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Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will ultimately be responsible for deciding if impeachment charges are brought against President Trump. Jayapal joins Amna Nawaz to discuss why she is disturbed by her Republican colleagues’ defense of Trump’s actions and the most “damning” evidence she has seen in the investigation so far.
And now we get a view from the other side of the aisle and the majority on the Judiciary Committee, Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from the state of Washington.
Congresswoman, welcome back to the "NewsHour." And thank you for making the time today.
I want to ask you about what several witnesses have testified to. The words they have used so far have been improper or inappropriate with regards to the president's behavior or interaction, specifically on that July 25 call.
There is a difference between those words and impeachable. Have you seen anything so far that rises to the level of an impeachable offense?
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.:
Well, I think what really stuns me is that my Republican colleagues would think that a president's actions, bribing a foreign government to interfere in our elections by digging up dirt on a political rival, and withholding aid that Congress appropriated — that's taxpayer money, by the way, that Congress appropriated to Ukraine.
I just can't believe that my Republican colleagues are arguing that that is not a high crime and misdemeanor. I mean, bribery is clearly laid out.
But it is disturbing to me to see the lengths to which the Republicans are standing up for this president and putting party over country. That is really difficult for me to understand, as somebody that swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, as did my Republican colleagues.
I am — I think it's a sad day that they can listen to all of this testimony, which provides corroborating evidence over and over and over again, from people who were directly on that call with President Trump — that's what we heard today — but, again, over and over evidence that shows that the president has betrayed national security and violated our Constitution.
Congresswoman, you mentioned the word bribery. Speaker Pelosi last week had said — quote — "The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry."
Is it a bribery charge with which you plan to move forward?
Rep. Pramila Jayapal:
Well, we don't know exactly what the charges will be.
As you know, I'm on the Judiciary Committee. Our role now is to wait and get the reports from the different committees. We will have due process. We will have — the president's counsel will be able to testify, if he wants to do so.
And then we will look at all of that on the Judiciary Committee, and we will decide if we are going forward with impeachment articles. And we will then look at what those articles will be.
I will just tell you that the evidence is damning. But the thing that is most damning is the testimony from the earliest witness, the first witness to testify to the American people.
And that was Donald Trump, who he himself said: This is what I did. I withheld aid. I went and asked for an investigation, a public investigation, from a very fragile country.
Let's not forget the situation that Ukraine is in and what this actually does to our leadership role in the world, when you have the most powerful country essentially saying, I'm not going to give you the aid you need, much less the meeting at the White House, unless you agree to investigate my political rival.
That should be untenable for every Democrat and every Republican.
Congresswoman, let me ask you about something else.
Now the House is investigating whether or not President Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller during the Russia investigation. Could what is uncovered in that probe eventually become part of the impeachment proceedings as well?
Everything is on the table, is what I would say to that.
We are trying to make sure we get all the facts that we need. At the same time, we understand that speed is of the essence, and we are going to take the things that are most unfolding in front of us.
Now, there is evidence that was presented to us by Robert Mueller. In fact, I questioned Robert Mueller directly on the charges within the Mueller report of witness intimidation and witness tampering.
Let's not forget that these things that we're seeing in Ukraine are part of a pattern, continual pattern of the president acting in a certain way.
Certainly, witness intimidation, lying, obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice, these are all patterns of this president.
But let me ask you about — by broadening that, by saying everything is on the table, do you worry it plays into the accusation that this is a witch-hunt, that you will — you will just do whatever you can to bring a charge eventually?
I mean, when I say everything is on the table, I'm saying we haven't prejudged any outcomes here. What is important is the facts and the truth. That is what these witnesses have been about.
We are waiting in Judiciary to get the information from the committees. We will have due process.
But I just have to tell you that the — and I will say that I think the ultimate article, should there be any, will be narrow and targeted, because we understand that this is about the Constitution, one thing and one thing only.
It's not about whether we like the president's policies. It's not about whether we — you know, we agree with him or disagree with them. It is about the Constitution and whether he has betrayed the Constitution.
And so that is what we will be focusing on.
Congresswoman, you have promised due process. You have always said — you have also said the time is of the essence.
So, you have got two more days of public hearings this week, five more witnesses. Then what? What is the timeline moving forward? When do you hope that these proceedings would be wrapped up?
Well, I think that the timeline is as it unfolds.
I know that's not a very satisfactory answer, but I do think that we on the Judiciary Committee want to be sure that we are getting the full information from the Intel Committee and from the other committees of jurisdiction, so we will wait for them to wrap it up.
I will say that there's nothing — what is so compelling about these witnesses is how incredibly credible they are, I mean, a decorated Purple Heart lieutenant colonel that testified today, Vindman, you know, dedicated career servants who have testified.
And so they are adding color and they are corroborating the story. But I will say that the facts are still the facts, and they haven't really changed substantially, except for the corroboration.
So, I think there will be a point at which Adam Schiff says, I think we have got what we need, and it tells the complete story, and now we're going to send this over to Judiciary.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, thank you very much for your time.
And our live impeachment hearing coverage continues tomorrow and Thursday. That's starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 8:00 Central.
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