On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
The House of Representatives has initiated impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as allegations of a quid-pro-quo with the Ukrainian president gain traction. Today the frenzy continued with the publication of a whistleblower complaint, and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire making an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee.
That collective hush you hear in D.C. is a city of wonks and practitioners waiting with bated breath to see what happens next; an increasing number of local representatives, including two freshman lawmakers with national security backgrounds, are announcing their support for impeachment proceedings. And the aura of anxiety has certainly bled into local politics, particularly as Virginia prepares for elections in November.
Produced by Maura Currie and Monna Kashfi
- Josh Kurtz Co-founder and editor, Maryland Matters; @joshkurtznews
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tune in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, the late edition so to speak, because we know that you have been listening to the hearing this morning. The House of Representatives has initiated impeachment inquiries against President Donald Trump as allegations of a quid-pro-quo with the Ukrainian president gain traction. This morning the frenzy continued with the publication of a whistleblower complaint alleging both a quid-pro-quo and an effort to hide the evidence and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire just wrapped up an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee.
KOJO NNAMDID.C. being the city that it is, we know there's a lot on your minds about this. So you can start sharing that right now. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. What is your thinking about what you've heard in this morning's hearing? Do you think a case can be made here for impeachment or not? Do you think there was an attempt by the President of the United States to get the Ukraine government to assist him in his next campaign or not? What credibility do you give to the allegations of the whistleblower or not? 800-433-8850, it's your turn to weigh in especially if you've been listening for the past three hours or so. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com.
KOJO NNAMDIFor local politicians preparing for elections in November and beyond the political implications of these events are very much on the forefront of their commitment to constituents as well as long term political strategy. Joining us now by phone to talk about this is Josh Kurtz. Josh is the co-founder and editor of Maryland Matters. Josh Kurtz, thank you for joining us.
JOSH KURTZThank you for having me on, Kojo.
NNAMDIJosh, let's try to understand the local landscape here along Maryland and Virginia's representatives in the House. Who has said they are in favor of impeachment?
KURTZAt this point I think just about all of the Democrats have said they are in favor of out and out impeachment or at least the inquiry. There's sort of a level of enthusiasm for it, but at this point just about all of them had spoken out.
NNAMDIAnd who so far has abstained?
KURTZI'm not sure that any have at this point. I think, you know, there is a lot of attention being paid to a couple of Virginia members, Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, but they both signed on to that op-ed that ran in The Washington Post earlier this week that was seen as kind of a pivotal development on the Hill, sort of moderate freshmen Democrats who had all worked either in the military or in the intelligence community saying that this was -- that an inquiry was entirely appropriate. That was a very pivotal moment and potentially pivotal for their political fortunes.
NNAMDIIs anyone against impeachment? Yes. I'm thinking of Andy Harris, the only Republican in the Maryland delegation to Congress.
KURTZAndy Harris has been very vocal and very contentious of the process. Yes. And I believe at least a couple of the Virginia Republicans have as well.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Did you watch or listen to today's hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire? Give us a call and tell us what you thought or did you read the whistleblower complaint that was published this morning? We'd be interested in hearing your point of view, 800-433-8850. It is your turn. Josh, the political calculus here is complicated. For those two Maryland holdouts who declared support for impeachment this week, Representative Trone and Ruppersberger, both Democrats, what might have changed?
KURTZWell, I think a couple of things. Congressman Ruppersberger used to be the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He said the thing that prompted him to speak out was just the very threat to our national security that the president's phone call with the president of Ukraine seemed to represent. So that prompted him to really speak out more forcefully. And I think the same was largely true for Congressman Trone. Now I should add that they were really not expecting any competitive congressional races in Maryland in 2020. The districts are so heavily gerrymandered that it looks like the seven Democrats and one Republican will be safe. But Congressman Ruppersberger has a state senator running against him. He has sort of pockets of, you know, blue collar pro Trump districts in his Baltimore area district.
KURTZCongressman Trone represents all of western Maryland and there's lot of conservative territory there. So they've been more cautious. But this sort of prompted them to speak out.
NNAMDIAnd weighing in on whether to focus on their local constituencies or this very national very politicized series of events, do you think lawmakers are making a choice between the priorities of their constituents and the priorities of their party? Do you think that's the decision they're facing?
KURTZIt certainly is a dilemma and I'm sure it's something they're thinking about. I think, you know, I think some are going to be sort of more likely to follow their party than others. But at this point they seem to be unified to a surprising degree.
NNAMDIHow loyal are local Democrats especially those you cover in Maryland to House Speaker and party leader Nancy Pelosi?
