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Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which has a central role in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. On Monday, House investigators released nearly 500 pages of testimony from the depositions to date. Raskin joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the “explosive” details in those transcripts and why he and his colleagues are releasing them on a staggered basis.
Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. And he attended the closed-door depositions with Ambassadors Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley.
Representative Raskin joins us from Capitol Hill now.
Welcome back to the "NewsHour," sir, and thank you for making the time.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.:
Thank you for having me.
Let me ask you about the decision to release those two transcripts today. Those are just two of many that House investigators have collected, hours' worth of testimony so far.
Why were just these two released today? Why not release all the transcripts?
Rep. Jamie Raskin:
Well, we want to see all the depositions released to the public, so people can read for themselves the really explosive statements of these lifelong public servants.
And so they're all going to come out. It takes a while, as your staff knows, to digest everything that is in there. So we're going to stage them on a daily basis over the coming week.
And, Congressman, I need to ask you.
In releasing the two transcripts from just those witnesses today, your Republican colleagues will say there's a lack of transparency, that you're trying to orchestrate the narrative, rather than just be transparent about the testimony you already have.
What do you say to that?
The Republicans are interested in anything but transparency.
And you notice how they immediately want to distract the conversation away from the substance of what people said to the question of, well, what day are you releasing this transcript and that transcript and so on?
This is coming from people who are defending the president's effort to obstruct the testimony of multiple witnesses today. So, they have got some gall saying, oh, we haven't released all of the depositions yet, when they're trying to prevent any testimony from anybody about what the president actually did.
Let me ask you this, sir.
You have said earlier today in an interview — quote — "I think we have established an overwhelming case."
If you already believe you have that case, based on the depositions you have, how quickly will you move forward into public hearings?
Well, serious prosecutors want to try to nail down every detail.
And we want to, of course, give the opportunity for all of the relevant witnesses to come forward with material evidence and material testimony.
It's scandalous that the president is trying to stop people from testifying before the United States Congress about a matter of this seriousness.
So, we're moving pretty much…
Well, you mentioned those people. You mentioned those people, sir, who also — four officials today refusing and declining the invitation to testify on the Hill.
Do you believe you need to hear from those people before you move forward with public hearings?
Well, look, the smoking gun in this case appeared on day one.
This is not exactly an Agatha Christie novel, OK? We know precisely what the president did. He tried to organize a shakedown against the Ukrainian government to get them to essentially corroborate a false story about the 2016 campaign, to say that it was the Ukrainians, and not the Russians, who interfered in our election, and then to get essentially false evidence or concocted evidence for the 2020 campaign against the Bidens by getting them to fabricate or to manufacture a new investigation against the Bidens.
That's what they did. And it's right there in the White House's own memorandum, contemporaneous with the phone call.
Congressman, many, including the president himself, has said that maybe these transcripts themselves can't be trusted, that they have been manipulated before they're being released.
I'm not quite sure what the president is referring to, because I saw extremely little, skimpy redaction, if any.
And I think they're just afraid that people are going to read it. And when they read it, they will be blown away by both what Ambassador Yovanovitch has to say about the campaign against her, and culminating in the president's recall of the ambassador from Ukraine, and then also to read Ambassador McKinley's extraordinarily brave statement about why he felt he had to resign, after three-and-a-half decades of serving both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Congressman, before you go, I have to ask you.
We know that Gordon Sondland returned to Capitol Hill last week to review some of his earlier testimony, after other testimonies following his seemed to contradict what he had reportedly said.
Did Ambassador Sondland alter or change any of his earlier testimony?
Not to my knowledge. I'm not aware of any of that.
I will just invoke Mark Twain, who said, if you always tell the truth, you never have anything to remember.
And so a lot of these witnesses have come forward, very bravely, very courageously, and very patriotically, like the two whose testimony was released today, to give honest testimony.
And I have not seen them come back to check out their depositions since then. But the White House has been trying to stop all these people from coming in.
And so I do want to identify our appreciation and our gratitude for these longtime public officials who have come forward to tell the truth, against and over the threats of the White House.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland, thank you very much for your time.
For the record, the "NewsHour" reached out to all 47 lawmakers from the three House committees permitted to attend and participate in the depositions. None of the Republican members were able to join us tonight.
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