An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries On An Official Impeachment Inquiry


For months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held firm. While progressive Democrats urged her to call for an impeachment investigation of President Trump, she had always insisted that there had to be bipartisan support first. That changed today.


NANCY PELOSI: I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.

SHAPIRO: Republicans quickly responded. Here is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: Our job is to legislate not to continue to investigate something in the back when you cannot find any reason to impeach this president.

SHAPIRO: Before Pelosi made that announcement, she met with House Democrats, including Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.

Welcome to the program.

HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Thanks for having me on.

SHAPIRO: We heard Pelosi make the public argument for this impeachment inquiry. What did you hear in that meeting with everybody in the room?

JEFFRIES: Well, we're very clear that the president has admitted to breaking the law. He endeavored to compel a foreign leader, the president of Ukraine, to investigate a political adversary solely to benefit the president's reelection. That is unlawful. He acknowledged doing so. Ukraine is in a very vulnerable situation right now. They have been invaded by Russia. There is an ongoing war in Crimea. Almost $400 million in assistance was authorized by the Congress. The president has acknowledged holding up and delaying that military assistance...

SHAPIRO: Although, he has not...

JEFFRIES: ...In order to compel them.

SHAPIRO: ...Acknowledged that he held it up in order to compel Ukraine to investigate Biden. He has said that the two things happened. He has not said that one caused the other. The president...

JEFFRIES: The American people can draw a reasonable conclusion based on what we already know. But we, of course, are going to continue to get further information. We'll see the transcript from the phone call. And we are calling upon the whistleblower complaint to be released immediately.

SHAPIRO: President Trump tweeted, they never even saw the transcript of the call. Given that he has promised to release it tomorrow, why not wait and see what it says?

JEFFRIES: We are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry. That's an investigation. That is a fact-finding mission. And so we're going to gather the facts. We're going to apply the law. We're going to be guided by the Constitution. It's interesting to me that the president now seems willing to provide information. If that, in fact, is the case, he should turn over his taxes. He should allow the grand jury material to be released.

SHAPIRO: Well, before we get into that...

JEFFRIES: He should release them again.

SHAPIRO: You have said this is now a formal impeachment inquiry, as has Nancy Pelosi. I want to ask you what that actually changes because these six committees that are now investigating as part of the impeachment inquiry were already investigating. What changes?

JEFFRIES: Yeah, it's an important question. So the House Judiciary Committee had commenced, as you know, on September 12, formally, an impeachment investigation that related to the consideration of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and the culture of corruption that appears to exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. With this particular announcement, now you have six committees, including the intel committee, the ways and means committee, the foreign affairs committee, the financial services committee and the oversight committee, conducting its investigations with an eye toward recommending the possibility of articles of impeachment connected to their jurisdiction. This will...

SHAPIRO: And so do you expect that there will be a vote on the House floor at some point?

JEFFRIES: Well, I expect that we're going to continue to gather the facts. And this will be led by the intel committee. The acting director of National Intelligence is scheduled to be before the intel committee on Thursday. We expect that he will bring the whistleblower complaint. This is about the rule of law. This is about patriotism. This is about national security. And we have a responsibility to gather the information presented to the American people and see where it leads us.

SHAPIRO: So is it your understanding that this impeachment inquiry will focus on whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the Biden family? Or is it a broader inquiry that encompasses the earlier questions about Russia, about Trump profiting from the presidency, these other issues that people were concerned about before this latest Ukraine question came up?

JEFFRIES: Well, the speaker has made clear that those committees of jurisdiction will continue to do the work that had been ongoing. Now it will be done under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. But what will lead in terms of the matter of urgent concern - the president not only is placing in jeopardy the integrity of the elections in 2020 by soliciting assistance from a foreign power. He's placing our national security in jeopardy as well, and so that is a matter of urgent concern as identified by the inspector general, who we'll also need to hear from publicly. And so we'll act urgently leading with that particular issue.

SHAPIRO: Impeachment in the House does not mean a lot practically without the Senate. It takes a two-thirds vote there to remove a president from office. Given that Republican lawmakers and voters overwhelmingly support President Trump, do you think the Republican-controlled Senate would ever pick up impeachment, or is this purely symbolic?

JEFFRIES: Well, let's see what happens. It does appear that the Republican-controlled Senate is prepared to unanimously pass a resolution in the next few days that will call upon the president and the administration to release the whistleblower complaint. If, in fact, that does take place - and we're going to move a similar resolution in the House - that may be a sign that the Republicans understand the severity of the national security concern, the severity of the fact that the president has, basically, acknowledged breaking the law. And that may be a turning point even for the Republican senators in the other house of Congress.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, speaking with us from Capitol Hill, where you can hear those vote buzzers behind him. He's chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Thank you very much.

JEFFRIES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.