Impeachment Inquiry Update

Oct 18, 2019
Originally published on October 18, 2019 9:42 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

We're following developments in the impeachment inquiry into the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine this morning. And there was an interesting one yesterday. The president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, talked to reporters at the White House. He was there to discuss something unorthodox. Next year's G-7 summit will be held at one of President Trump's private resorts. But then Mulvaney went on to say some striking things about the Ukraine situation. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been following all of this.

Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: All right. Let's get to Mick Mulvaney in just a minute because there was a lot this week in the House investigation. People were testifying behind closed doors, but some information did come out. What did we learn about the testimony?

LUCAS: Your first comment about this being behind closed doors is an important point to make because we don't have transcripts, so we don't have full visibility into what witnesses were saying - but we do have some. And in broad brushstrokes, the picture that has emerged so far from the testimony is that senior officials on the National Security Council and at the State Department were very concerned about the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, former vice president, as well as conspiracy theories about Democrats and the 2016 election.

Giuliani - as I said, he's the president's attorney. He's not a member of the administration, not working official channels. So what these officials thought of Giuliani and what he was doing - they viewed it as a sort of shadow foreign policy that was operating outside of the proper channels and basically icing out officials whose job it is to actually handle foreign affairs and national security.

We also learned this week that the president directed three officials - the U.S. special representative to Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and Energy Secretary Rick Perry - to work with Giuliani on Ukraine. And we learned that Mick Mulvaney played a role in helping arrange all of this.

KING: Let's talk about Mick Mulvaney, who spoke very publicly yesterday. And it was a lot. Can you just run us through what he said?

LUCAS: It was quite a news conference at the White House - a lot to get through. But what Mulvaney said that really got our attention is that President Trump withheld some 400 million in military aid to Ukraine at least in part to try to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Democrats. Now here's a clip of a reporter pressing him on that.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MICK MULVANEY: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he - it was on - to withhold funding to Ukraine. The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, then that is absolutely appropriate.

JON KARL: Withholding the funding.

MULVANEY: Yeah.

LUCAS: Now, the reporter then pointed out to Mulvaney that what he said sounded a lot like a quid pro quo - military aid in exchange for an investigation into Democrats. Now, Mulvaney's response to that was, the U.S. does this all the time in foreign policy.

However, a couple of hours later, Mulvaney tried to walk all of this back. He put out a statement saying that his remarks had been misconstrued, that there was no quid pro quo of military aid for an investigation into Democrats.

KING: OK. And the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, keeps coming up in this impeachment inquiry. Yesterday, Mick Mulvaney talked about Giuliani, right? What did he say there?

LUCAS: That's right. He defended Giuliani's role. He said that the president has the right to dictate foreign policy, to delegate authority to whomever he wants. And he said that some of the criticism of this has come out of the impeachment inquiry and that it's unfounded.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MULVANEY: And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. I'm talking, Mr. Karl. That is going to happen. Elections have consequences, and foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.

LUCAS: Now, the argument from Democrats is that this is not about a change in foreign policy. They say that foreign policy should be in the national interest and the issue here is that the policy that Giuliani was pursuing was only in the president's own political interest.

KING: OK, so a big week this week, and then next week, it all keeps going. What are you watching for?

LUCAS: That's right. There are a number of interviews planned for next week. One person who is expected to testify that we'll be keeping an eye on is William Taylor. He is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine right now. His name might ring a bell for some people from text messages that have come out as part of this impeachment inquiry.

In those text messages, Taylor voices concern about holding up aid to Ukraine and what appeared to him to be linking the aid directly to the investigations into Democrats. So when Taylor comes up on the Hill, there's going to be a lot of eyes on his testimony.

KING: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan.

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