KURTZIn Maryland they by and large are very loyal to Speaker Pelosi. And remember to Pelosi is a Maryland native, a Baltimore native. And so there's a lot of loyalty there. I know in the Virginia delegation some of the moderate freshman representing conservative districts have purposely kept their distance from the speaker and I think, you know, that's been a wise political move up until now.
NNAMDIYeah. They were keeping their distance, but you mentioned the two Democratic congresswomen from Virginia, Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger. They co-authored an op-ed in The Washington Post earlier this week. They and five other freshmen representatives with backgrounds in national security wrote of the Ukraine story. Quoting here, "These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect." Spanberger represents the 7th congressional district in Virginia, which traditionally votes Republican. This move could put her seat at risk. What are the political calculations from member of Congress in swing districts or traditionally Republican districts right now?
KURTZWell, I think they're thinking long and hard about it. I think Congresswoman Spanberger and Congresswoman Luria were very smart to kind of layout their arguments and layout their history of public service. And sort of why this is different and why, you know, they may not have spoken out on all the earlier Trump scandals where a lot of House Democrats were up in arms. But that this particular phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine is just something different. And, you know, I think they're both counting on their constituents and their voters respecting their decision, and respecting the gravity of the situation. It's a political calculation and the political train could shift several times between now and Election Day 2020. But this is where they have both chosen to be right now.
NNAMDIWe're talking in the wake of today's NPR's live coverage of the Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifying before the House Intelligence Committee and asking your view. What are your thoughts on the official impeachment investigation that is now underway in the House of Representatives? 800-433-8850. Josh Kurtz, our guest is the co-founder and editor of Maryland Matters. But let's go to Amanda in Washington D.C. Amanda, your turn.
AMANDAThanks so much for taking my call. I listened to the testimony this morning and I am horrified by what I saw in the transcript of the president's phone call, but I also was quite disappointed in the Democrats' questioning of Maguire, because I don't think that we will get good people to serve in government if we constantly impugn the motives of people like Mr. Maguire with unbelievable records of public service, who are making very difficult legal choices and seeming to make them in very careful and thoughtful ways.
NNAMDIYou thought the Democrats' questioning of Mr. Maguire was too pointed asking him for too many opinions on this?
AMANDANo. Not asking for too many opinions, but suggesting that he had political motivations in withholding the transcript for longer than the statutorily prescribed seven days. When I thought he gave a very convincing and reasonable explanation in his opening testimony as to why he needed longer than the seven day -- first the seven days didn't apply, and second he needed a little longer than the seven days to essentially clear the executive privilege issues before releasing the transcript -- or releasing the whistleblower's complaint.
NNAMDIWhere would you like this to go from here? Where do you expect this to go from here?
AMANDAWell, I certainly would like a continued congressional inquiry into the president's conduct, but I hope that we can refrain from questioning the motives of long serving government employees who often have to make very difficult choices under very difficult circumstances and who have never shown particularly in Mr. Maguire's case never shown any evidence of political bias.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Amanda. We are inviting you all to do so if you listened to the testimony today give us a call at 800-433-8850. Here is Virginia in Columbia, Maryland. Virginia, your turn.
VIRGINIAGood morning and thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to give a brief comment. I thought Mr. Maguire was pretty good at avoiding answering the questions of all of the representatives and the chairman. I thought he really beat around the bush.
NNAMDIWell, what were you expecting of him?
VIRGINIAProbably that. I think he's chosen by Mr. Trump and I think he is on his quote/unquote on his side. I think he was doing his best to be honest and straight forward, but no I don't think he was trying to be straight forward. I think he was trying to avoid impugning his boss.
NNAMDIWell, he began by saying that he does not take political sides. Do you think his testimony was an indication that in your view he does?
VIRGINIAOh, absolutely, 100 percent.
NNAMDIHope your telling me how you really feel. We're going to take a short break, but if you have called stay on the line. We will get to your calls. 800-433-8850, you can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you know where your local representatives stand on impeachment? Could that stance change how you vote in coming elections? 800-433-8850. Josh Kurtz, standby. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're reflecting on the testimony today by the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire before the House Intelligence Committee, and soliciting your opinions on it, 800-433-8850. If that number's busy, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. We have on the phone Josh Kurtz. He is the cofounder and editor of Maryland Matters.
NNAMDIAnd Josh, C.D. Ellison wrote on Twitter, tragic that congress is doing its constitutional duty of oversight enforcement and just the right truly patriotic thing. Yet it seems to hinge on whether races are competitive or not, but it is what it is. That is politics, isn't it, Josh Kurtz, that a lot of members of congress who are participating in this process have one eye on the process and the other eye on how it's likely to affect their reelection, especially people who are in what could possibly be swing districts?
