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White House Responds To Impeachment Resolution


The House has formally approved an impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump. It was very nearly a party-line vote. It establishes a process to make the inquiry more public. People investigators have interviewed in private may be interviewed again at hearings seen on TV. The White House, we should recall, has not disputed the facts found in testimony and documents for the most part. President Trump did ask Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats, including his political rival Joe Biden. The president instead argues that his conduct was, quote, "perfect" and that the investigation is unfair.

Hogan Gidley is deputy assistant to the president and the White House principal deputy press secretary, and he's on the phone. Good morning, sir.

HOGAN GIDLEY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Does the House vote and the process that's now been set up for public hearings make this process any more fair?

GIDLEY: Well, two things. First, let me start off with the premise outright, which is completely incorrect. The president was talking to President Zelenskiy about corruption. President Zelenskiy ran on and won on rooting out corruption in Ukraine. It's a worldwide fact. Everyone knows that Ukraine was a corrupt country. That's why Zelenskiy was able to win so easily. The president was simply talking to him about the corruption in that country...

INSKEEP: Well, let me just - you say - you said that...

GIDLEY: ...And how bad to try and root that out, No. 1.

INSKEEP: I want to make sure I'm - Hogan, Hogan, just a - Mr. Gidley, I want to make sure we're clear on this. You said the premise was incorrect. I've just been reading, again, the transcript of the call - or not a transcript, the record of the call. The president asks about a couple of specific things.

One is a conspiracy theory involving crowd size - CrowdStrike in a Democratic National Committee server. The other involves Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Those are the only things the president asked about - of all the possible corruption, the only things the president asks about. Do you disagree that the president asked Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats?

GIDLEY: What he didn't talk about were his political rivals for 2020. Everyone in the world - and forgive me, but I'm old enough to remember when Democrats actually cared about what happened in the 2016 election. That's what he was talking about. And quite frankly, this is what the president ran on and won on. And that is, making sure that the money we give these countries, these hundreds of millions of dollars, are actually spent wisely. Now, I understand Democrats don't care about how we spend taxpayer dollars at home, much less abroad, but this president does.

INSKEEP: Let me just stop you there - Mr. - let me...

GIDLEY: To the second part of your point as it relates to the impeachment vote, I think we should move there.

INSKEEP: Well, let me - but let's...

GIDLEY: That's pretty...

INSKEEP: Wait, wait. Hogan, we've got to correct a fact here. You said the president did not ask about a 2020 rival. The record of the call, the White House record of the call, the record you released, says that President Trump asked about Joe Biden. So that is totally false, what you just said. Why do you say that false thing?

GIDLEY: In relation to the 2016 corruption. He wasn't talking about 2020, and you and your listeners know that. Let's talk about...

INSKEEP: Why - how is Joe Biden involved with the CrowdStrike thing, exactly?

GIDLEY: If you're talking about the 2016 election, and you're talking about the corruption as it related to Ukraine, you talk about the person who dealt with Ukraine. That was Joe Biden. I'm sorry, but running for president doesn't insulate you from any criticism or any investigation in any way.

INSKEEP: That is certainly true. Let's go on to your question about the process now because you wanted to make a point about the process and whether it's more fair.

GIDLEY: Right. It's not. What the Democrats here have done is run a sham impeachment process all behind closed doors, without any sunlight whatsoever, selectively leaking pieces of information without full testimony to try and build a narrative moving into the second round. The vote yesterday did nothing except say we're going to make portions of the next part public after we've already tried to tie you - tie your hands, bound your feet, blindfold you, put you in a closet and beat you senseless. Then we're just going to take the blindfold off for round two.

Round three is when we're going to take you in front of the Judiciary Committee. And we expect, though, that you're going to be bloodied up enough where it won't matter. The problem is who they're fighting against is Donald Trump. He's going to stand up by round three, fight back and win.

INSKEEP: You know, it's interesting. I think Democrats would characterize it differently, but there is an element of truth in what you said that they would have to admit, which is that they've just taken a bunch of testimony in these private hearings. And they're going to call those witnesses back in public and expect them to stand behind those stories, which we largely know. Is that going to make it challenging to defend the president in public?

GIDLEY: And face - right, and face cross-examination.

INSKEEP: So do you think that there's going to be difficulty defending that case, given that so much of it is already on the record?

GIDLEY: No, because you're only hearing, you know, selective pieces of one portion. And then also yesterday, for example, a lot of the things they're doing in private is beginning to backfire. There were reports that Mr. Morrison's testimony was that he felt the president had done nothing wrong, nothing illegal. So there are all types of things coming out of these hearings.

And you're kind of making my point, which is it'd be really nice for the American people to get to see this out in the open and in public. If you get a parking ticket, you're afforded due process. You can confront the policeman who gave it to you. You can talk to the judge about it. You can submit evidence. You can ask questions.

INSKEEP: Although, they may...

GIDLEY: They're trying to impeach a president on nothing.

INSKEEP: Although, as you know, the police might investigate that in private first. Then you get a trial, which could be coming. Who knows? Hogan Gidley, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

GIDLEY: Thanks for the time.

INSKEEP: He's deputy assistant to the president. And NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe has been listening in. What struck you there?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Well, I think we got a glimpse of what the White House strategy is on this, this idea that everything goes back to 2016. And he did not specifically say - President Trump on that call with the Ukrainian president - didn't say, I want you to investigate my 2020 rival. And so - and that is true...

INSKEEP: He just named the 2020 rival. That's all. Yeah.

RASCOE: He named him, but he didn't say, I want you to do this for 2020. And that's kind of what White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was saying yesterday - he did not specifically say it. But I think what Democrats and what others are saying is that just the very fact that he was asking for this investigation and at the same time holding up aid that that looks like pressure to them. And we should remember that even though this Tim Morrison of the National Security Council did say yesterday - or we know in his opening statement that he didn't think anything illegal happened, there are other officials who said they were very concerned by that call.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks so much.

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