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House Intelligence Committee Has Purview Over Impeachment Inquiry

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is now the subject of an impeachment inquiry. That's based on allegations made in a whistleblower complaint describing a phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine this past summer. In the complaint released this week, President Trump is portrayed as pressing the Ukrainian leader to deliver political dirt that would benefit Trump's 2020 re-election effort. As mentioned, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has now announced an impeachment inquiry, and she has given purview of that inquiry to the House Intelligence Committee. Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier is a member of that committee and joins us now.

Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.

JACKIE SPEIER: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MARTIN: I want to talk about the scope of the impeachment inquiry. How broad do you want it to be? What do you want to consider?

SPEIER: Right now, it's quite narrow. It is focused specifically on the complaint filed by the whistleblower and the documents that the president has released now - both his conversation, the transcript of that, and then, of course, the complaint by the whistleblower. That may not be the end of it because we need to now interview a number of people in the White House. There's at least 12 of them, based on the complaint, that were privy to that conversation.

And the complaint also suggests that there are other conversations that may, in fact, show that there is criminal acts being done, where there is efforts by the president to undermine our election process in the United States and to try to get foreign entities to do something for him for personal gain.

MARTIN: That means you consider it to be insufficient to just take the transcript or memorandum of the phone call in July between these two world leaders and use that as a pretext for impeachment - that, in and of itself, what was said in that phone call is not sufficient.

SPEIER: Oh, I don't - I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying we have to confirm all of the evidence and inquire from those who were present about it and then, beyond that, determine if there are other acts that would add to this whole effort to determine whether the president is using his office and violating the law.

MARTIN: I guess I'm trying to figure out just what that will mean in terms of process because this could - you say it's quite narrow right now, just focused on the president's interactions with the president of Ukraine. But that involves Rudy Giuliani. That could potentially involve the attorney general. That could potentially involve this allegation of concealing documents for political reasons in a highly classified server. This could get big real fast.

SPEIER: No question about it. And the three elements that you've referenced - Rudy Giuliani, the attorney general, the use of a inappropriate server - all of those elements will be considered by the Intelligence Committee.

MARTIN: How long do you think it will take? I mean, we're about a year away from the election.

SPEIER: No, that's true. So we don't have a long time frame in which to do this work. So we will be working through the district work period here in Washington on this very issue.

MARTIN: Would you prefer that this be done before the end of the calendar year?

SPEIER: I would think it would have to be done before the end of the calendar year. Yes.

MARTIN: I want to play a little bit of tape for you. This is an excerpt from an interview that we just did with the Republican Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ANDY BARR: This is a case of Democrats careening from one baseless impeachment theory to the other. My constituents are asking, what is the big deal?

MARTIN: How do you respond to that criticism? Because it's coming from several different Republicans, that the charges raised in the whistleblower complaint are just the latest pretext for Democrats to launch an impeachment investigation, that Democrats have preordained the outcome, and that you're just searching for the right set of allegations.

SPEIER: It couldn't be further from the truth. This was an independent CIA officer who has probably worked within the CIA for a very long time who was so aggrieved by what he heard and then piecing together all the other information that he had ascertained relative to Rudy Giuliani's shadow government that he's operating that he put this down on paper in a very, very detailed fashion. So to those like Mr. Barr who suggest there's nothing there, I beg to differ. This is the grossest violation. When a president of the United States asks a foreign government to intervene in the election to come up with dirt on his political opponent, that is outrageous. And we should all be outraged by it. It violates the Constitution.

Furthermore, I would add that I think this is something that the American people understand - when a elected official uses taxpayer funds to somehow benefit himself. And that's certainly what the president's doing in attempting to withhold the money to Ukraine. And I also think, when all is said and done, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Russia has a handle - a hand in this effort as well.

MARTIN: Congresswoman, you just referenced the whistleblower as a CIA official. Can you confirm that that is indeed the truth? Do you know more about this individual that's appropriate to share?

SPEIER: No. I actually don't know anything. I am basing that only on what's being reported. So forgive me for having referenced the individual as a CIA official because I have no knowledge of that one way or the other.

MARTIN: Thanks.

SPEIER: We do know it was someone that was working within the intelligence community.

MARTIN: President Trump - the LA Times released audio of President Trump while he was at the U.N. in New York talking about the White House officials who apparently gave this information to the whistleblower, wanting to find out their identities. Are you taking - are you making any effort to make sure that their identities are protected?

SPEIER: Well, I think all of these whistleblowers need to be protected. This is once again action by the president that shows another criminal act - witness intimidation and probably witness tampering. Whistleblowers are some of the greatest Americans because they work within government. They're obviously not doing it for the money. They see fraud, waste and abuse, and they draw attention to it, knowing full well that they will probably see reprisals against them because of it.

MARTIN: Congresswoman, very briefly, complicated question but yes-or-no answer - do you believe the president broke any laws here?

SPEIER: Absolutely. He broke many laws here, without doubt.

MARTIN: California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

SPEIER: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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