How President Trump Has Responded To House Democrats' Impeachment Inquiry

Sep 25, 2019
Originally published on September 25, 2019 4:54 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has spent most of today in the public eye at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, going from meetings with world leaders to a press conference flanked by members of his cabinet. And in one appearance after another, Trump has insisted that he did nothing wrong in his July call with the president of Ukraine. We now know that in that call, Trump asked Ukraine's president to look into Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is following the president's response to the House impeachment inquiry, and she's here in the studio. Hey, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: We've heard President Trump talk about what was in the call with Ukraine's leader, and now we actually have an account of what was in that call on July 25. So how do the two compare?

KEITH: Yeah, so the rough transcript shows President Trump talking about how much aid the U.S. has given Ukraine. It shows him asking the president of Ukraine, Zelenskiy, to talk to his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the attorney general about investigating the Bidens. President Trump makes this request three times over the course of the call.

President Trump has said that this transcript, as he calls it, exonerates him.

SHAPIRO: He says it's a perfect call.

KEITH: He says it is a perfect call, that nothing happened that is in any way wrong. Other people look at that and see it as troubling, improper, concerning - any number of other words. President Trump in his press conference seemed to say, like, why are Democrats talking about impeaching me for this?

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Impeachment for that - when you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation? I think you should ask - well, actually, you know, that was the second conversation. I think you should ask for the first conversation, also. I can't believe they haven't, although I heard there's a rumor out they want the first conversation. It was beautiful. It was just a perfect conversation. But I think you should do that. I think you should do. And I think you should ask for VP Pence's conversation because he had a couple of conversations, also. I can save you a lot of time. They were all perfect.

KEITH: And there's actually some news in there. Later in the press conference, President Trump said, sure, let's release the transcript of that, too. There was an earlier call between the president and Zelenskiy back in April. It is far from certain that that transcript would be released.

SHAPIRO: So President Trump gave that news conference in New York as, here in Washington, leaders of the congressional intelligence committees finally got access to the whistleblower complaint that they were pushing for that set off this whole storm. What is President Trump saying about that?

KEITH: The president is saying that he is all for transparency. This is something that he says often. And though he also - in addition to this whistleblower complaint coming out or going to Congress, he wants investigations of Biden, as well as congressional Democrats. And he is also escalating his attacks on the whistleblower.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: You know, the so-called whistleblower, the one that didn't have any first-class or first-rate or second-tier information, from what I understand, you'll have to figure that out for yourself.

KEITH: Let me just say that that searching for words, the monotone - that really characterized the entire press conference that he held. He focused on his accomplishments, the wall. He talked about his election win in 2016, Wisconsin. He kept asking for questions about the economy. And he also complained a lot that what he was doing as president was being overshadowed by talk of impeachment.

SHAPIRO: There have been so many different elements of this story today, and one of them, of course, was that meeting with Ukraine's leader in New York, a previously scheduled meeting. Did that reveal anything about the nature of this call that's been at the center of the controversy?

KEITH: Well, a reporter asked the Ukrainian president if he felt pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens. And Zelenskiy said that he doesn't want to be involved in U.S. elections. But then he said it was a good phone call - normal - and that nobody pushed him.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks a lot.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.