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Republican Rep. Jim Jordan Discusses Testimony On Whistleblower's Complaint

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

With us now is Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan. He's ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

Welcome back to the program.

JIM JORDAN: Good to be with you today.

CORNISH: We've had a long day to digest a lot of this. Can you give me just your initial reactions to the hearing before the intelligence committee? What stood out to you?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, look - this - when you read the transcript, there is nothing there. Even the Democrat chairman have indicated, Audie, that there was no quid pro quo. The president doesn't talk about any foreign aid. Even the president of Ukraine, Mr. Zelenskiy, has said he was not pushed in any way. You know, but the Democrats have been trying to go after this president since before he was even elected. It's been nonstop. And they don't care about the facts and the truth; they're going to do whatever it takes to try to get this president. It's unfortunate because it's not good for the country.

CORNISH: But I want to talk to you about a Republican colleague - right? - who's on the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner. He shares much of your sentiments about the impeachment inquiry, but he doesn't give the president's behavior in that July 25 conversation a pass. Here's what he said in this morning's session.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE TURNER: Now, I've read the complaint, and I've read the transcript of the conversation with the president and the president of the Ukraine. Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president, this is not OK. It isn't - that conversation is not OK, and I think it's disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript.

CORNISH: So this is someone who has also seen both the transcript and the complaint and sits on the House Intelligence Committee - draws a different perspective.

JORDAN: Audie, when you - when a whistleblower comes in front of you, there are two things you have to assess. Frankly, any witness, when you're trying to determine credibility, you have to ask two fundamental questions. The first one is, do they have firsthand knowledge? Were they an actual witness? The second question is motivation. This whistleblower comes up short in both areas. Remember there was no...

CORNISH: Can we take the second one? Because we don't know the identity of the whistleblower, unless you're about to give me some news.

JORDAN: I'm not. But I believe The New York Times has indicated that it's a male. But I don't know the identity, either.

CORNISH: I can't draw that much more from that. I don't think people would want me to.

JORDAN: Yeah, I...

CORNISH: So what do you mean by bias?

JORDAN: No, the inspector general told us that the whistleblower had an indicia of arguable political bias for a candidate, an opposing candidate. That's Washington speak...

CORNISH: He also said that he believed he was credible and acted in good faith. He was asked specifically this question.

JORDAN: When the inspector general uses that kind of language - indicia of arguable political bias - that is Washington speak for this guy didn't like the president. And when you read the transcript, you know he had bias because there's nothing in the transcript that indicates the president did anything wrong.

CORNISH: Does that mean you are up for more inquiry? Which is essentially what House Democrats are pushing for.

JORDAN: No, I'm up for finding out exactly what the Justice Department is looking into, how this whole thing started in the beginning. And that's what the president points out in the call as well. He wants to know what was happening in Ukraine back during the 26 election - 2016 election, that he somehow colluded with Russia to impact the election. That's what we need to figure out, and that's what I'm focused on trying to get to the bottom of.

CORNISH: And yet the president brings up Vice President Joe Biden and specifically his son. Those are not issues related to foreign interference in the 2016 election.

JORDAN: Audie, come on. Come on. Someone gets paid $50,000 dollars a month. He has no experience in the industry he gets hired in, in the energy industry. Gets paid that for several years. The company that's paying him that gets - is under investigation, and the vice president of the United States calls up, tells - or actually meets with him in person and tells them, you either stop that investigation or you're not getting foreign aid from our country, and somehow that's not relevant? That's unbelievable.

CORNISH: Well, today the former Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, just told The Washington Post this afternoon, quote, "From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything." He also said, quote, "Hunter Biden cannot be responsible for violations of the management of Burisma" - that's the Ukrainian gas company you're referring to - "that took place two years before his arrival." More and more information is coming out about this from primary sources. Does it raise concerns for you?

JORDAN: You left out the two most important facts. He was being paid $50,000 a month.

CORNISH: No, no, no. To me, what you're saying...

JORDAN: And his dad, an important guy in the government, said...

CORNISH: ...Is that there were - there was something corrupt going on, and the prosecutor from Ukraine said, this person did not violate anything. He said that by name, and he said that this afternoon.

JORDAN: I didn't say anything corrupt was going on. I'm saying that he was paid $50,000 a month, and there was an investigation into the company paying him, and his dad, who had a pretty important position in our government, said, you're not getting the aid - the foreign aid that's supposed to come your way - you're not getting it unless you stop the investigation. That's all I said.

CORNISH: Hunter Biden was not under investigation.

JORDAN: And don't you think that seems a little strange?

CORNISH: No, no. What I'm doing is trying to make sure we're up to speed, so that when people this afternoon or tomorrow hear from the Ukraine prosecutor, hear these quotes, and they hear, look, Hunter Biden's not responsible for violations that happened before he came to the company, they can understand what's being said.

JORDAN: But that's (laughter) not - the point is, that company that's paying him is under investigation. Whether it was warranted or not, that's not the fundamental issue; the fundamental issue is the vice president of the United States said, stop the investigation. Why did he know - you said this information just came to light. Did Joe Biden know that a few years ago when he asked them to stop investigating? Of course he didn't.

CORNISH: I mean, Joe Biden was also carrying...

JORDAN: So you're missing the fundamental point.

CORNISH: ...Was carrying out the administration line at the time, which was concerns about corruption in that country. He went there as an actor for the government speaking directly about these issues. So this is your depiction of their case. And I want to move on to ask another question, which is that, is it appropriate for any U.S. president to tell a foreign leader to work with the attorney general or his personal lawyer to investigate a political opponent?

JORDAN: The president is commander in chief of the country. The president conducts foreign policy. If that's what he thinks is in the best interests of the country, for a foreign head of state to contact someone in our government who works in the executive branch, or may not work in the executive branch but is someone that the president thinks will further the interests of the United States of America, that's up to the commander in chief.

CORNISH: Well, Congressman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, thank you for speaking with us.

JORDAN: You bet, Audie. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.