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Former Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker To Testify On Capitol Hill In Closed-Door Session


The White House has until Friday to turn over documents related to President Trump's call with his Ukrainian counterpart. That's a call in which he asked Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, among other things. After Friday, congressional leaders say they will issue subpoenas.

Today, though, House lawmakers will hear from President Trump's former Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker. Volker is going to testify on Capitol Hill in a closed-door session. He resigned from the State Department last week. His name showed up in the whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry.

On the line now is Representative Mike Quigley. He's a Democrat representing part of the Chicago area, and he serves on the House intelligence committee. Good morning, Congressman.

MIKE QUIGLEY: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

KING: Happy to have you. What does the House intelligence committee want to ask Kurt Volker?

QUIGLEY: I think what they want to ask Kurt Volker is, what does he know? It sounds obvious. What took place? What were the circumstances? What other conversations or discussions took place? What does he know about other members of the administration communicating with anyone else on this issue?

KING: Sure. Let me ask you the old tried and true. If you had one question to ask him, what would it be?

QUIGLEY: Was he bothered during this effort? Did something in the back of his mind say, hey, we shouldn't be doing this? And why didn't he come forward as a result of that?

KING: The committee has also subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. What do members of the committee want to ask Mr. Pompeo?

QUIGLEY: We don't know that we need to have the secretary testify, but we have issued subpoenas, and we definitely need all that information. In my mind, hey, it's now his responsibility as the head of the State Department to be honest with the country. Be honest with the country. Tell us what he knows about the call and everything involving - and to comply with our subpoena issued as part of the impeachment inquiry.

KING: What happens if Secretary Pompeo you or anyone else who's asked to testify refuses?

QUIGLEY: Well. Therein lies the rub. I'm an attorney who's practiced 10 years. You know, I grew up in a (unintelligible) - so I don't know if we're entering a new norm or the answer becomes different because in the end we're going to rely on the courts. I would like to think the courts will respond with greater urgency now that there is a full-blown impeachment investigation.

KING: Your Republican colleagues, on the other hand, say they have legitimate questions about Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine. Is the House intelligence committee considering looking into Hunter Biden at all?

QUIGLEY: You know, I don't know that anyone understands that there is a credible issue still there that has been investigated and that had moved forward. But if someone were to come to me with something new tomorrow, I would refer it to whichever committee should investigate and say go forward - if someone brought me a...

KING: You need something beyond just this guy was making $50,000 a month working for a gas company whose owner was kind of shady and he had no experience in the energy industry. Like, you need - what you're telling me is you need more than that.

QUIGLEY: I have no problems if a committee is investigating this. I am not aware of wrongdoing. If it's out there, go get it. But the administration has a defense posture of, oh, yeah, what about you? And in the meantime, they stonewall and they obstruct.

In the meantime, I'm going to focus on the fact that the president of the United States asked a foreign government - muscle a foreign government to investigate his political rival and interfere in our elections. And he promised the use of the United States Department of Justice to facilitate that investigation, and he tried to cover it up.

KING: Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Thank you. Take care.

KING: All right. I want to bring in NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, who is listening in. Hi, Mara.


KING: So Congressman Quigley talked there about the president's strategy to defend himself. Are there signs that the president is successfully making his case to the public?

LIASSON: What we know from polling is that more people are saying they're in favor of impeachment or an impeachment inquiry, depending on the question is phrased. The president's approval rating, however, has stayed steady. And what's happened is people who strongly approve of him, that number has gone up. So what it tells us is his base might not be getting bigger, but it is getting more intense and supportive of him.

The other thing that Republicans and Trump supporters will tell you is that even if the president's position isn't being helped, they feel they are hurting Biden. They're spending $10 million on ads talking about this unsubstantiated charge against him. They feel that that is something that's good for them.

KING: Mara, the president just in the last hour talked to reporters outside the White House, and he openly called for foreign countries to investigate the Bidens. Let me play that.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: China just started investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelenskiy, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.

KING: This seems extraordinary because this is...

LIASSON: We kind of buried the lede here, didn't we? (Laughter).

KING: Can you just tell us how extraordinary - out of the ordinary this is?

LIASSON: Well, here's what I have always believed. Usually politicians are simpler than we think. Just listen to them. They're telling us what they mean. We now have a straight line from during the campaign - Russia, if you're listening, please find Hillary's emails - to the conversation in the Oval Office with Foreign Minister Lavrov - I have no problem with Russians interfering in our election - to the interview on June 13 with George Stephanopoulos where he said, sure I would take information from a foreign government that would help me in my campaign. Then we had the whistleblower transcript which he released, where he asked Ukraine for a favor.

Now he's said it out loud. He's done it in the open. He said he wants - this is what he wants. He wants these foreign governments, especially one that is totally dependent on the U.S. for military aid to defend itself against military action by the Russians on their territory - now it's all out in the open.

The Republicans' job right now is to say it's fine to ask a foreign government to help you win an election. Let's see if they do it.

KING: And just very quickly, now the question will not be is it right or wrong, but is this impeachable? Is what he just did impeachable? Yeah?

LIASSON: Right. Right. Right.


LIASSON: That's the question. Let's see what people have as the answer.

KING: Onward. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

KING: Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thanks (laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.