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News Brief: Impeachment Inquiry, NATO Meeting, Prince Andrew Scandal

Dueling reports on impeachment take center stage on Capitol Hill. NATO meets in London. And, one of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims tells the BBC that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew.

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Transcript:

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Dueling reports on impeachment are taking center stage on Capitol Hill.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That's right. The House Intelligence Committee, led by Democrats, is expected to release a report today that says President Trump did commit impeachable acts when he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival. But last night, Republican lawmakers released a counter-report that defends the president. And now this week, the House Judiciary Committee will take over the impeachment inquiry.

GREENE: OK. A lot of reading here for NPR political reporter Tim Mak, part of our team covering the impeachment inquiry. Hey there, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

GREENE: OK, so you've read the rebuttal from House Republicans defending the president. What stands out to you?

MAK: Well, the report features a lot of now-well-known defenses of the president. Republicans are essentially arguing the president has done nothing wrong. And they say that there was no pressure on the Ukrainian government. They contend that any requests the president made for investigations into the Bidens or Burisma had nothing to do with benefiting him personally. The Republican report says to the - that the president has a, quote, "deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption" and that any concerns he might have had about, say, Hunter Biden's role with Burisma are totally valid. The protests from Trump administration officials, the report says, are simply from unelected bureaucrats who don't understand the president's, quote, "outside-of-the-Beltway thinking."

GREENE: OK. So that's one narrative. A different narrative we're expecting from the Democratic majority. And lawmakers got to preview the report drafted by them already, right?

MAK: That's right. Well, starting at around 6 p.m. last night, members of the Intelligence Committee were able to review that draft report. They're expected to hold a vote on the report this evening and then to approve, probably in a party-line fashion, the report to be sent formally to the House Judiciary Committee. Now, Congressman Adam Schiff said in a statement last evening responding to the Republican report that there's voluminous evidence that the president has used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival and that, quote, "in so doing, the president undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections."

We're not really expecting the report to contain a ton of new information. I mean, the facts on which the report is based - they're all derived from public testimony, hours of hearings we can all review and closed-door interviews with transcripts that have since been released. But we are expecting the facts to be packaged in a new way - for Democrats to present the facts they've learned in an organized fashion that makes their case that the President's misconduct can be considered impeachable.

GREENE: So you mentioned hours of hearings. We're going to get more hours on Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing. It sounds like this hearing, at least, is going to be pretty different based on the witness list that we've got.

MAK: Right. It's not going to be fact witnesses. They're legal scholars from Harvard and Stanford and the University of North Carolina. And there's also Jonathan Turley of George Washington University. He's a witness requested by Republicans. Here he is on MORNING EDITION last month to kind of give a sense of where he stands.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JONATHAN TURLEY: I think if they use a bribery article of impeachment, it will undermine them dramatically from a constitutional standpoint. You will follow tragedy with farce, in my view.

MAK: So polling suggests that 70% of Americans believe the president has committed some sort of misconduct, but just about 50% or so believes that he should be impeached and removed. So Democrats are trying to make it clear - what exactly is an impeachable act, and what rises to that level?

GREENE: OK, so we've got some experts coming, professors at a hearing Wednesday. We've got these two reports - dueling reports. What exactly happens next in the process?

MAK: Well, so there are a lot of unknowns as to the exact timing and how many hearings will happen. The Judiciary Committee could choose to have a number of hearings, then one on the language of potential articles of impeachment. And if the Judiciary Committee approves those articles, it would then head to the full House for a vote.

GREENE: NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks so much, Tim.

MAK: Thanks a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: All right. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is meeting today in London.

KING: That's right. President Trump is there. He's set to meet with leaders, including France's president, Emmanuel Macron. This meeting is happening at an interesting time. Yesterday, the Trump administration threatened to put very high tariffs on some French goods like Champagne and cheese. Now that was a response to a French plan to tax U.S. tech companies. Here's President Trump this morning in London.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: France is not doing well economically at all. They're starting to tax other people's products, so therefore, we go and tax them.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has been reporting on the Macron-Trump relationship and all that it's been through - a lot of ups and downs. She's in Paris. Hi, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So remind us how Macron and Trump got along at first. Things were pretty nice, right?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah. They were really nice. You know, Macron took a different strategy from other European leaders who - some of them looked disdainfully at Trump. He thought he could be his friend. He could be inclusive in this way, you know, get through to him. Remember when he brought Trump to Paris for Bastille Day? He wooed him with that big military parade.

GREENE: Yeah.

