Rep. David Cicilline On Impeachment Inquiry
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The House Intelligence Committee could begin impeachment hearings as early as next week. The move towards impeachment hastened this week with testimony about a whistleblower's complaint that President Trump asked the new Ukrainian government for information to damage a political opponent.
Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island is part of the Democratic leadership and a member of the Judiciary Committee. He joins us from Rhode Island. Mr. Cicilline, thanks so much for being with us.
DAVID CICILLINE: My pleasure. Good morning.
SIMON: Do you have an impeachment timetable in mind for the next few weeks or months?
CICILLINE: Well, I think the speaker has made it very clear. She's directed all of the six committees of jurisdiction to begin an impeachment inquiry. But the last few days, of course, the focus has really been on the Intelligence Committee. And the expectation is that that committee will work carefully but expeditiously over the next several weeks to collect additional evidence and prepare to make a set of findings in a report that I expect will be referred to the Judiciary Committee.
But this is urgent. I mean, the inspector general determined that these allegations were credible and urgent, and they implicate the national security of the United States. We've seen the president acknowledge his wrongdoing publicly. There's a telephone transcript of the conversation which confirms that, and then an explosive whistleblower report that really details the entire scheme. So this is not going to require, you know, months and months and months of hearings. The president has engaged in very serious wrongdoing, has betrayed his oath of office and undermined the national security of our country.
SIMON: You remember the House Judiciary Committee that's been investigating the president for months about all kinds of things - Stormy Daniels, Russian elections. Are those matters being pushed aside now? Are you just going with this?
CICILLINE: Well, I mean, the committees are going to continue to do their work, but this Ukraine scandal is happening in real time. I mean, unlike the Mueller report, where we're trying to piece together events of the past, this played out in plain view in real time to the American people. The president of the United States pressured a foreign leader to target a political opponent to help him in his reelection and then tried to cover it up. So this is, you know, this is happening now. There's evidence from the whistleblower report and the transcript that confirm that. The president's own statements admitted. And, you know, this is beginning to unfold before the American people.
I think there - this Intelligence Committee is clearly going to speak to State Department officials and a number of other documents that they've requested to support this charge against the president. But I think the Judiciary Committee is, of course, the committee of jurisdiction for impeachment, so I think the expectation is all of the committees that have been doing investigations are expected to kind of send their best information, their - kind of the conclusions of their work in short order to the Judiciary Committee so that we can move expeditiously when the Intelligence Committee has concluded its investigation.
SIMON: Story breaking overnight - in the minute we have left, The Washington Post says in that 2017 Oval Office meeting, President Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister he didn't care if Russia intervened in 2016 elections because the U.S. has done that all over the world.
CICILLINE: Yeah, well first off - OK.
SIMON: Well let me - I have heard Democrats say the U.S. has intervened in Russia - in elections in Latin America and other places in the world. Was the president wrong or just impolitic?
CICILLINE: No, the president's wrong. It's just not true. This stick - the campaign that the Russians engaged in, which is detailed in the Mueller report, was a systematic and sweeping effort to interfere with an American presidential election. The most sacred responsibly the president has is to defend our democracy, to make certain the American people's voices are heard, not some foreign adversary. And it's shocking that the president of the United States would have made that statement. Of course, he benefited from the Russian interference. And he, I think, has demonstrated that his concern is himself and not necessarily the health and strength of our democracy.
SIMON: Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, thanks so much for being with us, sir.
CICILLINE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.