A Case from the Right for More Witnesses
This is impeachment the daily podcast from WNYC. I'm Brian Lehrer. It's Wednesday November twenty seven. Even on this day before Thanksgiving there are two new reported facts in trump Ukraine crane story that could prove to be significant and since we spoke yesterday. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled. Its first impeachment hearing for next Wednesday eh ten. AM guess where we'll be and invited. The president himself to testify. Here are the new reported facts. Then we'll talk to our guest for today which lowry editor of National Review. Who opposes impeachments fact number one? According to the New York Times quoting unnamed sources president trump knew about the CIA whistleblower complaint before trump released the military at the time said trump was informed in August about the whistle blower from the CIA. The aid was released in September. This would also mean trump knew about the whistle blower before. He seemed to change his tune to ambassador Gordon Son and told hold him not to ask Ukraine for a quid pro quo in a phone call. Before trump knew about the whistle blower trump told sunland to require an announcement of investigations indications. For White House meeting. This new timeline would add weight to the argument that trump released the aid and nuanced his language. Only because he now saw I saw he might get called out publicly fact number two. There's apparently an email so that would be documentary. Evidence showing that the president himself ordered ordered the military aid frozen. This revelation comes from the release of the first deposition transcript I should say the final deposition transcript that the house impeachment inquiry committees heard privately before the public hearings. The witness was mark. Sandy an official at the office of Management and budget. Sandy testified defied that he received an email on July twelfth informing him that the president himself was directing hold on military funding for Ukraine in the e mail came from Robert Blair. A top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney now. This is the most direct evidence yet that the president personally ordered the withheld and according to sandy no one gave him or other people at the budget office. A reason for the hold and he testified that one colleague colleague of his resigned in September after giving a dissenting opinion on whether it was legal to withhold the aid and another colleague resigned in September after expressing frustrations about not understanding the reason. For the Holt with that. We welcome rich lowry editor of National Review. His latest article out yesterday is called the check. The box impeachment a partisan impeachment pursued on a political timetable. He's also author of the new book book the case for nationalism how it made us powerful united and free rich. We always appreciate it. Thanks for coming on again. We'll get to those two new facts. Jason Get your reactions. But let's start with the news that the Judiciary Committee which would vote on actual articles of impeachment will hold its first impeachment hearing during next Wednesday taking the hand off from Adam Schiff and the intelligence committee. Does that. Play into your assertion that they're running on a political timetable. Yeah they want to get this out of the door by the end of the year. So you'll you'll have a hearing with some constitutional experts and then in fairly short order the draft of articles of impeachment impeachment. And then. I expect unless there's some earth shattering development for them to be voted out of that the house and then trump will be quit in the Senate. COCO's you're arguing that if the Democrats were interested in learning the whole story rather than getting this done before election season they would go through the court battles titles to force the testimony of the closest people to trump who really know if he was blackmailing Ukraine by withholding the military aid. He named Giuliani Mulvaney Secretary of stay pompeo and vice president pants. I guess we could add John Bolton. Why do you think they should fight those battles for months in court? Well if if they're really really doing this prayerfully and sadly and as PLO seeing shifts had repeatedly said In pursuit of all the facts to get them before the American public. Then you would not care. You know the Iowa caucuses are coming up on February six you. You wouldn't care that you know this might be distracting from other business. You would wait and get all the firsthand witnesses just very strange to undertake an investigation. Then not not get all the people who really know stuff on a firsthand first-hand basis and it would be paying you know would be a delay But I imagine the courts would expedite it. I don't think the Democrats would prevail with all these witnesses just by the way I do think there's a colorful and probably credible Privilege claims with with some of these Witnesses not all of them. So you'd have a more complete the factual record so this is the first time we've ever had an impeachment where there hasn't even been an attempt to create a complete factual record which has seen a very basic Imperative Because because because they're in a rush you've argued previously that what the president did was wrong but the Democrats should not impeach in an election year. And you were just making that case again. Let the American people be. The jury hears an argument against that from yesterday