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Many GOP Lawmakers Align With Trump Against Impeachment Inquiry

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump said this morning on Twitter that his call with Ukraine's president back in July could not, quote, "have been better or more honorable." Now, many Republican lawmakers continue to stick with the president on this, including Congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky. He is in studio with me now. Good morning.

ANDY BARR: Good morning. How are you?

KING: Very well, thanks. You have said you're not concerned about this phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. Why are you not concerned?

BARR: Routine diplomacy and what I would say also is that what I look at is the transcript of the call much more than the hearsay account from the whistleblower - of course, I've read both. But what we do see from the transcript of the call was the president doing exactly what congressional Democrats have been asking the president to do for the last 2 1/2 years, and that is to press foreign leaders about the origins of the 2016 Russian interference.

KING: But that is not an issue of - well, let's talk about the issue of national security. The president specifically asked for a favor in this readout the White House released. Why do you think it's OK for the president to enlist a foreign leader in digging up dirt on his political opponent, Joe Biden?

BARR: So, first of all, especially in the context of Eastern Europe - Ukraine or the Baltics or any of our NATO Eastern European allies - of course, Russia is - Ukraine is not a NATO ally, but nevertheless a - an important ally to counter Russian aggression in that part of the world. There are typically two things that U.S. diplomats care about in that part of the world. No. 1 is countering Russian malign influence. And the...

KING: That didn't come up in the call, Russia - countering malign - Russia's influence didn't come up...

BARR: It did, in fact. It was a big part of the early part of the call referring to the extent to which Ukraine had servers connected to CrowdStrike. So that was the...

KING: You're referring to back in 2016...

BARR: Correct.

KING: ...And the release of Hillary Clinton's emails.

BARR: And the second...

KING: I guess the question is...

BARR: And the second part is corruption. Corruption is a routine part of American diplomacy with respect to Eastern Europe. So the president here is doing his job, which is to say use U.S. foreign policy to address issues that matter to U.S. foreign policy.

KING: But he brings up Joe Biden, a former vice president, and his son. In 2019, in July of 2019, why does a former vice president - why is that a matter of national security?

BARR: Well, first of all, I think the American people do deserve to know the extent to which a major U.S. official family is benefiting from a relationship, a business relationship, connected to Ukrainian corruption.

KING: The Ukrainian prosecutor who closed that case said Hunter Biden did not violate any laws in Ukraine. He just said that yesterday.

BARR: Right.

KING: It seems like a done deal.

BARR: I think it's very interesting, though, that you have someone who has no expertise in energy policy, no expertise in Ukrainian issues is making $50,000 solely because of his family relationship with Ukraine - or with a family relationship. But what I would say is why is it not relevant or important for a U.S. president or a member of Congress or anybody to address the issue of corruption in connection with an ally? That is a relevant issue.

KING: I think the big question is why is this happening in July of 2019, on the eve of an election a year away, year and a bit away from an election in which Joe Biden is one of President Trump's rivals for the presidency. But let's move on from the phone call to the whistleblower complaint that was made public yesterday.

BARR: Sure.

KING: It sounds like you're also fairly dismissive of that complaint. May I...

BARR: Well...

KING: ...Ask why?

BARR: ...It's multiple hearsay. It's not as relevant as the transcript of the actual call.

KING: Why not?

BARR: Look, what - the call is routine diplomacy. And, by the way, there's been much made about - by the way, the president of Ukraine says he did not feel any pressure. But the whole point of U.S. foreign policy, whether it's sanctions policy or whether it is foreign assistance, the point is to discourage bad behavior like corruption, like enabling Russian malign influence. And it's about encouraging good behavior.

KING: I can't let you go on...

BARR: That is...

KING: ...This whistleblower, though....

BARR: ...What the president...

KING: ...Because...

BARR: ...Was actually doing.

KING: ...The whistleblower...

BARR: He was doing his job.

KING: ...Is alleging the president was doing something very different, that what he was doing looked, to the whistleblower and the people reporting to him, like corruption. Now, I want to play a bit of what Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said in his congressional testimony just yesterday.

BARR: Sure.

(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.

KING: Acted in good faith, done everything by the book.

BARR: Yes. And the...

KING: This complaint was deemed credible.

BARR: Sure. It's...

KING: How come you're saying we shouldn't pay attention to it?

BARR: It's also been determined that the - and it has been stated that this whistleblower - who has not self-identified yet, interestingly enough...

KING: Whistleblowers do not self-identify. That's part of the point.

BARR: But not willing to face any scrutiny or questions. It's also...

KING: We don't know that yet.

BARR: It's also interesting that it has been stated that this whistleblower demonstrated indicia of political bias and criticism of this president. So there was no quid pro quo in this conversation. There was no improper or inappropriate behavior. The president was doing his job. He was...

KING: What's your evidence that there was no inappropriate behavior? I mean, this whistleblower complaint seems to suggest exactly the opposite. It is written down. It is documented. What's the evidence that you have that there wasn't anything inappropriate going on here?

BARR: Well, I think the president has every right to address issues of corruption and issues of malign interference by Russia. What - to me, what I think the American people are seeing in this is transparency by the president, a routine diplomatic call, no quid pro quo and the president directly addressing exactly the issues that congressional Democrats have been asking him to do for the last 2 1/2 years - that is to say, to press foreign leaders about the origins of Russian interference in the 2016 election. This is a case of Democrats careening from one baseless impeachment theory to the other. My constituents are asking, what is the big deal?

KING: We should note that some of your Republican colleagues - Mitt Romney and others - do disagree with you. But Congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky, we appreciate you coming on to share your point of view.

BARR: Thank you.

KING: Thanks so much.

BARR: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.