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Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier Discusses Public Impeachment Hearings

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As one House Republican put it today, the impeach-a-palooza (ph) tour comes to an end. Today the House Intelligence Committee had its final scheduled day of public testimony about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine. In another part of the program, we're hearing a conservative perspective on the hearings. We're joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. She is in a hallway on Capitol Hill.

Welcome, congresswoman.

JACKIE SPEIER: Great to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Before the hearings began, in an interview almost two months ago, chairman Adam Schiff told me the smoking gun is already out in plain sight. So what do you think the public hearings revealed that we did not know at the beginning?

SPEIER: I think what it revealed was how ubiquitous the Trump operation was using U.S. taxpayer funds to promote an agenda that was intended to help the president get reelected by developing an investigation by the Ukraine president, Mr. Zelenskiy, against one of his prospective opponents, Mr. Biden.

But what we also found out by listening to so many of the foreign service officers, that it was frustrating their ability to do their jobs because you had an irregular channel that was being used to promote, frankly, interests that did not align with the United States but align more closely with business interests of some individuals in Ukraine and two of the clients of Mr. Giuliani.

SHAPIRO: You use the phrase irregular channel, but yesterday Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said this was not irregular. Everybody from Secretary of State Pompeo to the vice president, White House chief of staff, the president himself were all in on this. So, I mean, was it in fact an irregular channel, as you describe it?

SPEIER: So I'm actually defining an irregular channel in terms of Rudy Giuliani's interests in promoting an investigation by Ukraine into potential opponents of President Trump and also pursuing his business clients' interests in Ukraine. Two of those individuals now have been indicted for campaign violations for foreign campaign money being brought into U.S. elections. One...

SHAPIRO: This is Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

SPEIER: That's correct - $325,000 into the Trump PAC. So there is that going on. There was also this effort to try and promote Ukraine to the president, who kept saying that they were corrupt. But he doesn't have that same inclination to call Kim Jong Un corrupt in North Korea. He calls him his, you know, romantic affiliation (laughter).

So, you know, it has been very helpful, I think, for the American people to have all of these extraordinary Americans who are doing our foreign policy trying to promote the United States, who are nonpartisan, who work for Republican and Democratic presidents, but who have been very forthright in terms of feeling that they had a moral obligation in addition to their legal obligation in terms of shedding light on the issue. The good news for Ukraine is everyone in the United States knows how important it is to the United States, to Europe, in terms of pushing back on Russia.

SHAPIRO: Let me play you something that the top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes of California, said this morning, arguing that Democrats have been inconsistent in their accusations against the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEVIN NUNES: The offense itself changes depending on the day, ranging from quid pro quo to extortion to bribery to obstruction of justice then back to quid pro quo.

SHAPIRO: If you were to help draw up articles of impeachment today, what specific offenses would you include?

SPEIER: So he's actually wrong. Quid pro quo, bribery and extortion are basically all the same. The only difference is, with extortion, there's a threat associated. What happened was the president used his official office to seek something of value from President Zelenskiy - an investigation. And in so doing was going to resist offering up a White House visit or the military aid until President Zelenskiy came forward and made a public statement about these so-called investigations. So...

SHAPIRO: At some point, though, Congress has to put pen to paper, and the House of Representatives, if they want to proceed with impeachment, has to draw up articles. So what specifically do you think would be in those articles?

SPEIER: Well, it's not for me to decide. I was part of a committee that was doing all the fact-finding. That now goes to the Judiciary Committee. If they draw up articles of impeachment, certainly, I think bribery should be one, obstruction of Congress. There are so many subpoenas that were issued that were basically ignored. And you don't - you know, someone ignores a subpoena, they go to jail. And yet - was a whole list of individuals and documents that have never been provided by the White House and the administration. So obstruction of Congress would have to be one of them...

SHAPIRO: Before I have to let you go, I just want ask - we're describing this as the last scheduled day of public testimony. Republicans have asked for a hearing with witnesses that they select. Will this happen, or do you think this is in fact the end of public hearings or depositions?

SPEIER: Well, they gave us a list of requested witnesses, and we accepted two of them, and they testified earlier this week. So I don't know...

SHAPIRO: So no more than that?

SPEIER: I think that - I think we have succeeded in making sure all the witnesses that are involved in the issue about Ukraine have had an opportunity to testify.

SHAPIRO: Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thanks for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.