KURTZThat's a cynical take, but hard to avoid it too. But I think it's actually fair to say that probably it's not just people in swing districts. I think it's really fair to say that, you know, everybody has a constituency and they're always kind of keeping an eye on their -- every member of congress is doing this and keeping an eye on it whether they're in a safe district or a swing district. It's true that the folks in the swing districts may ultimately have a final say on this outcome in the House, but, you know, there's going to be a political calculation of everything they do.
NNAMDIOn to the phones again, here is David in Plainfield, Indiana. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDThanks, Kojo. I'm going to go with the caller before, Victoria, that I think that Mr. Maguire, Director Maguire was really good about how the statute, because of the way it was written, didn't force him into the seven-day disclosure and such. So holding onto it and making sure he had executive privilege taken care of, I think that was a really great thing on his part.
DAVIDI also think that some of the stuff in the transcript, in the whistleblower report is very concerning, that it does look almost like some form of extortion or at least, you know, pressure on the Ukraine government to get dirt, to get things for our president. Whether it's political or not, I don't think that matters. Just bullying another government is kind of bad, I think and so I think both sides kind of had it half right, half wrong all the way around. I do applaud Director Maguire for the way he handled this. And I also applaud the ICIG for letting the committee know that, hey, we have this complaint. It's just kind of floating through the system right now.
NNAMDIWhere would you like to see it go from here? Impeachment inquiries should continue or not?
DAVIDI think before the impeachment inquiry should go forward, the other parties mentioned, the other people that knew about this call being inappropriate and other inappropriate calls, they should hopefully come forward, get some more information about these other calls. You know, how often does this happen? You know, is it once a month, is it once every six months? I mean, they're all bad, but frequency could mean something here and, you know, how deep it goes.
NNAMDIOkay. David, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. Onto Akeen in Frederick, Maryland. Akeen, your turn.
AKEENOh, thank you very much, Kojo. Yeah, so, I mean, my concern listening to everything is that it really does seem as though there are some serious issues with the whistleblower system in the way that, you know, it's actually implemented that the actual subject and people mentioned in this report were privy to and given the opportunity to actually weigh in on whether or not that should be provided to congress. So I just think that the final comment that was made towards the end about the system in general was very insightful and that's something that should be looked into.
NNAMDIWhat was that final comment?
AKEENThe final comment, and I believe it was from Congressman Schiff about, you know, whistleblowers coming forward, moving forward, you know, looking at this charade essentially. I would be less likely to actually come forward because the system seems to not be working very well.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. You can do that too by calling 800-433-8850. Did you watch or listen to today's hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire? Call us and let us know what you think, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDINick wrote in an email, the memo was released only before the hearing. I think the Democrats made a mistake in raking the DNI over the coals, especially when they had an initial huge audience. They lost the ability to focus the country on the contents of the memo, which many will now never read. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Nick. Do you think that people will lose interest in this as a result of the line of questioning, that they won't read the memo itself, that they'll focus only on the politics of what they see going on here? Well, we'll have to see about that but first, let's talk with Bo in Ashburn, Virginia. Bo, your turn.
BOYeah, hi, Kojo. Thank you for the time. I wanted to hearken back to one of the first statements which was, it's going to be very hard to get good quality people to want to be in these difficult jobs and positions, because of these kinds of theater. And I do mean theater, because what the -- especially Schiff, to point out one person, was doing by really challenging the director's thoughts on things and asking his opinion and challenging his process, I think was shameful, because I think he did what was in the statutes the best he could do and took very care in his decision.
BOAnd when it comes to his opinion, it is not the opinion of this director to decide whether something should go forward and they know that. They understand that. So to me it just does seem like political theater. And if the Democrats really want to get to the heart and the truth of the matter, I thought the director made a very good point. He said over and over again, you have the information. You can move forward. I respect any politician that says, congress has the information and if they want to move forward they can, instead of continuing to have these media-driven political theaters that are designed to obfuscate the situation.
NNAMDIWell, of course, Joseph Maguire is not a politician, but here's what Jenny wrote us in an email. Does Joseph Maguire represent the administration branch or does his role require him to represent all three branches of government including congress and the judiciary? How would you respond to that question, Bo?
BOWell, I mean, I think that -- and I'm no -- you know, I wasn't the best in government in high school and college, but I think the understanding of people's position in place is part of the shortcoming. But it's what people like Schiff and Nunez, depending on who's taking advantage of the situation, use to try to say this person should have an opinion on this specific issue.
