House Democrats Move Quickly On Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Sep 28, 2019
Originally published on September 28, 2019 6:52 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to begin the hour with the impeachment inquiry the House of Representatives launched earlier this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped the intelligence committee to lead the investigation, which is focused narrowly on the allegations outlined in a whistleblower's complaint. We wanted to learn more about what comes next, so we've called on NPR's Tim Mak. He's here with us now in our studios in Washington, D.C.

Tim, thanks so much for joining us.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Of course.

MARTIN: OK. So the House is now in the midst of this impeachment inquiry, but it left town for a two-week recess. So what's happening with the investigation now?

MAK: So, as you mentioned, the House intelligence committee is going to take a leading role with regards to this investigation. But the chairman of that committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, said they already have some of the fundamental information they need to show wrongdoing. Here's what he told Ari Shapiro on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED earlier this week.

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ADAM SCHIFF: There's really no question about digging until you find something. The smoking gun is already out. It's in plain sight, and it's in the form of the record of the president's communication with a foreign president.

MAK: So Schiff is, of course, referring to two major pieces of evidence that were made public earlier this week. First is the memo that outlines a conversation President Trump had with the president of Ukraine in which he asked the leader of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and Biden's son. The second piece of evidence is the whistleblower complaint from an as-yet unidentified individual who was made aware of that conversation and is alleging that the White House tried to cover up evidence of that phone call.

MARTIN: So what are the committee specifically focused on? And who are they expected to interview?

MAK: So Schiff has said that the complaint I just referenced is his kind of road map. The complaint lays out a number of individuals, which I'm sure you'll see in coming days and weeks, that the House will try to subpoena or to hold depositions with. Late this week, three committees sent subpoenas to Secretary of State Pompeo for documents, and they set dates for depositions with a list of five State Department officials. Among them is the former ambassador to Ukraine and a number of other diplomats. One of those diplomats, for example, is Kurt Volker. He's the former special envoy to Ukraine. Now, he resigned his position as special envoy on Friday as the fallout from this scandal spread.

Schiff also announced a closed briefing with the inspector general of the intelligence community next Friday, October 4. You'll recall that the inspector general of the intelligence community has called the complaint - the whistleblower complaint both an urgent concern and said that it appears credible.

MARTIN: So how do we expect this to play out? People are - I find that even members of the public who I've spoken to over the course of the week are very interested in the timing of all this. What can we expect?

MAK: Well, there's no set, exact timeline. But Democrats want this investigation to move pretty quickly. Democrats, generally speaking, are hoping to complete this investigation and potentially even have a vote on articles of impeachment if they feel that's warranted by the end of this calendar year. Congress is currently in a two-week recess, though, so they're kind of trying to deal with both their recess duties and this ongoing investigation. Some Democrats are worried, for example, that Congress not being in session, this issue might lose a little momentum. So they're trying to keep that momentum going by holding these depositions, by holding these hearings.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Tim Mak.

Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.