looking forward to being on the world
stage at the U.N. General Assembly.
But that visit was quickly upended, when news
broke of a whistle-blower complaint from the
intelligence community against him.
It focused on a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The complaint alleged that President Trump
pressured Ukraine to investigate Democratic
rival and former Vice President Joe Biden
and his son Hunter.
And it accused the president of temporarily
withholding military aid to force Ukraine
to look into the younger Biden’s business
dealings in Ukraine.
The whistle-blower didn’t personally hear
the phone call, but said multiple officials
relayed the facts.
Reports say the whistle-blower is an unidentified
CIA officer.
On Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi announced a formal
impeachment inquiry.
She confirmed it would narrowly focus on that
call.
REP.
NANCY PELOSI: The president of the United
States used taxpayer dollars to shake down
the leader of another country for his own
political gain.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Initially, White House officials
blocked release of a transcript the call,
as well as the whistle-blower complaint itself.
But, by Wednesday, after both the House and
Senate demanded the transcript, the White
House gave in.
It distributed a memo summarizing the call.
It also sent the redacted whistle-blower complaint
to Congress.
And, yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee
made the document public.
Among the revelations, the whistle-blower
accuses President Trump of — quote — “using
the power of his office to solicit interference
from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
The complaint also said senior White House
officials intervened to — quote — “lock
down” all records of the Ukraine phone call.
And it alleged that — quote — “This was
not the first time under this administration
that a presidential transcript was placed
into this code word-level system solely for
the purpose of protecting politically sensitive
information.”
Today, reports surfaced that unnamed White
House officials confirmed the attempt to lock
down the Zelensky call.
Minutes after the complaint was released on
Thursday, acting Director of National Intelligence
Joseph Maguire testified before the House
Intelligence Committee.
JOSEPH MAGUIRE, Acting Director of National
Intelligence: We consulted with the White
House Counsel’s Office, and we were advised
that much of the information in the complaint
was in fact subject to executive privilege,
a privilege that I do not have the authority
to waive.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Meanwhile, yesterday, during
a private event at the U.S. mission to the
U.N., President Trump lashed out at the whistle-blower
and the whistle-blower’s sources.
Bloomberg News published video from the event.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
That’s close to a spy.
You know what we used to do in the old days,
when we were smart, right, with spies and
treason, right?
We used to handle it a little differently
than we do now.
(LAUGHTER)
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, the president took
to Twitter, saying it’s — quote — “sounding
more and more like the so-called whistle-blower
isn’t a whistle-blower at all.”
Back in Washington, House Democrats are forging
ahead on their inquiry, even as they begin
a two-week Columbus Day recess.
REP.
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The president
of the United States is threatening a whistle-blower’s
life.
This is authoritarian behavior, and we have
to recognize and see it for what it is.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But Republicans, by and
large, are defending the president.
REP.
JIM JORDAN (R-OH): He had no firsthand knowledge,
wasn’t on the call, and the inspector general
even told us that he had a bias against the
president.
And yet we’re going to — the Democrats are
going to move ahead with impeachment after
reading that transcript?
It’s just ridiculous.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Speaker Pelosi said today
there is no timeline for the inquiry, but
the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
Adam Schiff, said impeachment hearings could
begin as early as next week.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Yamiche joins me now with
the latest.
So, Yamiche, the Democrats getting more specific
about who they want to come testify from the
Trump administration.
What are you learning about who all may be
implicated in this?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The whistle-blower’s complaint
focuses on President Trump, but, like the
Mueller report, it also outlines a number
of individuals that are either trying to mitigate
President Trump’s alleged actions or trying
to help him.
So I want to walk through some of the people
mentioned in the complaint.
There’s Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal
lawyer.
The whistle-blower calls him — quote — “a
central figure” in President Trump’s alleged
effort to pressure Ukraine.
He’s said to met in person with Ukrainian
officials.
There’s also John Bolton.
He’s the former national security adviser.
He is implemented because the National Security
Council is being accused of trying to bury
President Trump’s call with the president
of Ukraine in a computer system.
There’s also Attorney General William Barr.
He’s accused by the whistle-blower of being
involved in pressuring Ukraine.
And Trump talks about Barr on the call with
president of Ukraine — the president of Ukraine.
There’s also Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,
because State Department officials are said
to be on the call.
And Rudy Giuliani also claims that the State
Department called him and asked him to get
involved in — with Ukraine.
And then, lastly, there’s Kurt Volker.
He’s a U.S. special representative for Ukraine
negotiations.
And Gordon Sondland, he’s the U.S. ambassador
to the European Union.
Both of them are said to have given advice
to Ukraine, basically saying, here’s how you
deal with President Trump’s actions.
So there’s a lot of people involved here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you were just reporting
that Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence
Committee in the House, is talking about maybe
moving as quickly as next week.
What are you learning about how the committee
is going to move forward?
There’s so much to cover and they want to
move quickly.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Democrats have said that
they’re going to move quickly with this impeachment
inquiry expeditiously, they have said.
And they’re doing basically just that.
The House Intelligence Committee is supposed
to be going back to — basically coming back
into D.C. on Friday and — early next week,
at least — and having a hearing with the
inspector general Michael Atkinson.
He’s supposed to be testifying behind closed
doors about basically the handling of this
call.
Also, three House committees subpoenaed Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo for documents related
to Ukraine.
The House Intelligence Committee, the House
Oversight Committee and the House Foreign
Relations Committee are saying, you have until
Friday to produce those documents.
Also, NPR has surfaced an hat interview that
happened in March where Mitch McConnell, the
Senate majority leader, said that if the House
voted to impeach President Trump, the Senate
would have no choice but to hold a trial.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Yamiche, so much going
on.
This has been — I mean, every week is high
pressure at the White House.
This one has been particularly so.
How are they dealing with this?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The White House is in full
defense mode.
And they’re really trying to help — trying
to get help from the Trump campaign with all
of this.
The president has been lashing out, but the
Trump campaign is going to be launching millions
of dollars in ads, both on Facebook and social
media, but also in cable news outlets.
And they’re going to be basically making the
case that the president is being unfairly
targeted.
The other thing to note is that there’s going
to be, in some ways, the spin that’s going
to continue to go on from the White House.
And that’s been in its — in their part, their
defense of the president.
It’s also important to know that there are
300 former national security officials who
released a letter.
And I want to read part of that letter, because
all of this is going on as people are basically
sounding the alarm.
In that letter, they say: “We consider the
president’s actions to be a profound national
security concern.”
They also say: “There is no escaping that
what we know already is serious enough to
merit impeachment proceedings.”
So as the president is trying to essentially
launch his impeachment defense, you have people
that are — that have worked for both Democrats
and Republicans who are pushing back on that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And those ads you mentioned,
the White House is saying they’re going to
run — that’s going to start pretty quickly.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It’s going to be the Trump
campaign running the ads.
But, yes, it’s going to be pretty quickly.
It’s starting this weekend.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche Alcindor, so much to
keep track of.
Thank you.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Thanks so much.

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