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Vice President Mike Pence called the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump “a disgrace,” and dismissed — as mere “leaks” — the reports that government officials have testified that Trump put his own interests above the nation in his dealings with Ukraine.
Pence, in an interview on Monday with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, fiercely defended Trump against allegations that it was inappropriate to discuss with the leader of Ukraine the possibility of investigating former vice president and current 2020 hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Instead, Pence said the American public should not rely on reports of accounts from both current and former Trump administration officials who have told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an effort to get that nation to investigate Democrats.
“The process that’s going on in Congress today is a disservice to the American people and it’s a disgrace,” Pence said. “I mean to have impeachment hearings taking place behind closed doors. And the only thing the American people learn about are piecemeal releases leaked apparently by the Democratic leadership on the committee to the press.”
Pence also pushed back on the account offered to Congress by William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Taylor’s testimony has been called a “smoking gun” and his opening statement was released to the public, not leaked.
“We can’t really count on that because all we have from the committee are leaks,” Pence said of Taylor’s testimony and opening statement.
READ MORE: Ambassador William Taylor’s full opening statement
Pence, like many other Republicans, argued that Democrats have unfairly shut out most lawmakers from depositions given by administration officials as part of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have pushed back by explaining both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees have had equal access to the hearings and are allowed to ask questions.
Democrats have also noted that eventually there will be public hearings.
Democrats say Republicans have chosen to focus their critiques on the impeachment inquiry process, rather than substance, because they don’t want to wrestle with whether it is appropriate for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate political rivals.
Pence continued to insist on Monday that Democrats have twisted the president’s words and charged forward with an impeachment inquiry without due process. The vice president also said that Democrats should “release the entire record” of all witnesses who have appeared before Congress in connection with the impeachment inquiry. He also echoed the White House’s reasoning for defying subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry — that the full House has not voted to authorize the proceedings.
“The Congress acts by a vote in the majority,” Pence said. “Even that hasn’t happened here. The speaker of the House unilaterally initiated an impeachment inquiry. There’s been no vote. Members of Congress have taken no position on this inquiry, and most members of Congress have no access at all to what’s happening behind closed doors.”
However, on Monday after the NewsHour’s interview with Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in a letter to Democrats that she will hold a formal vote “affirming” the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
READ MORE: House will hold a formal vote on impeachment proceedings this week
When pressed about whether he believed Trump could be removed from office, Pence repeatedly said that Trump had not crossed any ethical lines.
“I don’t take it as a foregone conclusion that the House will vote to impeach President Donald Trump,” Pence said. “The president did nothing wrong. And as the facts all come out, I think the American people will come to understand that.”
Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
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