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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi On Impeachment


This week, the House of Representatives will officially begin the investigative work of its impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The House Intelligence Committee is taking the lead in that investigation. And Raja Krishnamoorthi sits on that committee. He's a Democrat from Illinois. Congressman, thanks for being with us this morning.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Hey. Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Will there be any public hearings this week?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. I don't know the schedule yet. We've been told to wait until arrangements are made. But we're standing by.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How important is it for these hearings to be public?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's important because there has to be maximum transparency into exactly what's going on. And I think there's obviously tremendous public interest in the allegations of the complaint from the whistleblower. So I think all things being equal, we want to have as many public hearings as possible.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The inquiry is said to be narrowly focused on the idea that President Trump pressured the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden family and how that conversation was largely kept secret. But The Washington Post is reporting this weekend that Trump told the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador in the Oval Office that he wasn't concerned, also about Russian election interference and that those remarks also got buried. Here's what the national security adviser said at the time.


H R MCMASTER: It's wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was H.R. McMaster in May of 2017. And he called the president's conversation wholly appropriate a couple of times during that briefing. The reason I'm playing those comments is because I'm asking you, do you want to hear from him or from former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. You know, as you know, the reason why special counsel Mueller went to the lengths he did to figure out whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to interfere in our 2016 elections is because the American people don't want foreign powers doing so. And so, you know, any suggestion by the president that it was, you know, OK or all right for the Russians to do this or he didn't mind is not consistent with what the American people want or with our national security. And I think that is, in part, why there's tremendous interest in the current complaint. Because the day after Bob Mueller testifies about 2016 Russian interference in our elections, on July 25th he sought assistance from Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 elections. And I think that is very, very problematic to say the least.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You keep on saying possibly. I'm wondering what goes into the determination as to who you will want to speak to.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that in my questioning of DNI Maguire, the Director of National Intelligence, you know, basically, he said that there were at least 12 people on the phone call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy of Ukraine. We'll probably want to talk to all those people and see what they heard. There's another aspect of it, which I don't know if you touched upon. But President Trump is alleged to have coerced the Ukrainian government into manufacturing dirt by leveraging U.S. aid to Ukraine. And this is something that's deeply disturbing, a gross abuse of the Office of the president and very damaging to our foreign policy and national security.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Will you want to, then, hear from Rudy Giuliani? I will say that he has said publicly he doesn't consider you "a legitimate committee." And that's a quote.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: (Laughter). I think at some point Mr. Giuliani would probably be an appropriate person to talk to. In the meantime, you know, our committee on...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that a yes that you will be subpoenaing him?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. I'll have to defer to my chairmen on that. But I think that if he did, we'd be very supportive. In the meantime, we're going to be deposing multiple members of the State Department in the next week or two. We want to talk to the whistleblower. That's extremely important, especially in light of President Trump's very problematic statements, which appear to suggest he might retaliate against this person. And then third, we want to talk to the inspector general, the courageous person who brought forward the complaint to our attention despite the fact he didn't have to. All your listeners should know the inspector general is a Trump appointee. He brought this complaint forward against basically his boss at, you know, basically a jeopardy of his career representative.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All this, of course, hinges on the idea that the people that you subpoena will actually speak. What's your response to the idea of executive privilege - that the President's conversations with world leaders are well within the bounds of executive privilege, no matter what concerns you may have about them?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, executive privilege does not shield misconduct. And if you read the transcript closely, you can see that President Trump is clearly seeking assistance from Ukraine to potentially interfere in the 2020 elections. That would be...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But are you worried that some people might shield themselves and say that they don't want to testify because of it?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: They might. But on the other hand, we did get the transcript of the call very quickly this past week, in part because the White House did not assert that privilege despite the fact they said that they were going to. I think public pressure is what made this happen, as well as pressure by Congress.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you very much.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Hey, thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.