show it comes from former Obama solicitor. General General Neo cut. y'All who has now written a book making the case for impeachment and I asked him specifically about that argument from you I quoted from Your New York Post article article this week. Why now when the American people are going to get to decide themselves and a few months and he responded in part like this it might happy one thing? If after the president got caught with Ukraine. He said Yeah. You know what I made a mistake a really bad mistake And I definitely won't you. You know. Try and seek foreign interference and elections. I won't try and cheat all that stuff. But what did he do instead. He said Yeah. I'd do it again. China if you're listening running can you help me out with the Biden's So we know this is going to happen again and this is why this Republican talking point which is oh. Let's just wait till the twenty. Hey Twenty election I think has it so backwards I mean. The president is accused of cheating in the twenty twenty election so to wait for the election. In which is cheating sheeting is bizarre. It's Kinda like if I Brian and I are playing a game of monopoly. And he accuses me of cheating and I say well. Let's figure out whether I'm really cheating thing. Let's play a game of monopoly You know you don't you. Don't play the same game. You're accused of cheating in order to resolve this accusations against you. Neal Katyal on yesterday show Shaw responding to what you wrote in The New York Post this week. WanNa keep that conversation going. I contend the punishment is dependent dependent on the harm lose to some extent. And there's no harm here. The Ukrainians didn't dig up dirt quote unquote on Joe Biden. They they didn't even investigate. PRISMA shady that perhaps legitimately deserves investigation. They didn't even announce they're investigating Brisbane Even if they had it the political fact on the American election would have been zero. You know it's not as so Joe Biden's polls would have plummeted. Not Not as one hundred entre Biden would have been a let. Let away in chains The effects would have been basically nonexistent so that we're GONNA do kind of political capital punishment is year and the first time in our history. Remove the president Over this I I just think can't can't be sustained and Democrats are trying to build this massive of Superstructure of impeachment and removal atop a very very narrow base in this Ukraine episode. I guess the Democrats see the base of complaints against the president as much broader. Let me try to put that into words and see how you would react to that. That trump has done so many things that they consider impeachable including asking a foreign government for help with his campaign by itself completely unbowed in that respect by the Russia investigation. That's one thing. The alleged conditioning of military aid on that is another plus all the attempts to obstruct justice in both this and the Russia. Investigation and many Republicans even see the military aid problem which would have gone on. Presumably if trump had not gotten called out and if Celeski really didn't announce those investigations that aid would have become that eat suspension would have become permanent even many Republicans. See that military problem as against the national security interest rest of the United States. He was toying with the national security interest of the United States adding to the list of things that he's done that seemed to advance Russian interests over American ones in really important ways. So that is maybe roughly. Have the Democrats would put why this all all adds up to a combination of serious abuses of power for his personal gain. That Congress needs to set a precedent on less enable. You believe in more of a strongman presidency as they'd see it and maybe even a Kremlin linked one. So what about that. Put that way. Well I reject. Ah some of the premises kremlin-backed White House and all that but I went out the best case. Democrats can make is look Republicans impeached Bill Clinton in Nineteen Ninety eight zero hope of realistic hope of removing and in the Senate as an act of censure venture. Basically with a lot of bells and whistles and we're going to do the same thing here you know. Turnabout is fair play and because trump because episode was bad. And because because you know trump doesn't separate himself personally enough from the toossion of the office it's important to create this just black mark on his record which is basically really essential vote. I I think that's their their best case. I think cutting against that is he's he's GonNa get acquitted and it's GonNa play like a victory you know. He's going to have a parade parade on the South Lawn. You know maybe a fly over or something. When when he prevailed Democrats political calculation that one? Yes so that vitiates gates and then and there wasn't really that impeachment power at the end of the day if he's been impeached and reelected which is which is a A. There's some significant chance of that happening here but then I guess a question for you is if public opinion doesn't change. Republican senators will not vote to remove him because they'll feel backlash from their their constituents and we would get that outcome that you just articulated He might wind up getting impeached and reelected. Did you say that would weaken the power of impeachment for the future. Maybe but which side of history do you WanNa be on helping to freeze public opinion