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Pappas: Impeachment Inquiry 'Critically Important To Protect Our Democracy'

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Members of New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation welcomed plans to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump this week.

"The American public should be concerned taht we need to take steps to protect national security and our democracy," U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, said. "And it's really important that we ensure that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States."

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., encourages Granite Staters to read the available, declassified documents in the case, which prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the impeachment inquiry.

Hassan says it shows Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to interference in the 2020 election "for Trump's personal benefit."

"Congress has an oversight responsibility and I think we just have to exercise that responsibility and get the facts out and follow the facts where they take us," Hassan said.

Trump admits asking Ukrainian President to investigate Bidens

Pappas and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat representing New Hampshire's 2nd District, called for an impeachment inquiry back in July. 

In an interview Friday with NHPR's Rick Ganley, Pappas noted that Trump has confirmed the core allegations in the case. The President maintains, however, that he has done nothing wrong in asking a foreign leader to investigate one of his 2020 presidential rivals.

Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence, spent more than three hours Thursday testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, where lawmakers questioned him about a whistleblower complaint.


Note: This is machine-generated transcript and may contain errors.

Rick Ganley:
Republicans have made it clear this week that they are not in favor of impeachment. They say there is no evidence of a quid pro quo between Trump and the Ukrainian government. Why vote for impeachment in the House when it's most likely going to be stopped by the Republican controlled Senate?

Chris Pappas:
Well, I'm not prejudging the process that is now under way, but I think the process is critically important to protect our democracy and the rule of law. The allegations, which have been confirmed by the president, confirmed by the readout of the call with the president of the Ukraine, confirmed by the hearing that was held yesterday on Capitol Hill, indicates that there is a serious issue at hand of urgent concern. And the American public should be concerned that we need to take steps to protect national security and our democracy. So that's what this process is all about. It's not geared to go in a certain direction, but we swear an oath to the Constitution. And it's really important that we ensure that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. So this is not done with any sort of deal. I think members are quite somber about their responsibility here, and they're quite sad that the president has put us in this position with his behavior. But we're going to do all we can to make sure that we provide the checks and balances that our founders intended.

Rick Ganley:
Well, what are you hearing precisely from colleagues in the House, especially those who who don't feel quite comfortable heading down this path right now?

Chris Pappas:
Well, I think colleagues have a range of opinions on this and even in the Democratic caucus. You know, there are some who today aren't supporting an inquiry. Some just recently with these new allegations have come out in support of an inquiry. But I think regardless of where you come from in this country of what the political dynamics are in your district, you understand the gravity of what we're talking about here. This is wholly inappropriate behavior by the president of the United States. And it's right there for us all to see. This is happening in real time. And we all understand that we have a solemn obligation to get all the facts out on the table. So I think this inquiry that has been launched is going to allow us to do this expeditiously in a fair and transparent manner and with the constitution and the rule of law in mind.

Rick Ganley:
Well, you say you want to do this as quickly as possible, but of course, we're at the very beginning here and this could become a long, drawn out process. We've heard from some New Hampshire Democrats who are worried about the political implications heading into 2020. I know you've said that this is something that needs to be done as an issue of law. Do you share some of the concerns that you're hearing from people about the political implications?

Chris Pappas:
You reach a point in time where the political implications are not relevant. And I don't think they're relevant to this particular discussion. I feel the gravity of the point in history that we're in right now, where we have a president of the United States who is lawless, who has dispatched his personal attorney to collaborate with the attorney general of the United States with a foreign government to try to manufacture dirt on a political opponent to help him the next election. Just think about that for a moment. So this is not about politics. This is about taking a step back from politics and trying to leave in a way that is appropriate for the American people, trying to do something that we are all called to do by the constitution. So the chips are going to fall where they may on the political side. I'm not here for self preservation. I'm here to help preserve the constitution and the rule of law. And that's what this inquiry is about.

Rick Ganley:
Are you concerned at all about a prolonged investigation? You know, in a fight over impeachment, making it impossible to achieve any legislative goals for next year?

Chris Pappas:
We've had a pretty productive term so far. We've passed hundreds of bills through the House, including some major priorities, things including an increase in the minimum wage, protecting the Affordable Care Act, the Equality Act, the DREAM Act, a bill that approves background checks. And we sent those over to the Senate. We haven't seen action on those in months. We will continue to press forward an agenda that is for the people - that's focused on lowering health care costs, investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow and raising wages. But we also have this other responsibility that we can't ignore. And so the committee work is going to move ahead in a robust fashion on all fronts. I serve on the Veterans Committee and on the Transportation Committee. That's where my focus will always be. And there are a number of other critical issues from the opioid crisis to the environment that we'll also be working on, too. So we're not, you know, letting our guard down on those key fronts that are so important to the people of New Hampshire. And we're going to continue to work across the aisle to try to deliver results wherever possible.

Rick Ganley:
Congressman Chris Pappas, thanks for the time.

Chris Pappas:
Thank you very much, Rick.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR. She manages the station's news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can email her at mmcintyre@nhpr.org.

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