White House View On Impeachment
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
So as the private phase of the impeachment inquiry wraps up, the public phase ramps up. And President Trump is changing his tune from a complaining one about closed-door processes to demanding that there be no open hearings at all. Here he is on his way to Georgia Friday.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, they shouldn't be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's square that circle with NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Good morning, Franco.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. House Democrats have called their first three witnesses to testify in public, and now Republicans have announced who they want to defend the president. But these first three have been chosen pretty carefully, right?
ORDOÑEZ: Absolutely. The Democrats have asked William Taylor - he's a top Democrat in Ukraine - George Kent at the State Department, and Maria Ivanovich - She's the former ambassador in Ukraine - to testify. The three have already testified privately and laid out a narrative of the administration leveraging security aid to pressure Ukraine to launch political investigations.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what about the Republicans - who are they asking to hear from?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, their list gives us kind of a clearer picture of the Republicans' defense strategy. They want to call Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, and the anonymous whistleblower to testify, among others. They say Trump has a right to confront his accuser - the whistleblower. But Democrats say they will protect the whistleblower from retaliation and won't allow him to testify. They're also raising questions about Hunter Biden, who is at the center of Trump's allegations. And the Democrats are saying they won't facilitate any already debunked conspiracies.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. While all this is going on, there is business to be done in this country - at least there's business that should be done. Let's talk about China.
ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, last month, Trump declared victory for farmers, saying he reached a phase one deal with China. But that now looks premature, as it hasn't been signed. And Trump is again talking conditionally about reaching any deal and giving little indication of when something will be signed. The reality is this has been a consuming inquiry. Even aides such as Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council - this is not his lane. And he's answering questions about the Ukraine transcript.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. So everything seems to be consumed with this impeachment inquiry. And we, last week, saw the deposition transcripts released. What did we learn?
ORDOÑEZ: We learned a lot. You know, this administration is very different from others. I guess I'd answer that we've also learned, from these transcripts specifically, even more about how personal relationships matter to President Trump. So much of this Ukraine matter revolves around Rudy Giuliani. He's a private citizen, Trump's personal attorney, but he was operating in extremely sensitive areas of foreign affairs and national security. But Trump continues to defend him, calling him a good man.
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TRUMP: I think Rudy Giuliani's a great crime fighter. He was the greatest mayor in New York City history, but he's been a great crime fighter. He's always looking for corruption, which is what more people should be doing. He's a good man.
ORDOÑEZ: But there is a lot of unease about Giuliani's role in the Ukraine matter, in diplomatic circles and also at the White House. John Bolton, the former national security adviser, according to testimony, called him a hand grenade.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, and House Democrats obviously want John Bolton to testify, but he didn't show. Where does that leave Bolton's testimony?
ORDOÑEZ: You know, Bolton is still in the thick of this. I received a copy of the letter his lawyer sent to investigators, basically teasing them that he had firsthand knowledge of meetings and conversations that had not been made public, but he insists Bolton is not going to testify unless a court orders him. There is a lot of attention on another court case about whether former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify. But Bolton's attorneys say, regardless of the outcome of that case, Bolton won't testify because he was involved in national security matters, which are protected by the Supreme Court.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Thank you so much.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF HIDDEN ORCHESTRA'S "ALYTH (NUAGE REMIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.