where it is by worrying about that outcome or helping convince people that what I think you already believe was wrong and a significant abuse of power. You're correct that if it's wrong shouldn't be left to slide. Yeah so you're listening was probably think this is so called concern trolling on my part. Because obviously I don't don't have the the interests of the of the Democrats at heart but this goes back to. How do you hold them accountable? And I think hearings you know the the two weeks of public. Oh carryings where. We're really strong for for the Democrats. I think it's impeachment and removal. That goes too far and appalling. Ticked up a little bit and some of these polls that we've I've seen a spate of them the last couple of days. You know maybe two points but you know if it's if it's forty nine forty six on impeachment nationally. Where's it in their the swing districts of Vulnerable Bowl Congressional Democrats whereas it in places like Wisconsin that a real. The real battlegrounds may not hurt them. It's certainly not helping helping them. And and it very well may hurt them at the margins so now let's get to the news stories from last night after your article was published pushed in National Review yesterday if Owen be official Mark Sandy told the truth in his deposition. There's an email from chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Office on July. I twelve saying the president directed the A. B. With health that would be documentary evidence and that's two days after the meeting with Ukrainian officials that John Bolton called called the drug deal for trying to leverage investigations with this email. Change anything for you in terms of proof no. I always assumed that this was the key the case I mean it creates more documentary record. Yes but I if trump didn't order the the aid withheld. I don't know who would have and there was. You know the story Two weeks or so ago and in the New York Times about how some some Republicans were trying to cook up a theory where all be blamed on Sunlen and and Giuliani. You know somehow working by the president's back and that's obviously crazy you know and he didn't hold up the eight. Who who did you know he he you must have done it and any obviously did it It and part and perhaps large part pressure and Ukrainians over the investigation. So I take that as a as a a- and the other new story president trump reportedly was told by White House lawyers about the CIA whistleblower complaint before the aid was released. This this would add weight to the argument. That trump release the aid. Only because he now saw he might get called out publicly meaningful to you. In terms of further proof of trump linking in all these things. Well I think we need to know more about this and this is one in my first answer. Brian On the morning's news. We kind of knew that or at least week's intuited. This is something we don't know the details of what were the exact circumstances of the release. And how how was it released so this this is interesting shing. If she's a new information it seems to me though and I Happy be corrected as more facts. Emerged that the the more most salient. The thing here was the house is going to pass a continuing resolution resolution forcing the release of the funding. And it was like they're going to pass the Senate and and we know Rob Portman on September eleventh when funding was actually released called the White House and basically said you know it is up. We're going to force you to release released money. And trump released it so What was a mix of these various motivations worry perhaps about the whistle blower complaint inch or just having his hand forced by Congress? We need to know more but it's not as simple as some people portraying. Oh you know he. He saw the whistle blower campaign playing August whereas learned of it and then immediately released. Yeah well they didn't release it for another two weeks and more immediate The timing lines up more immediately with US Congressional Action Action in mid August mid mid September. Sorry Jerry you're on the air with rich lowry hi sorry. Oh Hello Brian I WanNa know you know where people stand I think for history. We need to know where representatives and Senators Stan whether trump is impeached and removed from office. Assist or not history will not be on the side of the Republicans rich was talking about history looking at the Democrats since saying. Oh they weren't too much of a hurry to to impeach somebody they didn't like and route you know and remove him from office. I think that history will say what happened to the Republicans. Why did they think that? It's okay for somebody to issue bribes. Why did they get? It's okay for the president to ask ask for help from foreign entities to win an election. Why did they think it's okay for the president to make money From the presidency see for his businesses and Sherry. I'M GONNA leave at that at that reactor whatever you want to react to their rich. Yes I accept. You know. All all the factual basis of what she's saying about about trump but I do think Republicans are not serving themselves. Well right now or in the future if they don't get fully only admit what what happened here and that was wrong and say it was wrong. And just because something's wrong doesn't mean you should be impeached and removed over it. But just because you shouldn't be impeached impeaching removed over it doesn't make it right and That's that's the point I've been trying to make