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Rep. Eric Swalwell Discusses Closed-Door Deposition From Marie Yovanovitch


Shortly after 10 o'clock this morning, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine arrived on Capitol Hill. She was there against State Department wishes to testify before the House committees running the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.


Marie Yovanovitch spent hours answering Committee members' questions. Earlier today we spoke with one of those committee members.

KELLY: Congressman Eric Swalwell is a California Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, welcome.

ERIC SWALWELL: Thank you for having me back on.

KELLY: Glad to have you with us. Can you give me your top-line impression of the testimony that you heard today?

SWALWELL: What I can tell you right now is it's ongoing. But the ambassador showed up, and that's what's most important, is that despite lawless orders from the president to not show up, this ambassador showed up, and that helps us in our investigation.

KELLY: Did she explain that in any way? That she was ordered - the administration has said it's not planning to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in any way. Do you know how it was possible that she was able to testify, given she still works for the State Department?

SWALWELL: Well, she was subpoenaed. And we learned last evening that she was being ordered by the State Department not to show up, so we issued a subpoena last evening, and she complied with the subpoena. But we have had many witnesses who have not complied with subpoenas throughout this term in Congress. So the fact that she showed up, you know, is, I think, pivotal for us. And we have learned a lot because she has showed up, and at this point, that's all I can say as far as characterizing her testimony.

KELLY: We - again, understanding that there's a lot you can't get into - the opening statement of Marie Yovanovitch is out. I'm looking at a copy of it. This is a 10-page statement (laughter) - I'm flipping through it as we speak - in which she gives what looks like a pretty good roadmap in terms of what she was willing to say, what - the ground that she is willing to cover. Can you, in general, characterize whether she parted ways with anything from this statement?

SWALWELL: Yeah. And again, I appreciate, you know, you have to ask. I'm going to wait for Chairman Schiff to characterize her testimony. But, you know, what we have seen, you know, with all of these witnesses is that you have career diplomats, people who have dedicated themselves to serving the United States and carrying out our foreign policy, and then President Trump and Rudy Giuliani and others are running this shadow shakedown track. And, you know, that is not in the interest of the United States; it's in the interest of Donald Trump. And that's what we're investigating.

KELLY: I'm sorry to press you on this, but it is in the interest of the American people trying to follow along. A couple of lines - she says in her prepared remarks, I was incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives. Understanding that you can't get into specifics of what was said, was that the tenor of this testimony? Did she say anything contradictory to that?

SWALWELL: Well, again, I'll let the chairman characterize it. But the president has actually acknowledged that he did not like this ambassador, and there's been no legitimate reason to remove her that I or any of my colleagues have seen.

But I just want to put one other piece of information into this conversation that I think is important in light of the arrest yesterday of two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman. It was in the summer of 2018 that they had made their six-figure contribution to the Trump superPAC and the Republican superPAC organizations, and that's the same time that all of these rumors started to swirl. And so, you know, understanding whether there was a connection between their contribution and then the president of the United States now having this unfounded belief about our ambassador is something that we would want to find out.

KELLY: I know that those two men who you reference who were arrested yesterday, these two Giuliani associates, were on the list of witnesses that Congress was hoping to call, which prompts me to ask about the additional witnesses lined up. As far as you know, are they still on for next week? I'm referring to Fiona Hill, who served on the NSC until this summer, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU who was supposed to testify this week, until it was blocked at the last minute, who now we hear it's back on for next week.

SWALWELL: Yeah. Well, we're still seeking their testimony. And we believe that if they want to, you know, help our investigation, you know, be patriots, that they will show up and honor the request and not follow lawless orders from the president.

KELLY: Final question - has any of the testimony, any of the documents that have come to you and your committee thus far, given you pause about the central narrative of the whistleblower complaint? Has any evidence come to light that causes you to question the veracity of that complaint, the credibility of that complaint, the urgency of that complaint?

SWALWELL: The more witnesses we hear from, the more documents we review, puts more arrows in only one direction, which is that the president of the United States used our taxpayer dollars to extort the Ukrainians to only help himself. There's been no counterarrow that would suggest anything else is going on here. And we're going to run a fair investigation, but it's going to be swift. You have the president confessing to the crime. You have a cover-up in progress, and we will move judiciously.

KELLY: California Democrat Eric Swalwell. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and he joined us having just stepped out from the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch today.

Congressman, thanks so much for your time.

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

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