Congress Reacts To Details From Phone Call

Sep 25, 2019
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Just a few minutes ago, President Trump spoke about a July 25 phone call he had with Ukraine's president. Now, that phone call is at the center of a question - did President Trump pressure Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden? This morning, the White House released notes about what the two leaders said on that call back in July. It is not an exact transcript. And then the president went on TV and said this...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Just so you understand, it's the single greatest witch hunt in American history - probably in history, but in American history. It's a disgraceful thing. The letter was a great letter, meaning the letter revealing the call. That was done at the insistence of myself and other people that read it. It was a friendly letter. There was no pressure. The way you had that built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell. It turned out to be a nothing call, other than a lot of people said, I never knew you could be so nice.

KING: NPR's Scott Detrow is in studio with us now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry last night before seeing any of the key evidence. Now we have some of the stuff in the form of the notes about this call. What are Democrats saying now?

DETROW: Two strands of thought here. One is the political, best summed up by a tweet from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz - I'm confused; they think this is good for them? Referring to the fact that, as you heard, President Trump's arguing that this is a vindicating partial transcript or summary of this conversation. Democrats are saying it's extremely concerning. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of House Democratic leadership, said today this is a textbook abuse of power, referring to Trump's repeated - asked for a favor, asking Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.

He also raised a lot of questions - that's Jefferies and other Democrats - about why the president of the United States is repeatedly invoking his personal attorney in this call, asking Ukraine's president to be in touch with Rudy Giuliani, serving in a private capacity working for President Trump, not for the United States. So I'd say overall there is a feeling of vindication on taking the step yesterday of formally saying they are looking into impeachment and also a lot of concern about what is implied in this call.

KING: There's more information, though, that Democrats want and still have not gotten. What is that?

DETROW: I think, first and foremost, they want to see the full whistleblower complaint. That was central to a lot of the calls for impeachment that you saw come yesterday from more moderate members. Not quite calls for impeachment, I should say; it's calls to look at impeachment, start the process, especially if the White House continues to stonewall and not provide the full report. Tomorrow will be a big day for that. The acting director of national intelligence testifying in front of Congress. He is the person who has so far been holding up that full report. Democrats want to see that.

And they are also pointing out - remember the initial Department of Justice summary of the Mueller report - a lot of Democrats argued really undercut the message of the report. So they're saying this is just a summary of a half-hour call. We want as much information as possible. I think based on what we're seeing from this call, you can also see calls to have Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Barr come in and talk to Congress about their role in this.

KING: OK. So what are Republicans in Congress saying this morning?

DETROW: Few themes emerging. Many pointing out there is no explicit quid pro quo here. President Trump doesn't mention the military aid that he has said he put a pause on before this phone call. Others saying it's wholly appropriate to talk about corruption with another country and that, you know, essentially, this is aboveboard business the president of the United States is doing.

Others, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, saying that Democrats have been in a rush to impeach since Day 1, pointing that a lot of the people calling for impeachment now, the other week were calling to impeach Brett Kavanaugh. So McConnell trying to frame this as impeachment fever or so on the part of Democrats.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Can add a couple more of those. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, often a supporter of the president, calls it a nothing burger on Twitter - actually, it's a nothing quid pro quo burger, according to Lindsey Graham. However, Mitt Romney of Utah, former presidential candidate, speaking at The Atlantic Festival today said this remains deeply troubling, and we'll see where it leads.

KING: NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks, Scott.

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