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Republican Rep. Jodey Arrington Discusses Public Impeachment Hearings : NPR

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, about the first day of public impeachment hearings.



ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today lawmakers brought the impeachment battle to radios and TV across the country with the first day of public testimony. Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent took questions from Democrats and Republicans about whether President Trump withheld aid from Ukraine while pressing the country’s leader to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Committee counsel Steve Castor did the bulk of the questioning for Republicans. He touched on corruption…

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE CASTOR: Mr. Kent, corruption in Ukraine’s endemic, correct?

GEORGE KENT: That’s correct.

SHAPIRO: …To the, quote, “irregular channel” for diplomacy fronted by the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CASTOR: This irregular channel of diplomacy – it’s not as outlandish as it could be. Is that correct?

WILLIAM TALOR: It’s not as outlandish as it could be.

SHAPIRO: And he probed who knew what about Hunter Biden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CASTOR: Ambassador Taylor, do you know whether Hunter Biden offers anything, other than the fact that his dad’s the former vice president?

TAYLOR: I don’t.

SHAPIRO: To hear the perspective of a Republican congressman on today’s hearing, we are joined by Jodey Arrington of Texas. We should say we invited Republicans on the committee to join us, as well as several Republican House leaders. They declined. Congressman Arrington, we are grateful for your time today.

Welcome.

JODEY ARRINGTON: Great to be with you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Did you find the witnesses believable?

ARRINGTON: Yeah. I didn’t have any reason to think that they were telling anything but the truth. The problem is they were telling accounts of something from a secondhand, thirdhand perspective. So that was my concern.

SHAPIRO: Now, you say it was second-, thirdhand perspective. But many Democrats will point out that the people who experienced this firsthand who work in the White House have been blocked from testifying.

ARRINGTON: Well, I think what I do know is that the Republicans have asked for a series of witnesses and questions, and all of this has been controlled by Chairman Schiff. This is why, I think, the whole process is purely political. It’s not credible or legitimate until they run this the way past impeachment proceedings have been run, where the president has counsel. But again, I’d still submit that it is not fair.

SHAPIRO: I just want to be clear, though, that you were criticizing the testimony as being second- or thirdhand. The White House is blocking the people with the firsthand experience from testifying. So, I mean…

ARRINGTON: And I would too. And here’s why. This isn’t an impeachment proceeding. If I didn’t think it was – be fair and if I thought this was something beyond just a political railroad job, then I don’t know why we would ever have folks from the White House participate. It’s too important not to do it, unless it’s run in an impartial and unbiased way. And that’s not happening.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask you specifically about the testimony because we’ve heard different arguments from Republicans over the last few weeks. Is it your view that President Trump did not hold up military aid until Ukraine agreed to investigate the Bidens? Or do you think President Trump did make that investigation a condition of military aid and that that is OK?

ARRINGTON: I think the president did exactly what we want our chief fiduciary to do, and that’s make sure, before we give taxpayer moneys to any country – but especially one with the reputation for corruption that Ukraine has – that we would make sure that the new leader, President Zelenskiy, was committed to rooting out graft and corruption.

SHAPIRO: But none of the testimony has talked about rooting out graft and corruption. It has talked specifically about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and the company that Hunter was on the board of. If he wanted the president to root out corruption, that would have come out somewhere in the testimony. And we haven’t seen anything about that.

ARRINGTON: Well, here’s one thing we learned from today’s testimony – that the career diplomats also expressed concern about corruption in Ukraine. Also, one of them expressed concern about the perception of impropriety with Hunter Biden.

SHAPIRO: What do you think was the job of Republicans on the committee today?

ARRINGTON: Well, with not having the discretion to do what Adam Schiff and Democrats are doing, it was to bring to light that this was second- and thirdhand and that there was no impeachable offense and that this is an exercise in politics, not in fact-finding or truth and justice.

SHAPIRO: Republican Congressman Jodey Arrington of Texas, thank you for joining us today.

ARRINGTON: Thank you.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.


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