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House Judiciary Committee Announces Witnesses For Impeachment Inquiry Hearings


Congress is returning to Washington from Thanksgiving break, and some lawmakers are settling in tonight in a secure room on Capitol Hill. Members of the House Intelligence Committee are reviewing a report that outlines Democrats' findings from the impeachment inquiry. That report is expected to be out tomorrow. Meanwhile, Republicans have gotten ahead and released their own report today.

NPR's Tim Mak is here to tell us what's in it. Hi, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey, there.

KELLY: So what is in the report? What are Republicans saying are their findings from the proceedings thus far?

MAK: Well, it's become a familiar set of defenses for the president. We've heard a lot of these rationales from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee during these impeachment proceedings. Republicans are arguing that the president has done nothing wrong, that any request he made for investigations into the Bidens or Burisma or the Ukrainian government had nothing to do with benefiting him specifically.

The Republican report says the president has a, quote, "deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption" and that concerns about Hunter Biden are valid. They also write the evidence just isn't there to say that the president was trying to benefit himself.

KELLY: OK. How do Republicans square that with the numerous witnesses, many of whom work or have worked for this president? They've testified in open hearings that the president was leveraging aid for his personal and political benefit.

MAK: So this Republican report attempts to discredit those witnesses, saying that these witnesses simply disagreed with the president's policies, that they are unelected bureaucrats who did not understand, quote, "an elected president's outside the Beltway approach to diplomacy," end quote. They also argued that the impeachment inquiry did not yield direct firsthand evidence of a scheme to withhold a meeting and/or security assistance to coerce Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

KELLY: Let me turn you, Tim, to the Democratic report, which I am guessing is going to sound very different and have a very different take on this evidence. It's out tomorrow. What do we know about it?

MAK: Yeah, it's going to be quite different. I mean, the rules of the impeachment inquiry passed by the House said that the House Intelligence Committee must prepare a report outlining its findings and possible recommendations for the House Judiciary Committee. It will kind of be a roadmap for the Judiciary Committee to look through as they consider possible articles of impeachment.

So Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has said that he has seen evidence of bribery and obstruction of Congress. And so we expect to learn more in this report, this Democratic report, about the facts that support their contention. Ultimately, all the facts have been released to the public in some way, whether through hearings - hours and hours of hearings - or transcripts that have been released publicly. That's been done in an open setting, so we don't expect new facts, just new packaging - the argument of how these facts fit together.

KELLY: Right. So we have heard, as you say, all of the witnesses. All of the testimony, we have read. And now this is Republicans and Democrats giving their very different takes on...

MAK: Absolutely.

KELLY: ...What it all amounts to. OK. Meanwhile, you mentioned the House Judiciary Committee, which holds the next phase of this, this public hearing on Wednesday. I spoke with Steven Groves today. He's a special assistant to President Trump. He talked about why the White House is not planning to participate on Wednesday. And I want to play you a little bit of what he told me, and then we'll talk about it.

STEVEN GROVES: The White House counsel set out in detail why the White House isn't participating in this particular hearing, and it really boils down to - you know, we were not given much notice to plan or prepare for any hearing. We don't know who the witnesses at this hearing will be. And, you know, how does one even prepare for that? All we're told is this is going to be a discussion about, you know, constitutional issues.

So even if we knew who the witnesses were, this is going to be some type of constitutional law seminar. And not knowing who the witnesses are, not having sufficient time to prepare for it, it just didn't make sense for the president to ask any counsel on his behalf to attend the hearing. Of course, the president himself will be over in London attending a NATO conference...

KELLY: Right.

GROVES: ...And will not be able to really watch this.

KELLY: So that was Steven Groves at the White House today. Since I spoke to him, Tim, we have gotten the witness list for Wednesday.

MAK: That's right.

KELLY: We now know who is testifying. Who is it?

MAK: It's going to be a number of law professors from Stanford and Harvard and the University of North Carolina and one law professor that Republicans have requested from George Washington University. But there's - you know, the president has made his position clear on why the White House will not be participating in this hearing.

There is a reason, however, why Democrats are holding it. I mean, polling shows that 70% of Americans believe the president has committed misconduct, but that's a lot higher percentage than believe that the president should be impeached and removed. So the hearing is to set the bar. What exactly constitutes an impeachable offense?

KELLY: All right. Thank you, Tim.

MAK: Thanks a lot.

KELLY: NPR's Tim Mak. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.