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Sunday Politics


The impeachment inquiry picks up tomorrow where it left off Friday, with a subpoena sent to a White House that's used to ignoring congressional requests, a State Department that missed its own subpoena deadline and investigators poring over text messages between U.S. diplomats discussing what exactly the president wanted from Ukraine. Just this morning, the lawyer for the whistleblower, whose complaint is at the base of this inquiry, says he's representing another whistleblower. There's are a lot of moving parts. Fortunately, NPR's Mara Liasson is here to help.

Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What's the latest?

LIASSON: Well, the latest is that the lawyer for the first whistleblower is tweeting that he is now representing a second whistleblower, who he says has firsthand knowledge of these events around the president and Ukraine. The first whistleblower only had second and thirdhand knowledge. We also know that there are subpoenas for White House documents and State Department documents and personnel. We don't know how cooperative the administration will be with those requests. We know that the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is expected to testify Thursday. She's was removed because the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others did not feel she was loyal enough to the president. And we that the latest bombshell - the text messages between the three U.S. diplomats - have already led to more requests for information. One of the people in those exchanges, Kurt Volker, has already testified. A second one, Gordon Sondland, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. So lots and lots of action here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, another whistleblower has got to be bad news for President Trump. It seems like we really just have not heard the whole story yet.

LIASSON: No. This is kind of like a trail of bread crumbs. Each revelation leads to something else. Some of them are pretty dramatic, like those text messages, where we learned that it wasn't just Rudy Giuliani freelancing in this Ukraine pressure campaign. It was U.S. diplomats actively pushing Ukraine to investigate Biden and the 2016 election on behalf of the president. And we have this cast of characters - Kurt Volker, special envoy to Ukraine, who disclosed the text messages. We have William Taylor, who we haven't heard from yet, but he was the career diplomat brought in to replace Yovanovitch. He was uncomfortable about with the whole arrangement. And then Gordon Sondland, who's this millionaire donor to Trump and ambassador to the EU who was very intent on getting what he called the deliverable that the president wanted, which was a Ukrainian investigation of Biden, in exchange for what Ukraine wanted, which was military aid to help them defend themselves against the Russians and a White House meeting to show that they had U.S. backing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What his happening to his support among Republican lawmakers, Mara? I mean, has anything changed?

LIASSON: So far, most Republican lawmakers are sheltering in place, which is as usual with any controversy around the president. Some of them, like Marco Rubio, suggested that the president was kidding when he said that China should investigate the Bidens. Some of them are saying nothing. But there are a few cracks. Ben Sasse, Susan Collins have criticized the president's action. And Mitt Romney, who has been the voice of conscience in the Senate in a mild way, said on Friday that the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China, which, by the way, is a communist dictatorship with no rule of law or due process and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is, quote, "wrong and appalling." Trump punched back at Romney. He said, Mitt Romney was a pompous ass who's been fighting me from the beginning. And later, he said, Romney was a fool who's playing right into the hands of the Democrats. So we don't know yet if Romney and Ben Sasse and Susan Collins are going to be the only critical voices. Or is this the start of something new?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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