BOAnd the fact of the matter is he stayed very nonpartisan in his approach, in my opinion. And I think that that is all that is asked of us when we do public service. And if I was put in the same position I would know, walking into that courtroom, who's going to lampoon me and who's going to say, thanks for showing up. Sorry the other guy's lampooning you. And it plays on both sides of the spectrum. Republicans do it too when the situation arises.
BOBut the main point is is that most Americans don't know that these people are, for the most part, independent of the political spectrum. Yet there have been lately, it seems, dragged into these discussions and then finally at the end asked, what's your opinion? What should we do? And that's just unfair to ask of these social workers or these people that worked for us and by us.
NNAMDIHere is a Tweet we got from Emor, who says, one thing to keep in mind, even thought the acting DNI is career military, he is still a political appointee. So he serves at the privilege of the president. Thus far all acting appointees in this administration have acted to shield the president. Josh Kurtz, you covered the state of Maryland where the governor appoints a lot of people in Montgomery County, Prince George's County. The county executive appoints a lot of people. Those people are supposed to be nonpartisan, but exactly how far does the obligation go if you've been appointed by someone? You need to feel at least to be somewhat loyal to that person.
KURTZAbsolutely. You know, you owe your job to this person so you're only going to go so far out on a limb. And, you know, the chief executives are entitled to their own cabinets, their own team of advisors, but, you know, there's always that balance between protecting the individual, who appointed you and what the greater public good is and, you know, I mean, this is sort of an ongoing kind of dilemma for all these folks. And I think we saw that pretty clearly today.
NNAMDIHere now is Gary in Alexandria, Virginia. Gary, your turn.
GARYYeah, Kojo, thanks. Appreciate it. The last caller, who referenced the theater of it all, he should get an Academy Award for his comments, because that was theater as well. I have one comment and one question. The comment is, the third person in line to be President of the United States, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has made a decision to move forward with impeachment and the process associated.
GARYThis needs to be respected and America, who doesn't believe this should take their head out of the sand. It's serious and it should be taken that way. My question, as the inquiry goes and as they move forward with impeachment, will the 12 obstruction-of justice charges mentioned in the Mueller report surface again and be combined with what you're talking about on your show today, because America needs to be reminded as to the level that the President of the United States is performing. And that's my comment and question.
NNAMDIWell, I'm pretty convinced that impeachment inquiry won't just proceed on the basis exclusively of what this whistleblower said. Articles of impeachment can include a number of different issues and so that is probably likely to come up if the impeachment inquiry goes forward, but thank you very much for your call. We go on now to Lorna in Washington, D.C. Lorna, your turn.
LORNAHi, Kojo. I just wanted to ask about Rudy Giuliani. When it comes to both executive privilege and attorney client privilege, is he essentially allowed to go around and view all the president's bidding and not have to answer to any of that and just hide under those privileges, because we know that the White House will extend that executive privilege to people that have never worked in the White House.
NNAMDINot being an expert on law, I cannot answer that question. There is obviously attorney client privilege involved here, but if the president's personal attorney is getting involved in international policy, that's a whole other issue, as is said, and probably likely also to come up in this impeachment inquiry. So we'll simply have to see what happens.
NNAMDISusan sent us an email. Susan says, what stuck out to me was the deriding by Republicans that the whole transcript was second-hand or third-hand information. They don't mind when their president spreads second, third or nonexistent information or uses they say as his reason for his charges. Here now is Steve in Alexandria. Steve, we only have about a minute left, but go ahead, please.
STEVEYeah, I was telling -- thanks for taking the call first, but I was telling your screen that I was an IG on a military base before I retired. And listening to the transcript, or the testimony rather, the spot that came to my mind is the Acting DNI probably knew that IG was going to take the complaint to congress beforehand. Him taking it the acting DNI taking it to the White House and then the DOJ was him doing his due diligence. And also providing, you know, taking steps to provide that he'd be able to work in a efficient manner afterwards, because if he didn't do that then I suspect --
NNAMDIHe would not have been out of a job.
STEVE(laugh) That or been in a very difficult position.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Coming up tomorrow on the politics hour, political scientist Rachel Bitecofer joins us with a preview of the upcoming Virginia elections. Plus D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman will be here to talk paid family leave in D.C., a new legislation that would help District residents get access to information about jobs and taxpayer-funded projects. That all starts tomorrow at noon on the Politics Hour. Josh Kurtz, thank you for joining us.
KURTZThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIJosh is the cofounder and editor of Maryland Matters. Until tomorrow at noon, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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