Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney Weighs In On Testimony From Top U.S. Diplomat In Ukraine
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
All right, let's hear now from a congressman who was in the room when Bill Taylor testified. Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney of New York sits on the House Intelligence Committee. And when we spoke, he wouldn't comment on the specifics of what Taylor said behind closed doors.
SEAN PATRICK MALONEY: The only reason I'm being reticent is because of the gravity of these proceedings. We're talking about an impeachment inquiry of a president of the United States. I don't take that lightly.
CHANG: But Maloney says all the evidence gathered in the inquiry so far points to the same thing.
MALONEY: I think this is a case where the most important evidence may have been the first evidence released. You can't beat the president's call memorandum for laying out an incredibly disturbing abuse of power by the president. The whistleblower complaint has been corroborated in every aspect that I know of. Every sentence, every footnote has held up. And every bit of testimony that has been brought to my attention - certainly, the stuff that's been publicly released - it has corroborated the core set of facts and support the idea that the president abused his power, jeopardized our national security and did so for political gain. That's pretty bad.
CHANG: OK, so putting the call memorandum aside - that was a transcript of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president - have you seen any independent evidence showing an explicit quid pro quo between President Trump and the Ukrainian president, President Zelenskiy?
MALONEY: Well, I'd encourage you not to buy into the Republican talking point that an explicit quid pro quo is what is needed here. The fact is that...
CHANG: Well, what about an implicit quid pro quo? Have you found independent evidence of that?
MALONEY: Listen. I'm willing to play in that ballpark. I personally believe from what I've seen that there was a quid pro quo. Whether the president was dumb enough to say it explicitly is not the point. The point is whether he engaged in one. But it's worse than that because it's also improper and illegal for him to seek a thing of value from a foreign government for helping an American political election. In this case, I believe that the president's own words, the president's call memorandum, the whistleblower complaint and the other evidence that has been gathered today will establish that the president and Mr. Giuliani engaged in a months-long scheme to demand a thing of value and to withhold something of value dealing with a foreign government that is under assault right now by Russian forces.
CHANG: Republican lawmakers have been paying a lot of attention to the process of how this impeachment inquiry has been going. They've been saying that this whole inquiry has been operating behind closed doors, that, you know, the public hasn't been allowed to see transcripts, that members of other committees beyond the Intelligence Committee hasn't - haven't been able to see the transcripts of these depositions. Why not do all of this out in the open, in public hearings? Why keep it from public view?
MALONEY: Well, there will absolutely be a more public phase of this, and that's appropriate. A lot of us wish this testimony were in public right now. But what I think is important to remember is that in the case of the Watergate impeachment and the Clinton impeachment, you had a months-long process of a special counsel developing the core facts and evidence through an investigation. Here, when an investigation was sought, the Justice Department, under William Barr, denied, you know, the opportunity to investigate. They rejected...
CHANG: Then why - in pushing forward this inquiry, why not make all public from the very beginning?
MALONEY: Well, it all will be public in the - but what we're doing right now is having staff-led depositions...
MALONEY: ...And interviews that are done much more efficiently. By the way, the Republicans are in the room. Their counsel is given equal time. The Republicans are there asking questions. They're participating as full partners in this with the exception of having the power to issue subpoenas, which, of course, is always a majority prerogative. And it is everybody's intention that we will rapidly move to a public phase when this is all laid out. All these transcripts, I assume, will be released. Many of us on the Democratic side are more than happy to have all the facts out. I think the facts will be a problem for the president. And the reason they're talking about process and engaged in, you know, character assassination of Chairman Schiff is because the facts bury them, and those who are in the room know that.
CHANG: Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, thank you very much for joining us today.
MALONEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.