AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The articles of impeachment against President Trump have finally moved from the House to the Senate. And when the Senate impeachment trial begins, seven House managers will argue the case. The group was announced earlier today by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and it includes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Congressman Schiff is the lead impeachment manager. He joins me now on the line now from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, can you hear me?
ADAM SCHIFF: I sure can.
SCHIFF: Good to be with you.
CORNISH: Thank you. So we've spoken to you at nearly every step of this process, and you have talked about wanting to move forward. And one of the things that was causing some delay was the issue of how the trial would commence, whether or not to call witnesses. The Democrats want them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to agree to this. Can you present an effective case without it?
SCHIFF: Yes. I mean, the evidence is overwhelming either way. But nonetheless, there are very important witnesses that can shed additional light. And unless the president is prepared to concede that, yes, he pressured Ukraine, yes, he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars to get them to help him cheat in the next election - if he's going to contest any of that, then there is every reason to call these additional witnesses. The senators should want to hear what they have to say. And if this is a real trial, if it's a fair trial, they will be called.
CORNISH: But there also is a suggestion of witness reciprocity. So while Democrats might want to call Trump national security adviser John Bolton, Republicans can say they want to call former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter. Is that something you could agree to?
SCHIFF: Well, those witnesses don't really have any pertinent testimony. The president is charged and was impeached for withholding military aid to an ally at war with Russia to get...
CORNISH: But is that a scenario you could abide by - right? It's one thing for you to say that you don't think that witness is valid. But if you want to have witnesses at all, would you agree to?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, we'd certainly agree that any witness that has relevant knowledge should be subject to being called. The administration may have witnesses, for example, that can speak to the question of the president's motivation on why he withheld the aid, although I think it's abundantly clear it was for a corrupt purpose. But if they just want to smear the Bidens, the whole point of the corrupt scheme to begin with, I don't think senators should allow the Senate to be used for that purpose.
So, you know, we could make absurd claims about who we'd like to testify just to make it a circus. We could say, well, if they're going to bring in Hunter Biden, why don't we bring in Don Jr.? I don't think that makes sense. We should have a real trial, a fair trial that goes to the fundamental issues. And I think that this is an effort by the senators to deflect from the president's guilt.
CORNISH: House Democrats also released new evidence obtained from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that includes, for example, notes written on Ritz-Carlton paper with the phrase, get Zelenskiy to announce Biden case to be investigated, this sort of thing. Is this new evidence going to be used in your case? Would it persuade anyone who wasn't already persuaded?
SCHIFF: Yes. You know, for example, one of the documents is a letter from Giuliani to President Zelenskiy, asking for a meeting, saying he wanted to discuss a particular matter, which we know was the - these corrupt investigations that he wanted Zelenskiy to commit to. And in that letter, importantly, he says, I am making this request with the knowledge and consent of my client, the president of the United States. But we don't know...
CORNISH: So for those of us who don't know the process, this is something you can introduce even now at this stage of the game.
SCHIFF: Yes. Yes. And the relevance is we don't know what the president's defense is going to be. But if he's going to defend, for example, as some have suggested, by throwing Giuliani under the bus and saying he had no idea what Giuliani's doing, the fact that Giuliani is acknowledging that he is acting as the president's agent when he is trying to get this illicit help from the president's reelection campaign is important evidence, and it should come in at the trial.
CORNISH: That is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. He's now the lead impeachment manager as articles of impeachment against President Trump move from the House to the Senate. He'll be arguing the case before the Senate.
Thank you for your time, congressman.
SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.