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Rep. Scott Perry On Impeachment

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Earlier this morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walked to a lectern at the Capitol and announced something that seemingly had become inevitable.

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NANCY PELOSI: Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.

MARTIN: Pelosi did not detail just what those articles will say or when they'll be drafted. Her announcement comes a day after legal scholars laid out the constitutional standards for impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee. Among those testifying was Jonathan Turley, who told us elsewhere in the program that Democrats have not yet made their case.

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JONATHAN TURLEY: It's (ph) not a fully developed record. And all I'm saying is that before you give that record to the Senate, you should deal with some of those conflicts and some of those gaps. And this is an example of one of those that - I think the president could very well be impeached and removed for obstruction based on these acts.

MARTIN: Earlier today, David Greene spoke with Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry, who's likely going to have to vote on those articles.

SCOTT PERRY: David, good morning.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So what do you make of what we just heard from Jonathan Turley there? I mean, do you agree that Democrats could have a case to impeach and remove the president - they just haven't - they haven't built the record yet to do it?

PERRY: Well, I'm not sure. I'm not an attorney by trade. But I would think that we'd want to go through every single part of this to be absolutely sure. I mean, from my perspective, impeachment is the second-most important thing a member of Congress or, you know, a member of the legislature will ever deal with - the first being declaring war and sending America's best and brightest, you know, to fight somewhere. So this is really, really important, and we have to get this right.

And so - and Mr. Turley is a well-respected individual around Capitol Hill. He was a Republican witness. And probably, your audience knows, that he's a Democrat and not a fan of the president. But yesterday, I don't know that we learned a lot or we changed a lot of minds. And that comes from the viewpoint that most of the Democrats on the committee - the majority of them have voted for impeachment at least once, if not more than that, before hearing any of this. So...

GREENE: Well, we should say many of your colleagues have come out basically saying that the impeachment process is a sham even before hearing anything. So it's sounds like both parties have sort of dug in, in a way.

PERRY: Well, I mean - well, you say the process is a sham. We have talked about the process because the process is so important around here from the viewpoint that if the bar is going to be lowered to what many people believe is a policy dispute - I get that, you know, some people like the president; some people really don't like the president. But we have elections for that. So the question is - is this, you know, about impeachment? Should this be about impeachment? And what does this say about future policy disputes? Because we're sure they're going to - we're going to have them, whether it's - you know, whether there's a Democrat in the White House or a Republican. But...

GREENE: Although this isn't really a policy dispute. I mean, this is looking at some acts of the president - and I'd just like to focus, if I can, on some of the gaps that Jonathan Turley...

PERRY: Sure.

GREENE: ...The Republican witness, might have been talking about. I mean, there has - there have been these witnesses who have talked about, you know, the things we've heard about military aid - whether or not it was held up, you know, to start an investigation into the Bidens. It does seem like the burden is on Democrats to prove what the president's intent was or not. Shouldn't they be able to hear from people closer to the president, like acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to figure out what his intent was?

PERRY: And I think everybody's fine with that to a point. But that all has to be adjudicated. So there are - both houses have - both houses - both branches have - have their own - their own propriety to make sure that they're co-equal branches and that that is protected so that - so that the tension remains between the two and we don't do things that - inadvertently that we don't want to. And the president has asserted his. And the legislature has, predictably, disagreed. And that's fine. But that's where it should go to a court. And if you say that, well, every time that the executive branch disagrees, they're in violation of obstruction and then they should be impeached, again, that then becomes a policy question, which is not adjudicated. And...

GREENE: But there are even some legal analysts - I mean, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has said that, you know, if there's a subpoena that comes from Congress to people like Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and they're thrown into a drawer and not complied with, that is an act of obstruction. So how long can this executive privilege claim last before the president is obstructing...

PERRY: Well, we...

GREENE: ...And it becomes a legitimate article of impeachment?

PERRY: Yeah. We don't - we don't know because it hasn't gone to the courts and we're moving ahead. He might have a legitimate claim - is the point. But he might not, and there's a process to determine that. And we've, I guess, in the House to a certain extent, just said - just because he's not playing ball, so to speak, we're going to impeach him for it. And so - and even when you get down to the finer points of not the process but more the substance regarding military aid and why it was withheld, we withhold military aid and aid in general all the time. And I think that was borne out even yesterday.

But understand as well, you know, we look at this and we usually think, as Americans, that court proceeding trials are based on facts and are generally dispassionate. And I think it was pretty clear yesterday that - like I said, that the majority Democrats have already voted for impeachment without any - hearing any of this. And every member of the panel had voted against the president, but then they even went as far as to - the one member of the panel said that within two weeks of the president's election, he should be impeached for a tweet that he made. And so it seems...

GREENE: It's just - we only have a few seconds left, Congressman.

PERRY: Yeah.

GREENE: You're still open-minded? You're still open to seeing where this process goes and deciding how to vote?

PERRY: Oh, you have to be. I think you have to be. But it does concern me. You know, the one fact that we have is that the president said he wanted investigation into 2016, and we keep on hearing it being conflated into 2020. And I think that - look - I guess, you can make that assessment, but I don't think there's one fact - there's not one fact that bears that out. And impeachment is really, really important. It has huge implications for the present and the future. We have to get it right.

GREENE: All right. Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, a Republican. Thanks so much.

PERRY: Thank you, sir. Have...

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, I'm struck he is not just attacking the process as we've heard from other Republicans. I mean, he is saying, at least to us, that he's going to see how this plays out and think about and reflect.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Yeah. You know, Republicans are pretty locked in, as are Democrats, for the most part on this. I don't think many minds were changed based on yesterday. And you know, Perry has, in the past, blamed the deep state for coming out against President Trump, having people being against the president from the beginning. I don't think you're going to count him as somebody who's going to vote for impeachment or is really open to it.

So I think that some of what he said there conflated a couple things himself. I mean, he said that people are conflating the president wanting an investigation into 2016 and conflating that with 2020. Well, the president, on that phone call, did ask for both. He asked for an investigation into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and wanted to have Vice President Biden and his son investigated as well, which would benefit him for 2020.

GREENE: NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

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

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