What spurred House Democrats to ramp up impeachment efforts?
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What spurred House Democrats to ramp up impeachment efforts?

September 25, 2019

Now for a broader look at some of these developments,
how House Democrats got to this point, what’s next for them, for the Republicans and for
the president, again, our Lisa Desjardins is on Capitol Hill tracking the latest, and
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor is following the president at the U.N. General
Assembly in New York. Welcome to you both. Lisa, to you first. What a difference a day makes. Help me understand. With a few exceptions, the facts that were
on the table yesterday are largely the same facts that are on the table today. How did this change so dramatically? LISA DESJARDINS: That’s a great question,
William. I think, talking to Democratic aides, even
those most closely involved in the decisions today didn’t expecting things to move quite
this quickly. I do think a sign of the blowing kind of momentum
was that letter from the seven House Democratic freshmen. They weren’t just any freshman. They really were seen as almost holdouts on
the question of impeachment. And they also are seen as having some of the
most credibility when it comes to national security. So when they came out as a group late last
night saying, we think it’s time the move further on impeachment if these accusations
are true about the whistle-blower, we think that is impeachable, which was actually sort
of skipping a step from where the rest of Democrats have been, I think that really was
just part of a wave of growing momentum over the weekend. And because of that, a dam that was breaking
became more visibly breaking today for House Democrats. To me, the bigger question is, William, what
exactly happened today? What does any of this mean really, right? And I think the headline is that Democrats
in the House are moving to impeachment proceedings. Whatever you want to call them, Nancy Pelosi
is now on board that effort. And here’s another interesting thing, William,
as we all try to get our hands around what is happening. I asked for some timeline information. Got it from only one member, Pramila Jayapal,
who’s an important member of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat from Washington state. William, she said the point is, we’re going
to now move more quickly on this question. It will not be a matter of months, she said. It will be faster than that. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know, Lisa, you have also
been talking with Republican members as well. You heard Congressman Harris just now putting
his defense forward. What are the other House members you’re talking
to saying about all this? LISA DESJARDINS: And just in the past few
minutes, we have seen responses from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Both of them are putting out a message that
they think this is just another attempt to overturn the Trump presidency, from their
point of view. It’s important that McCarthy is also going
a step farther. He’s saying that he doesn’t think Nancy Pelosi
has the power to declare this an official inquiry, that to do that requires a House
— a vote by the full House. So we’re going to see some real process debate
coming up. But I think, when you talk about the merits,
more importantly, William, there seem to be two main camps of Republicans, those ardent
defenders of the president, as we heard from a few minutes ago. But then I think most Republicans right now
are not sure what to make of this. One of the more philosophical members I talked
to, Mac Thornberry, told me he is concerned about what this does for the dialogue to the
country and that, if there is just a continuing shouting over impeachment, he’s not sure how
one issue over another can be separated. So there’s a little bit of concern about what
this can do for divide. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We certainly have a lot
of other moving pieces in this. We’re going to — the president says he’s
going to release the transcript of this call. We still haven’t seen the whistle-blower’s
complaint. But we know the director of national intelligence
testifies Thursday. What are — what are some of the other steps
you might see? LISA DESJARDINS: I think that’s right. We also are told by the House intelligence
chairman, as we reported, he’s hoping that the whistle-blower themselves will appear
before the committee. That would be in a closed session. So there will be more information. That does put Democrats in an interesting
position that they’re moving forward, they’re taking a big step before they have all the
information, but they’re confident, based on what they already know, not just in this
investigation, but in several investigations, that it’s time to move up, ramp up their steps
on impeachment. But, you know, William, the endgame here for
impeachment is the Senate. And the House is taking a big step here. House Democrats are making a big statement
today. But, ultimately, for a president to be convicted,
the Senate has to get on board. And, right now, the Senate’s nowhere near
that. But House Democrats seem to believe that now
there is enough evidence to build a stronger case, if not taking the president out, at
least convincing voters perhaps to vote against him next year. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yamiche, turning to you,
obviously, there’s this growing army of Democrats saying, we need to start this formal inquiry. The speaker seems to be behind that. You’re with the president. How is the president and the White House reacting
to all of this today? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The president is responding
to Democrats saying that they’re going to be opening a formal impeachment inquiry against
him by lashing out at them. He’s saying that this is part of a continued
witch-hunt and that this really started with the Russia investigation and continues on
now. He’s been tweeting and talking about this
all day. He essentially says that he’s the victim of
— quote — “presidential harassment.” He also accused Democrats of trying to ruin
and demean his day here at the United Nations. I have been also e-mailing with the White
House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham. She said that Democrats were trying to weaponize
politics. But then I asked her. I said, well, how are you going to push back
on this impeachment inquiry? And how are you going to deal with all of
this? And she said, well, we’re going to be releasing
the transcript of that call, and that’s going to put all this to bed. That’s going to make all of this look ridiculous. But, of course, Democrats are asking for the
actual whistle-blower complaint. That’s much different than just the transcript. So there — this is really going to be something
that’s going to continue to develop. And the White House is still trying to put
together their plan. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We saw that the president
today was also touting his approval rating amongst the GOP and tweeting out that percentage. Obviously, we have an election coming. That seems to be the sort of low rumble underneath
all of this. Does the president see that this is a threat
to him, or does he see that this might be a benefit to him? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Impeachment is really a
double-edged sword for President Trump. On the one hand, publicly, he’s saying that
impeachment would be positive for him, it would help him get reelected by energizing
his voters. But, privately, people that are close to the
president are also very worried about whether or not this is going to be too distracting
for him, that he’s going to be so focused on impeachment and impeachment inquiries that
he’s not going to be focused on what Republicans want to get done in their time in office. Now, I have also been talking to people at
the campaign. And the campaign was actually fund-raising
off of this idea that the president might be impeached. They were collecting money and asking supporters
for money for what they were calling an impeachment defense task force. The other thing to note is that the campaign
manager, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager of President Trump’s 2020 election bid, he
was actually saying that this is going to, again, mobilize voters here. Now, I should say, there are risks on both
sides. And I have been talking to Democratic sources
and Republican sources all day who essentially are saying, we got here because people were
really worried about whether or not this was going to be something good for either party. So what we’re going to see is really rifts
on both sides, and people really trying to figure out whether or not this is going to
be good for their party. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Yamiche and Lisa,
thanks for bringing us up to speed.

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