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Publisher Of Conservative Website 'American Greatness' Reacts To Public Testimony


Today lawmakers brought the impeachment battle to radios and TVs 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...


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.


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

KENT: It's not as outlandish as it could be.

SHAPIRO: And probed who knew what about Hunter Biden.


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

KENT: I don't.

SHAPIRO: In another part of the program we are hearing a Democratic reaction to the hearing. For a Republican view, we have reached Chris Buskirk. He is the publisher and editor of the conservative website American Greatness.

Welcome to the program.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Oh, thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: Did you find Taylor and Kent to be credible witnesses?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. I mean, I found them - on the strict issue of credibility, I thought they were credible but altogether almost uninteresting because they, you know, they testified that, you know, they didn't have firsthand knowledge of this, and then they - and they didn't sort of have a lot of specifics on that. And it was just - I spent a lot of time watching this wondering, well, why are they there? Because they were always, it seemed to be, equivocating or say, yeah, I didn't know, or I wasn't there, or I don't have firsthand knowledge. And I'm thinking, these are - how are these the witnesses that people want to talk to?

SHAPIRO: I'm curious because we have 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 is it your view that President Trump did make the investigation a condition of military aid and that that is not a problem?

BUSKIRK: Well, I guess I - let me sort of come at it slightly differently but I'll answer both questions. I guess I would say that, I mean, the military aid was never held up, right? I mean, Ukraine got the aid. So there's that.

SHAPIRO: Let's say it was postpone it but ultimately delivered.

BUSKIRK: Right, postponed but ultimately delivered - and not by much, either. So we're talking about not a lot of time. So there's that element of it. The other element that troubles me about this whole line of discussion is there's - if the allegation that's made against Trump is true, which is to say let's just for the sake of argument say he did hold up the aid, that he did - was pursuing this corruption investigation in Ukraine.

The argument is is that Joe Biden should be off-limits because he's running for office. And there's something that doesn't sit right with me about that because it says that if somebody has been involved in some sort of potential corruption, that you can't investigate them if they're running for office. And that rubs me the wrong way.

SHAPIRO: I think - what I - the argument that I heard Democrats making today was not that Biden should be off-limits because he's running for public office, but that rather Trump didn't express any interest in corruption beyond the alleged corruption that he perceived in a political rival, and that rather than pursuing American interests, which include military defense of Ukraine, he was pursuing personal political interests, i.e. getting Joe Biden.

BUSKIRK: Yeah. Well, there's no doubt. I mean, look. Biden is the one who is at the center of this question. I mean, Hunter Biden is the one with this kind of weird business deal there. I mean, obviously people like Paul Manafort - Republicans have had weird business dealings in Ukraine, too. I mean, Ukraine is this odd place where, you know, where American political careers seem to go to get into trouble.

And, you know, from my perspective, even speaking as a Republican, I think all of that deserves to be unearthed because what American interests are in Ukraine vis a vis Russia or Crimea or any of these other things. I think those are political decisions. But we need to pull the - we need to somehow separate people's business dealings from what actually is the interest of the American nation, American people.

SHAPIRO: So when you look at the totality of, like, the public testimony and the transcripts and the summary of the phone call - and I realize you haven't read the thousands of pages, neither have I - does it look to you like the president was pursuing a good-faith effort in the interests of the American people or like something else?

BUSKIRK: No. I think he was pursuing what is his stated policy in Ukraine and what is - and what I think is a totally legitimate investigation of potential political corruption. I mean, we've spent the past 2 1/2 years looking into President Trump's - allegation of President Trump's theoretical corruption with Vladimir Putin and with Russia. And there is credible evidence that there were some shady dealings going on in Ukraine with Biden and with some Democrats. Those - these things all need to be looked at just so that we can have confidence in our own political class and in the process.

SHAPIRO: Chris Buskirk, publisher and editor of the conservative website American Greatness.

Thank you for joining us today.

BUSKIRK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.