Week In Politics
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
We're just days away from Thanksgiving, and America isn't just at work on Mama Stamberg's famous cranberry relish. Horseradish she puts in there - can you imagine? Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee are hard at work on articles of impeachment. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: The public hearings seem to have wrapped up. Is this a stopping point?
ELVING: They could call some more witnesses if they could pry them loose from the administration, but you might say we've hit the pause button. And the House Intelligence Committee is writing its report, and we expect it will urge impeachment.
SIMON: As you've followed and covered the hearings witness by witness, word by word, what are some of the key things the American people learned these past couple of weeks?
ELVING: That the case against the president is remarkably strong on the facts. The evidence shows the president suspended the military aid that both parties in Congress had approved for Ukraine. He also withheld the show of support that the Ukrainians wanted in their hot war with Russia. And he withheld these things waiting for the Ukrainian president to promise in public to investigate the man who could be Trump's opponent in 2020.
SIMON: This report goes to the House Judiciary Committee. And then?
ELVING: That's right. The committee will consider the report, as that committee did in the Nixon and Clinton cases, then consider articles of impeachment to forward to the full House. That could be bribery, abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice. There could be others as well. Then, assuming support in that committee, it's on to the full House and then to a trial by the full Senate. And sometime before or just after the year ends, the House will vote to impeach the president, and the case will go to that trial in the Senate. That's the sequence.
SIMON: Ron, I don't want to make this just about electoral politics, or even the Senate proceedings. After the testimony we heard about Ukraine, what has been learned about the relationship between the president of the United States and Russia?
ELVING: Scott, you and I have been talking about this for, oh, three years now, wondering about this seemingly inexplicable relationship or affinity. Most Americans regard any suggestion of their president being cozy or too cozy with Russia as unthinkable. But so much of what President Trump has said and done in Ukraine and Syria and with the Mueller report serves the interests of Russian President Putin. And, well, we just have to wonder. We just can't find - it seems a seemingly inexplicable relationship.
SIMON: Meanwhile, a debate between Democratic candidates for president this week - hard to get attention for it?
ELVING: You have to make a distinction here between two groups of Americans - most people who weren't watching it and a distinct slice of America that watched intently, eager in their search for a plausible champion. Was it Warren or Sanders or Biden, or was it this new guy, Pete Buttigieg, so young, so new to most voters? Or was it one of the unsung middle-rung candidates like Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris finally breaking through? In the end, not that much happened, and the audience was probably just too small to matter that much.
SIMON: And there are two other candidates this weekend making noise, which is to say giving interviews - haven't actually declared, but Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts. And Michael Bloomberg has already made a $31 million ad buy. Now, is he doing this at exactly the right time to have impact or exactly the wrong time, when a billionaire buying his way into the campaign might be resented?
ELVING: It's probably easier to judge timing after the fact. But, look; these are different guys with different assets. Bloomberg has the bucks; Deval has the demographics. Many Democrats want someone who can win the swing states when up against Trump and his money, so maybe Bloomberg. But others want someone to say forthrightly, this is a new and different Democratic Party, and it wants a presidential nominee who looks more like the new America.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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