BEARDSLEY: And he impressed him with his great knowledge. Well, Macron thought he could convince Trump to - for - you know, to keep America engaged with the international community by doing that.

GREENE: So when did things start to fall apart?

BEARDSLEY: Well, things started to fall apart when Trump just pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. And - despite the French president telling him it would be smart for the U.S. to stay in. And then the U.S. left the Iran deal, which the Europeans had worked hard for and stood by. Now there's more huge tariffs on an ally. France has already denounced this. And, you know, Macron is actually changing his style. He's decided to get tough - no more Mr. nice guy. And we got a preview of this with his recent interview in The Economist magazine where he talked - he was critical of the U.S. And he said that NATO was brain-dead. And I spoke with Christian Makarian, who's the deputy editor of L'Express magazine. And he says Donald Trump is actually at the heart of Macron's transformation. Here's what he told me.

CHRISTIAN MAKARIAN: Macron has clearly decided to be more offensive because he has realized there was no benefit to be the nice guy. And Trump, in a way, has won because he has forced Macron to reveal another face and to change his strategy. Being the kind guy, the nice boy is absolutely unefficient (ph) in the current world.

GREENE: OK, So in the words of that editor, no more nice boy from Macron.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah.

GREENE: How will this new strategy play out as these two leaders meet today?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, Macron's likely to be pretty angry about the tariffs. But as far as his NATO comments, he stands by them because he says the U.S. pulled out of northern Syria, didn't let its allies know. And now, you know, Turkey, a NATO member, is bombing the Kurds, who are our allies fighting ISIS. He says it shows NATO has no coherent strategy and clearly needs redefining.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. Thanks so much, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: OK. Very important warning to people listening here - this next topic refers to alleged acts of violence, including sexual assault. You might not want to listen if you are with children.

KING: Virginia Giuffre is one of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims. She gave an interview to the BBC show "Panorama." That interview aired last night. And in it, she says Epstein brought her to the U.K. when she was 17 years old and forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew. Now, Prince Andrew emphatically denies the allegations. He said he has no - he has, quote, "no recollection" of ever meeting Giuffre. The BBC asked the prince about her allegations last month. And he said, quote, "They never happened." And then here's how Giuffre responded to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PANORAMA")

VIRGINIA ROBERTS GIUFFRE: I'm calling B.S. on this because that's what it is. He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there's only one of us telling the truth. And I know that's me.

GREENE: OK. And just a warning again - this conversation could disturb some listeners. I want to turn to Richard Fitzwilliams. He's a royals commentator in the U.K. - joining us from London. Hi, Richard.

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS: Good morning.

GREENE: So what did you take away from this BBC interview?

FITZWILLIAMS: Well, I think that the program was extremely powerful because it had a documentary feel to it. And Virginia Giuffre - she was deeply emotional. She was someone I think to whom you could relate, given the fact that she'd had an abusive childhood - and also, of course, is one of the alleged victims of a monstrous pedophile. And it was very powerful. And also, what I took away from it - and I would emphasize that it was intercut with extracts from Prince Andrew's recent interview where he was interviewed by Emily Maitlis at Buckingham Palace. Now, this was a stupefyingly imbecilic car crash of an interview.

I can only say it's of Krakatoan proportions. It's entered our general election debate. It's made him defensive. It's forced him to step down from royal duties. If Buckingham Palace thought that him stepping down as a royal would draw some sort of a line over the allegations, they are most certainly mistaken because we now learn that five women - five of Epstein's accusers have demanded Andrew give evidence in their claims against him. And their lawyers are poised to issue subpoenas if he visits the United States. I mean, this was toxic.

GREENE: Has there been any response yet from the royal family since this interview aired?

FITZWILLIAMS: The Buckingham Palace line is that Andrew, under no circumstances, had any sexual relations with Virginia Giuffre. Indeed, he denies he can even remember her. But the issue of a photograph of them together taken in 2001 - I can only say that the evidence "Panorama" produced that it was genuine seemed credible to me. Andrew appeared to imply that it might have been doctored - it was a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. I can only say that only 6% of those - this was a YouGov poll in The Times - who were - who believed - six percent of the population believed Andrew. Forty-three percent didn't know. Fifty-one percent did not. The facts are that it really has been an - disastrous period for the royal family because, also, it has shone a light on his role - his trade role for business deals of his own. This, too, has been, I think, very, very difficult.

GREENE: Richard Fitzwilliams is a royals commentator. Thank you so much.

FITZWILLIAMS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEB'S "FLUID DYNAMICS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.