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Rep. Joaquin Castro On Trump Impeachment Inquiry

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program again today with a focus on the impeachment inquiry sparked by President Trump's interactions with the president of Ukraine. That behavior provoked a whistleblower complaint and now the congressional inquiry. The question is whether President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for political reasons and whether President Trump used military aid as leverage.

The House intelligence committee will be leading the inquiry, and our first guest today is a member of that committee. He's also the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Joaquin Castro. He's a Democrat from Texas.

Congressman, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us once again.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So on Thursday, you heard testimony from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. That was a key demand from House Democrats at the White House - release its account of the call between President Trump and Ukraine's president, that Mr. Maguire testify. The White House also released a declassified version of the whistleblower complaint. Now, Democrats have complained vociferously for months that this White House is uncooperative when it comes to complying with congressional demands. Does this encourage you that you will be getting more cooperation going forward?

CASTRO: Well, I certainly hope so. But what the whistleblower's complaint which director Maguire acknowledged aligns with the transcript of the call that was provided by the White House. What it shows to me is that you had folks in the White House who were trying to cover up the president's abuse of power. There's a lot of investigating left to do. I'm hopeful that we're going to have a chance to speak to the whistleblower as well as the other people who were involved - Bill Barr, Secretary of State Pompeo and others at the White House.

MARTIN: Of course, you know as well as anybody that a certain portion of Democratic voters and officeholders have been pushing for this for some time. They feel that the president has given ample cause for an impeachment inquiry before now - for his unwillingness to be transparent about his finances, for example, about whether he's profiting from his position. It seems that directing this inquiry to the House intelligence committee seems to suggest that this is going to be strictly focused on interactions with Ukraine, the president's interactions with Ukraine and other foreign leaders - for example, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Is that true? And if so, is that the right call?

CASTRO: Well, you know, that isn't something that's been definitively decided. But right now, much of the focus is on this current situation. We wouldn't know for sure the scope until you get articles of impeachment, for example. But right now, the focus is on Ukraine.

MARTIN: On the other hand, many Republicans are saying and have been saying for the last several days that too many Democrats have prejudged this matter. Are there steps that you're prepared to take to assure Republican lawmakers and even Republican voters that this is fair, that this is about the Constitution and not about a partisan effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election?

CASTRO: Well, I think that's why you've got to be able to lay out as many documents and as much evidence as possible. But that does require the cooperation of the White House. But if you just take the transcript of the phone call that was released and the whistleblower's complaint, the American people can see for themselves that there are very deeply troubling issues. And so the process is going to be a fair one, but it's also going to be one that's going to hold the president and anybody else who may have committed wrongdoing accountable.

MARTIN: That is Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.