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Rep. Harris: Releasing Trump’s Ukraine call transcript ‘right thing to do’

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said that the news that the House is going to move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Trump's actions "is nothing new." Harris said that "the American people need to see the transcripts," but also echoed Trump’s call to investigate Joe Biden. Harris talks to William Brangham, predicting that Democrats would be “punished at the polls.”

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  • William Brangham:

    We turn now for a Republican perspective on these impeachment calls.

    Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland is on the House Ukraine Caucus, and he joins me now.

    Congressman, thank you very much for being here.

    I wonder if you could just give me your initial reaction to today's development, that the House is going the move forward with an impeachment inquiry.

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Well, this is nothing new.

    There are dozens, if not over 100 members of the House who have wanted to try to impeach this president. They tried the Mueller investigation. It didn't work. Now they're going to try this.

    You know, I just — look, I just think the American people need to see the transcripts, not only of the president's call, but of Vice President Biden's call, where he was holding up a billion dollars worth of aid to the Ukrainian government when he was vice president.

    Again, his son, earning $50,000 a month. The average American will want to know, exactly what did his son do for $50,000 a month while his father was negotiating with the Ukrainians over a billion dollars of aid?

    The American people need to know the truth.

  • William Brangham:

    I would like to touch on the Bidens' role in this in just a moment.

    But, first off, let's talk about the president's actions. The president has admitted that he pressured the president of Ukraine to look into the Bidens repeatedly, according to some reports, eight times in one phone call.

    The president has also acknowledged that he withheld aid from Ukraine preceding this phone call.

    Do none of those actions trouble you?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Well, let's put it into perspective.

    The Ukrainian government has corrupt oligarchs in charge of a lot of things in the government, including the agency that Hunter Biden was associated with. And we have heard reports that military procurement — and a lot of these funds were going to military procurement — is corrupt in the Ukraine.

    The president is absolutely right to ask the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption when it involves hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money from the United States.

  • William Brangham:

    But if it was the president saying repeatedly, I want you to look into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, with the full knowledge that that could likely be his opponent in the presidential election, that doesn't give you pause?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Look, we're not going to talk about hypotheticals.

    Tomorrow, we will know what the transcript was. Let's talk about it after we know what the transcript was. And then let's urge Vice President Biden to release the transcripts of his dealings with the Ukrainians when he was vice president, because that goes to the heart of the matter.

    We're dealing with a government that it — was rife with corruption. And the question is whether we should be sending hundreds of millions of dollars to that government, without them taking — taking a position to stop the corruption in the Ukraine.

  • William Brangham:

    Your colleagues across the aisle say, we need to do this impeachment inquiry because it gives us more legal tools and facilitates the investigation that we feel we are being stonewalled on. This is the Democrats talking.

    Do you believe that this — if you believe that all the facts should come out, and this will be a useful process, do you think this impeachment inquiry could be useful?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Look, the facts are going to come out tomorrow when the transcripts are released.

    The allegation was that the president, in a phone call with the Ukrainian leader, had some kind of quid pro quo on an investigation. We're going to find out tomorrow. Let's talk about it after the American people hear the transcript.

    And then let's release the transcripts of the vice president's dealing with the Ukrainians involving a billion dollars in foreign aid.

  • William Brangham:

    The president has said, as you are acknowledging, that he will release the transcript.

    The Democrats argue they also need to see the whistle-blower's complaint, the person who either heard this call as it was going down or read the transcript and said, something is amiss here.

    Would you support the whistle-blower's complaint coming forward?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Well, we know he didn't listen to — he didn't hear the call, because we know it was secondhand, his knowledge of the phone call.

    The bottom line is that his complaint was that the phone call was made and allegations of what was done in the phone call. We're going to know the transcript tomorrow. That's the whistle-blower's allegation. The president has gone ahead and said, OK, let's look at the transcript.

    I think it's the right thing to do. I applaud the president for doing it. And then we need to look deeper into what was going on during the Obama administration when Vice President Biden was dealing with Ukraine and his son was earning $50,000 a month from a corrupt oligarch.

  • William Brangham:

    Do you think that, when the director of national intelligence on Thursday testifies before the House — he has been asked repeatedly to give up this whistle-blower's complaint.

    Do you think that that should come forward? Should he provide more information about that particular complaint?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    Look, my understanding — and, again, that's not my area of expertise, but it's centered around whether this was urgent.

    And the law just says that, if the DNI, the director of national intelligence, felt it was urgent, then it needs to be reported to Congress. That's a judgment call.

    But, again, tomorrow, we're going to see the transcript. We're going to know exactly what went on.

  • William Brangham:

    The president has hinted a few times that he thinks the Democrats are overplaying their hands, that, in the end, if they go forward with this inquiry, that it will play to his political benefit.

    Do you think that that's true? Do you think that the Democrats are overplaying their hand here?

  • Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:

    I absolutely agree.

    The bottom line is, the American people what Congress to deal with the problems that Americans are facing and what they're concerned about. And, right now, they're not really concerned about the Ukraine. What they're concerned about jobs. They're worried about the economy. They're worried about what's going on here in the United States.

    And Congress is going to be distracted. The last time this happened in 1998, the party that held the impeachment was punished at the polls. It'll be the same way next year.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, thank you very much for being here.

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