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Public Testimony In House Impeachment Probe Begins Next Week


When it comes to the impeachment inquiry, Republicans on Capitol Hill have grounded their criticism in the process.


DEVIN NUNES: Oversight is not being done, and we now have a full-fledged impeachment committee in the basement of the Capitol.


JIM JORDAN: Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn't make it any less of a sham.

MARTIN: Those are the voices of Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan.

Thus far, all the proceedings have been carried out behind closed doors. Next week, though, that changes. Two key witnesses will appear under oath and in open session - Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

So what's that mean for congressional Republicans defending the president? Longtime Republican strategist Scott Jennings is with us again. Scott, thanks for being here.

SCOTT JENNINGS: Thank you. Good morning.

MARTIN: How does this change the Republicans' concerns? Now that the hearings are going to be held in the so-called light of day, does that satisfy the critique?

JENNINGS: Well, it will finally allow Republicans to make their case that some of these complaints against the president are partisan in nature, but I don't think it's going to change the ultimate outcome. I think the House has already essentially determined it is going to impeach the president. So while it will satisfy some Republicans that they get to question the president's accusers on television, I think we're headed for impeachment no matter what. So brace for a Senate trial no matter what happens in these hearings is my opinion.

MARTIN: May I ask, though, Republicans have argued, as we just heard there, that they haven't been given oversight. I don't understand that claim because Republicans have been in every one of these depositions and have been able to ask their own questions.

JENNINGS: Yeah. The Republican complaint is that because these are happening behind closed doors, the only thing we know about what is being said is what is being selectively leaked by the committees to the news media. So none of the...

MARTIN: But Republicans are on the committees.

JENNINGS: Right, but none of the Republicans' questioning of the witnesses is being leaked in the context - the full context of the testimony. So the essential complaint is you see what the Democrats want you to see, but you don't get to see what we say to them or what they say to us. Now, that will change when you have a public hearing and Republicans can ask questions. But heretofore, that's been the complaint.

MARTIN: And which is why, in part, Democrats released those transcripts of those key testimonies.

I want to ask about Senator Lindsey Graham. He's now saying he won't be reading any of these transcripts that have been released. And he's, quote, "written the whole process off." Here's what he said to reporters yesterday.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward Ukraine - it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo. So, no, I find the whole process to be a sham, and I'm not going to legitimize it.

MARTIN: I mean, the GOP response has evolved over time, right? First it was there was no quid pro quo. Then it was maybe there was a request, but it was never executed. Then there was the fact that or the argument that it's not an impeachable offense. We've got Lindsey Graham now saying the administration's policy was so incoherent there couldn't have been one.

JENNINGS: Yeah. Look; as information has come out, it's become clear that something happened. Now, whether you consider that to be an impeachable quid pro quo or whether you consider that to be a ham-handed, you know, something else, the reality is something happened. It strikes me that the correct Republican posture here would be to say, yes, something happened. And Republican senators may consider that varying degrees of bad judgment, but I doubt any of them are going to conclude that this was an impeachable offense. So I think the correct posture is just to say, yes, something dumb happened here. This shouldn't have happened - or whatever you want to call it, however they're comfortable calling it. But they're all going to land on no impeachment.

And so it strikes me - you have to just acknowledge the facts and also acknowledge your position, which is I just don't agree with Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and the Democrats in the House that we should throw out a president over this issue.

MARTIN: The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has become a central figure. He tweeted yesterday the investigation he did into Ukraine was, quote, "done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client." Doesn't that undercut the administration's claim that the work Giuliani was doing there was about advancing U.S. foreign policy interests and rooting out general Ukrainian corruption not benefiting Trump?

JENNINGS: Yeah. This is - having Giuliani inserted into the middle of this has been problematic from the beginning. You know, when you have a lawyer, he's supposed to get you out of trouble, not get you into trouble. And the president's lawyer, in this particular case, has not done him any favors. And so I think, hopefully, the president and the White House have learned a lesson not to insert unelected, unappointed ambassadors at large into complicated foreign policy. This is not good to have him in the middle of this, and it has not helped the president one bit.

MARTIN: Republican strategist Scott Jennings. Thanks for your time, Scott.

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