Trump Meets With Finnish President As Impeachment Inquiry Accelerates
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
President Trump has spent much of today attacking the Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry into his conduct. Now the means differed - there was Twitter, there was a White House pool spray, and then this afternoon, a press conference with the president of Finland. But the message was the same - that Trump did nothing wrong, that the call at the center of the inquiry was, quote, "perfect" and that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff should be tried for treason.
NPR's Franco Ordoñez is at the White House. He is trying to keep track of all of this. Hi, Franco.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.
KELLY: So it's been a day...
ORDOÑEZ: It has been.
KELLY: ...Already (laughter) with the president attacking both House Democrats, as I mentioned, also the whistleblower.
ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, the president is lashing out. And in many ways, he's lashing out, even by his own standards, a lot harsher than he has before. He's accusing Democrats of organizing a coup against him. He tweeted another supporter's comments about impeachment that could lead to civil war. And the president said whoever talked to the whistleblower is a spy, despite the Intelligence Community inspector general saying that he or she did everything properly and is acting in good faith.
KELLY: All right, so where does - where is this whole tit for tat between the White House and the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue - the Congress - stand because House Democrats have been threatening to subpoena the White House if it doesn't cooperate with requests for documents that they want? Did the president make clear whether or not he intends to cooperate?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, the president did make very clear that he's very angry about it. He tweeted out a profanity in all caps earlier about the investigation. He said BS, but he spelled it out.
ORDOÑEZ: But he did also say that he would cooperate with the House probe, even if he sounded unhappy about it. This is what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We'll work together with shifty Schiff and Pelosi and all of them.
ORDOÑEZ: I think we should be clear, you know, he said - he has said these things before about cooperating when - in regards to the Mueller investigation. At the same time, in that investigation, the administration instructed officials not to necessarily participate in some of the congressional investigations, which he called a witch hunt. You know, he clearly sees this as an extension of that investigation. And in that investigation, the report did raise questions about whether Trump may or may not have been obstructing justice.
KELLY: Franco, a question has been whether Republicans will stand with the president as all this unfolds. How is language like the language he used today resonating among Republicans?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, there's no doubt that some Republicans feel that the rhetoric has gone - gotten a little bit out of hand. But they do feel like the message is clear. I spoke with Republican strategist Alex Conant about this. Here's what he said.
ALEX CONANT: I think that the White House is trying to paint the Democrats as overzealous partisans. I think some of the overtop rhetoric probably undermines that case. But I think the general strategy is the right one, which is that they want to make this into a partisan food fight.
ORDOÑEZ: You know, I just want to re-emphasize that he is talking about shoring up Republican support.
KELLY: Yeah. And as we hear from that Republican strategist that there is a general strategy, Franco, is there - is it clear that the White House has a strategy for how it's handling impeachment?
ORDOÑEZ: It's not so clear. I mean, there is certainly some holes that need to be filled. You know, but Trump is trying - you know, Alex said Trump is trying to keep Republicans in his camp. He's trying to make this a partisan battle. He does not necessarily want to change the minds of Democrats. But as you note, there are concerns that the White House is not ready and that they need greater urgency and that they're treating this more like a Mueller investigation than the Kavanaugh, and they need a Kavanaugh kind of strategy, which is much quicker, much faster. The time to fight is now, they say.
KELLY: All right, that is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.
Thank you, Franco.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.
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