throughout this episode to you. Think that there's a danger in him being re elected despite the people knowing about this abuse of power And the things that go with it you know these countries that have been moving toward real authoritarian rule sometimes doing so with the support out of the majority of the people we could name a number of countries maybe even Russia and Putin and so. It's a dangerous injuries thing. If he does abuse his power and the Congress doesn't remove him and that is acceptable to the American people for the Slope that they may send a sliding on. How much if any concerns you have about that? Well I think one in general the for real guardrails have held You know through these first three and a half years. It's it's often been you know. A radic and a willful will Governance but not illegal or unconstitutional governance. You know a great example of this would be his intervention in these military justice just cases and specifically the really extraordinary intervention to say that any gallagher. This navy seal shouldn't lose seal pin. There should be a the panel convened. Consider whether it should keep his seal pin or not. He has the authority to do that. I mean there's there's no question commander chief. It's just a really poor use of his authority and so I think most of what trump is done. That's objectionable at mine. Mine falls in that category rather than you know violating elating constitution. I think there's a tendency of people who are freaked out by things. He does like calling oppressed the enemy of the people. which shouldn't to? There's there's a leap to say well. He's he's violating the first. I meant when he doesn't know he's exercising his first amendment rights so That some people listening right now are wondering why are you using the navy seal case as an example of the guard rails holding rather than the guard rails collapsing. Let me play a short clip. That I was GonNa ask you about any way from the president's rally last night in Florida This is part of how he referred to that case I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state. The what I'm talking about. So he's now calling his own navy secretary presumably and the Peer Review Process. That is the pride side of the Military Court Martial System. The deep state is that the guard rails holding or is that the guardrails not holding. Even though clearly you're right we have civilian civilian control of the military. He's got the constitutional power to do what he did. But is that the guardrails of norms that are going to protect the country in the long run holding holding or collapsing. Yeah so I think you make a good point. That's not I was Kinda mixing things up there. That's not a good example. The car trails holding for the reason that you outlined it is A case where he's clearly within his Legal Authority and Conservative constitutionalist list. That that I know what what kind of the way we think about this. You know. We're worried about trump But you look at Elizabeth Warren. She's promising to ban fracking like first day in office. When there's a two thousand and five law that says you can't? She can't do that. She's promising a wealth tax. The Lisa's very constitutionally dubious. She's promising to break up the tech companies on no authority whatsoever. So you know. Our fear here is that there's a progressive movement that consider the Constitution a A A a needless obstacle or an anachronism and and has always been about aggrandizing executive power especially within the administrative agencies and that is is more of a longterm threat to our institutions institutions that are constitutional order than A president who's using his lawful authority and sometimes very unwise ways last thing you've written critically in the past about Rudy Giuliani. Let me get your reaction to this that he said this weekend on Fox saying things written like he's going to throw me under the bus right when they say that I say he isn't but I have insurance is rudy threatening the president when he says I have insurance asked if the president is GonNa Throw L. Him under the bus. What do you make that? That's crazy rudy. Says he's joking. But what kind of joke is that. It's not a joke it's you know it's one of these serve joking not joking. Thinks it's the president's lawyer threatening the president implicitly in public and it's just bizarre and look at the president trump is responsible. I personnel choices. He's responsible for his decisions. But Rudy has has a lot to answer your four. He helped lead down this cockamamie path in Ukraine and may have been doing it for self interested reasons. And there's still a lot under the rudy rock that we don't know about and that that I think is probably going to to to Be really end badly. Rich lowry editor of National Review and author of the case for nationalism. How it made us powerful united and free? Thank you so much. Thanks happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I WanNa give thanks to the producers who make show possible. I Call Them Busy Team Zoe. We ask away and Zach Cohen Z.. Team rocks and makes this podcast listenable and intelligible. We will take Thanksgiving Day off and on Friday. We'll feed a special Ashley. Edition will get off the impeachment news for the holiday weekend and send you a national call in show that is hosted on Sunday called America. Are you ready. It's on the place of impeachment in our democracy. So happy Thanksgiving thanks for listening. I'm Brian Lehrer.