House Democrats Chart Next Steps In Their Impeachment Inquiry After Receiving Memo

Sep 25, 2019
Originally published on September 25, 2019 7:54 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Lawmakers are reviewing the notes that the White House released about a call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. And the whistleblower complaint that started all of this has been turned over to the House Intelligence Committee. It's now being reviewed by lawmakers on that panel.

NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is tracking the latest developments on Capitol Hill, and she joins us now. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with the reaction in Congress to these notes that were released by the White House today. They confirm that the president did ask Ukraine's president to look into unsubstantiated accusations against Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump also said he would direct his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to be in touch. What has the response from Congress been so far?

DAVIS: From Democrats, it certainly had a solidifying effect in that they believe that the path of an impeachment inquiry is the right one. There's been even more Democrats who have come on board in support of impeachment today, lawmakers like Stephanie Murphy. She's a Democrat from Florida and leads a moderate faction of Democrats up here on the Hill.

I've spoken to a ton of Democrats today. One of them is Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin. She was part of that group of freshman lawmakers who really sparked the impeachment cascade this week. And this is what she told me.

ELISSA SLOTKIN: We can't make it normal for the president of the United States of any party to go to a foreign leader - the Chinese, the North Koreans, let's go to the Iranians - anybody - and ask for dirt in our political process. That should not be OK.

DAVIS: Slotkin is part of a group of lawmakers who have national security backgrounds. She was a former CIA analyst. She's also one of these freshmen from a really tough district. It was a Republican-held seat. And she's one of many Democrats I talked to today who said the political risks they're taking on are now worth it.

SHAPIRO: Now, what Pelosi announced yesterday was an impeachment inquiry. Does today's response from Democrats lead lawmakers to believe that actual impeachment proceedings against Trump are more likely than before?

DAVIS: Yes, I think they are. You know, lawmakers don't want to say it's going to happen for certain. But here is House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff. He was asked that very question today, does this mean impeachment is inevitable? He wouldn't say yes or no, but he did say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: No one should have any illusions about the seriousness of what is already uncontested, and that is the president of the United States has betrayed his oath of office and sacrificed our national security in doing so.

DAVIS: Betrayed his oath of office.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DAVIS: It's hard to hear that kind of language and not make the case that, today, the House has, indeed, moved closer towards moving on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

SHAPIRO: And so if they do move forward on that, is there any clarity about what exactly the charges would involve?

DAVIS: No, but there's a really interesting debate going on now inside the Democratic Party. And there is a lot of Democrats who are saying impeachment should be - only be focused on this single issue. One of those Democrats I talked to was Abigail Spanberger, another freshman, another freshman with a CIA background. And she was asked this, and this is what she said.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER: The fact that there is so much confusion, even among members of Congress, about what if someone were to bring forward articles from all that's been done in all of these other committees, a lot of confusion exists over what those articles would be. This is a very specific incident.

DAVIS: She said this incident, specifically because it's happening in real time, it involves a sitting president and involves an upcoming election, is much more clear of a case to make to the public than all the other issues Democrats have been looking at.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, where are Republicans on this? I know Senator Mitt Romney of Utah criticized the president today, but it doesn't sound like many others in the party are.

DAVIS: Not particularly. The president has called on with his own allies. They were meeting at the White House this morning with about a dozen lawmakers. One of them was Congressman Mark Meadows. I asked him if he thought there was a political risk here. This is what he said.

MARK MEADOWS: I don't think so. I - you can't help but read this thing - and I know it's supposed to be headlines and groundbreaking headlines. You can't read this and say, oh, my gosh, much ado about nothing.

DAVIS: As you can hear, Republicans backing up the White House saying, simply, there's nothing to see here. They don't seem to, as of now, think there will be a political risk for the president.

SHAPIRO: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, thanks a lot.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.