AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump confirmed today that Energy Secretary Rick Perry plans to leave his post soon, and Trump says he already has a replacement in mind. The president says he'll announce that name at a rally tonight in Texas. Perry has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry of Trump. NPR's Jeff Brady joins us now.
And, Jeff, remind us what that role is in this impeachment investigation.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Well, Energy Secretary Rick Perry was part of what's been dubbed the Three Amigos, which also included Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, former envoy to Ukraine. The three were charged with managing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, and earlier this month, President Trump said - talking about that July 25 phone call, he said he didn't want to make that phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. And he said that Perry pressed him to make that phone call, and that's the one where Trump also pressed Zelenskiy to investigate the president's political rival Joe Biden.
Perry later said that he did urge Trump and Zelenskiy to talk but that he wanted them to talk about strengthening energy ties and that he never mentioned Biden. And now, of course, Democrats have issued a subpoena to Perry. They want documents and communications related to a series of events related to the inquiry, and Perry was given until tomorrow to comply with that.
CORNISH: So to be clear, Perry is not accused of wrongdoing.
BRADY: That's exactly right. Most of the people I talked with say Perry's focus in Ukraine was on energy, especially the natural gas business, and that's very important because Ukraine, you know, has had trouble coming out from under Russia's shadow since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia tends to use its big gas supplies to achieve political objectives in Europe, and the pipeline for that gas runs through Ukraine. There's a lot of money and corruption in the gas business in Ukraine, and most people I talk with say Perry was a force for trying to Westernize the gas business there, to open the markets and get rid of the corruption.
Now, we do have some people, including European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland today - he said that President Trump told Perry to consult with Rudy Giuliani about some of his work in Ukraine, and that's raised some questions. And Democrats in Congress are going to want to know more about the interactions between Giuliani and Perry as the impeachment inquiry continues.
CORNISH: Before I let you go, can we talk about his tenure at Energy? He was one of the president's original cabinet members.
BRADY: He was, and he's been criticized, mostly by environmental groups for trying to help the struggling coal industry. He met with coal executive Bob Murray in 2017, and there are photos of the two men hugging. Perry also has been a booster for nuclear energy, especially with young people. He said he wants to make nuclear cool again. But overall, he really hasn't had a very controversial legacy at the agency.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Jeff Brady.
BRADY: Thank you.
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