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Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi Discusses Next Steps In Impeachment Inquiry

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has been a day of tit for tat between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chairs of three of the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. This morning, Secretary Pompeo informed those committees that he has, quote, "legal and procedural concerns" with the depositions of five State Department officials. He accused the committee staff of trying to intimidate and bully State Department personnel.

Well, this afternoon, the chairs of those committees hit back. They say it is Pompeo who is intimidating witnesses in an effort to protect himself and the president - all of which makes it unclear quite what is going to happen with the closed-door testimony that has been scheduled for this week and whether that will go forward. And that is where we are going to begin with Raja Krishnamoorthi. He's a Democrat from Illinois and member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, welcome.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So I am hearing tomorrow's hearing you were supposed to be hearing from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. I'm hearing it's been delayed. You're now hoping to do it towards the end of next week. Is that correct?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's my understanding, yes.

KELLY: OK. And what about the other two? You were supposed to be hearing from former envoy Kurt Volker on Thursday and then the inspector general of the intelligence community on Friday. Is that still on?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We hope so. You know, with regard to Mr. Volker, he has been named in several places in the whistleblower's complaint. He's not an employee of the State Department. We're hoping that he will show up. And then I expect that the inspector general will appear on Friday at least in a closed session.

KELLY: Also not an employee for the State Department.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Correct.

KELLY: He doesn't work for Pompeo.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Correct.

KELLY: OK. So as far as you know, that is still on. Has it been just a day of frantic back and forth with State?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, look, I think that Secretary Pompeo himself may be a fact witness. You may have heard, according to published reports, he was a part of the call that happened on July 25 between President Trump and the Ukrainian president.

KELLY: He was one of the people listening in. Right.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Exactly. And so the question is is he, you know, potentially blocking testimony from others in an attempt to protect himself? And, quite frankly, maybe he should be recusing himself for purposes of responding to the inquiry and someone else should be responding instead.

KELLY: When you say he may be a fact witness, is he one of the next names you're going to call to come testify?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. I think that Chairman Schiff will likely want to call, you know, everybody who has been party to that call. Acting Director of National Intelligence Maguire testified last week in an answer to a question that I posed that there were more than a dozen people who were participants on that call. And he thinks that most of them took notes. So we should probably talk to all of them.

KELLY: Let me ask you, just speaking of procedurals, this week's hearings, the ones that will still stay on track and the ones now rescheduled for next week, they will all be behind closed doors. And you know how these things work. Democrats and Republicans will come out and give very different readouts. How are you planning to try to keep public support for your inquiry, to have Americans on board with this effort, when we won't know what was said and we don't have any firsthand information to judge for ourselves?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think we'll probably err on the side of transparency while at the same time trying to protect our national security. As you know...

KELLY: But how can you be transparent behind closed doors? I mean, those seem to be inherently contradictory.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Right. Well, I think that, you know, one thing that Chairman Schiff has utilized in the past procedure is to publish transcripts soon after a deposition or a hearing once classified information is somehow protected. All that being said, I think that we're going to probably err on the side of more open setting proceedings than closed hearings going forward. But, obviously, there's very sensitive information that we have to protect, too, for the national security.

KELLY: I want to put to you a position that I am starting to hear from Republicans as we interview them, a form of defense that is emerging, which runs maybe this behavior was improper, but it is not impeachable, that the behavior documented in that whistleblower complaint doesn't rise to the standard for impeachment as envisioned and written by the Founding Fathers. What do you say to that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Gosh, I have to respectfully and strongly disagree. The allegation is that the president used his office to pressure Ukraine to smear a domestic political rival and interfere in our 2020 elections. In effect, the allegation is that he's compromising our national security for private political gain. I can't think of an abuse of power more egregious than that. If it's true, it's impeachable.

KELLY: All right. We shall leave it there. Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressman, thanks very much for your time.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.