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Week In Politics: House Impeachment Inquiry And Democratic Presidential Primary

NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Margaret Hoover of PBS Firing Line about the House impeachment inquiry and the state of the Democratic presidential primary.

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Transcript:

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now to talk about the week in politics. Today I'm joined by Margaret Hoover of PBS's "Firing Line."

Hi there, Margaret.

MARGARET HOOVER: Hi.

KELLY: Hi. And E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Georgetown's McCourt School. E.J., welcome back.

EJ DIONNE: Great to be with you.

KELLY: All right, top-line reaction from each of you to all those transcripts we have just been hearing about from Tim Mak, the hundreds and hundreds of pages that seem to emerge every day. Any of them a game-changer? What's the takeaway? E.J., you first.

DIONNE: I think it's moving the game in the direction it was already moving, which is more and more and more evidence that there was a quid pro quo. There were - I was also, by the way, struck - and I should say Fiona Hill was my colleague at the Brookings Institution - I was also struck by her discussion of the threat she felt she was under and others were. And she also talked about the very damaging role played by some of this misinformation in our efforts to fight future Russian interference in the election.

I think the Republicans are now going to be reduced to trying to throw Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and many others under the bus. They seem to be trying to create some ignorance defense of President Trump, that this all went on, and he had nothing to do with it. They've still got to deal with that White House document in which he asked for a favor. So I think they are just being pushed back and back in their defense. I think they're finally going to say, OK, he did it, but we shouldn't impeach him. That's where this seems to be going.

KELLY: All right, so your take would be this has been a very good week for Democrats. Margaret, what do you think?

HOOVER: This week has been a good week for getting to the truth. The...

DIONNE: Amen.

HOOVER: The release of the transcripts has been enormously detailed. And it says three things just top line - one, there is no doubt that there was a quid pro quo. The doubt or the question about whether that existed has been effectively erased because of...

KELLY: Even Gordon Sondland has said, I now remember. My memory's been refreshed. Not only was there a quid pro quo, but I delivered it.

HOOVER: The other two things that are important to remember is that what we have seen is little leaks, dribs and drabs of the public hearing what was happening in these hearings. But now with the transcripts of these testimonies, what you have are two things additionally - the veracity of the information we were getting through leaks is verified and more. There's enormous amount of texture in the transcripts that verifies that the information was true and that the character of the individuals who are testifying is unflawed. From Fiona Hill to Alex Vindman to Kent, you have a propensity of doubt. You have an enormous amount of data now and testimony under oath that demonstrates that these people are people of upstanding character and true civil servants who are not adhering to any political agenda. They are simply serving their country.

DIONNE: And could I underscore just one? That's a really important point, and I think that will be very telling when these hearings go public because I think people have a good sense of that when they watch someone like Fiona Hill or like Vindman or - who really, as Margaret said, really are civil servants.

HOOVER: Now what about public opinion, though, I will say, this - I don't believe that any of the information is going to dramatically sway - that has been released over the weekend. I don't think Americans are going to go home and read 1,300 pages of transcripts. But it will play into what we see next week because the theater and the performance and what Americans see next week on television as these public testimonies begin...

KELLY: Going to be a whole - yeah.

HOOVER: ...Is when you're really going to begin to see what we - those of us who are reading the transcript see right now.

KELLY: A whole three-wing - three-ring circus unfolding on Capitol Hill next week. Meanwhile, the rest of the world keeps spinning. And among the things spinning, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, now says he might be jumping back into the Democratic field. He says he doesn't see anybody who can be Trump right now, so he's weighing this again. Reaction from each of you - good idea, bad idea? Margaret.

HOOVER: Well, if you believe that the country's politics have become so polarized - there is a hyper-partisanship - that it pervades the processes of nominating a candidate, and you represent or you believe that a candidate who represents either the center-left or the center-right is going to represent the majority of Americans, you should be happy that Mike Bloomberg is considering running. Mike Bloomberg is a moderate Democrat. He's not a progressive Democrat in the mold of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. And he knows that. And he's concerned that there is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, that is, the Democratic Party is going to lose. His side's going to lose. And what's very interesting is he's always been a data guy. He's always been a - the data has not changed. The data does not favor Mike Bloomberg winning a progressive primary. But he's getting - he seems to be moving in the direction of getting in anyway, which is a curious turn of events.

KELLY: It certainly shakes things up. E.J., is there even a path to the nomination for somebody jumping in so late?

DIONNE: I don't see a path for him. Let's just say first, Mike Bloomberg was a good mayor in New York City. He's a moderate who in many, many ways was a progressive mayor. And no one...

KELLY: Used to be a moderate Republican. I mean...

DIONNE: Well, he was very - he took the Republican line on the ballot so he could become mayor. He's never really been a Republican. But he was one nominally. And no one, by the way, has done more to finance the gun control movement. He's made a huge difference in that way. But it is very hard to see how he wins. He is - he has really made Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders very happy because they have a billionaire foil now that they can play against. And he seems to be giving a vote of no confidence in Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the people closest to him. Biden has certainly disappointed some of his backers. Buttigieg is actually gaining ground in Iowa. And Biden is still ahead, by the way, in South Carolina and Nevada. You could have a situation where Bloomberg hurts the two candidates closest to him without winning himself. And I can't see why he would want to do that.

KELLY: Fascinating. Very quickly in the minute we have left, I can't let you all go without asking about Anonymous, the author of a new book that is dropping in a few days. Your newspaper, The Washington Post, E.J., got its hands on a copy. Have you seen a copy?

DIONNE: I have not seen a copy.

KELLY: What's your take?

DIONNE: Well, there are some fascinating observations in here. I loved the one about Trump seeming like an air traffic controller punching randomly at buttons...

KELLY: A 12-year-old...

DIONNE: ...A 12-year-old air traffic controller. I feel better if Anonymous were public. I think that at this point, this person, he or she, should just come out, leave the administration and say it. And she or he confirmed almost all our worst fears about Trump.

KELLY: Margaret, we just have a second left. Do you agree Anonymous should...

HOOVER: Here, here.

KELLY: ...Become public?

HOOVER: Here, here, E.J. I don't know if you and I have ever agreed on something so much at once. But absolutely. Look; these civil servants who are serving our country are testifying before Congress, are putting their names on the line. Anonymous should, too.

KELLY: All right, that is Margaret Hoover of PBS's "Firing Line" and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Georgetown's McCourt School.

Thanks, you two.

DIONNE: Thank you.

HOOVER: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.