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Republican Rep. Tim Burchett Reacts To Testimony About Whistleblower Complaint

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

With us now is Tim Burchett. He's a first-term Republican lawmaker from Tennessee.

Welcome to the program.

TIM BURCHETT: Thank you for having me, ma'am.

CORNISH: What's your view of where things stand now, having heard from Maguire?

BURCHETT: I don't think anything's really changed at all, actually. I'm still opposed to the impeachment inquiry. I think Speaker Pelosi is - I realize she's got to yield to her very liberal base, and they're four ladies who have a great deal of control.

CORNISH: Can I hold on the politics for a second here? Because hearing from the national intelligence chief is a significant moment. And here is how your Republican colleague Mike Turner of Ohio responded to what he saw in the whistleblower complaint.

(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: Your response?

BURCHETT: I disagree. If you think a president isn't - when we fund things all over the world, if there's not some certain criteria attached to it, it just never happens.

CORNISH: But should any of that criteria be, please look into someone who will be my political rival going forward?

BURCHETT: I don't agree with that assumption of what it was. I think if you just read the transcript of the conversation - I mean, you have to ask yourself why there's more than a dozen people who had firsthand knowledge of that conversation who were there monitoring it and none of them have come forward to say that there was a problem with it.

CORNISH: Now, many of your Republican colleagues have been talking about their concerns. Do you see any shift happening?

BURCHETT: No, ma'am. I don't. I think that you're talking about, apparently, an unnamed U.S. senator, but I think he's just a disgruntled person who ran for president and didn't...

CORNISH: So you're referring to Senator Mitt Romney.

BURCHETT: Yes, of course. Yes, ma'am. He didn't get appointed to a position. It's clearly spoiled milk.

CORNISH: So this is not a criticism that you put much stock in.

BURCHETT: No, ma'am. I don't.

CORNISH: So I want to ask about one more aspect of the story itself, which is the role detailed in this complaint of Rudy Giuliani. This is the president's personal attorney, seeming to operate - trying to be in communications with Ukrainians, operating in a semi-official capacity representing the U.S. government. Does that concern you?

BURCHETT: No, ma'am. It really doesn't because I've found that Rudy Giuliani's an attorney, and he understands...

CORNISH: But does he work for the State Department?

BURCHETT: I don't believe he does, but if he works for the president, presidents in the past have had attorneys that worked for them in different roles, so I don't see a fault with that. I think the more eyes you have looking on something is always a good thing.

CORNISH: So many other people have questions going forward, more questions that they want answered. Do you have any?

BURCHETT: No, ma'am. Well, I would like to question Mr. Schiff why he opened up - this is a very serious accusation, and it's very disrupting to the process because we're not doing anything. We're not addressing any of the concerns that people have - health care, immigration.

CORNISH: But if it's a serious accusation, why shouldn't the chairman look into it?

BURCHETT: Well, that's not my point, ma'am. He started off - his very first statement was actually a parody where he talked about the conversation between President Trump and the president of the Ukraine.

CORNISH: And you're referring to his comments today at the start of the hearing.

BURCHETT: Yes, ma'am, at the start of the committee. And those are, as I'm reading in the news services - and one of the major networks is quoting those as fact. And then he goes on to say it was a parody. The individual Democrats on the Hill are not taking it serious. It's an impeachment inquiry. Articles of Impeachment have not been brought forward.

CORNISH: Exactly.

BURCHETT: Nothing has changed. It's - frankly, it's a three-ring circus.

CORNISH: Does that apply also to the performance of the Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire today? Is that how you feel about what he had to say?

BURCHETT: No, ma'am. From what I saw, I thought he handled himself very well, and he answered the questions. He wasn't evasive. He was put in a very tough situation, but he's an admiral. He was an admiral the United States Navy, so I assume he's been in tough situations before.

CORNISH: So here's a key moment from him today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSEPH MAGUIRE: I want to stress that I believe that the whistleblower and the Inspector General have acted in good faith throughout. I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.

CORNISH: This is not something he's saying is dictated by Democrats or pushed in a partisan way. He is saying as the nation's top spy that people acted in good faith in bringing forth this complaint.

BURCHETT: Yes, ma'am.

CORNISH: I ask because you called it a circus.

BURCHETT: I think, well, this whole thing's been a circus. You - we were talking about collusion with Russia last week.

CORNISH: But you said nothing has changed, so...

BURCHETT: Yes, ma'am.

CORNISH: ...If the nation's top spy says, look. We've got a complaint. I'm telling you what it is...

BURCHETT: It's the same committee. It's the same people, ma'am. And it's the same, and they're going to draw the same conclusion. If there's - this is not an impeachable offense. The committee that meets is the same committee that's been meeting since I was first elected, and they have not done one dadgum thing productive out of that committee that they've been assigned to do. They've just been hearing over this and rehashing old things. And the complaints will be interdispersed (ph) with media accounts, and that's just not valid.

And if a whistleblower - if that's what they want to do, we have protection under the law. I voted yesterday to protect the whistleblowers. I think it's very important that they feel like they can come forward and not have any retribution brought up against them. But I think the American public is growing weary of this because it's not going anywhere and they see the writing on the wall on this that there's nothing there after they've read the true transcript and not the parody account that was brought by Chairman Schiff.

CORNISH: Congressman Burchett, thank you so much for your time.

BURCHETT: Thank you, ma'am. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.