Woodruff Presses Pence on Impeachment: ‘Excuse Me’ Did Trump Talking Biden ‘Raise a Red Flag’

On Monday’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour,” anchor Judy Woodruff pressed Vice President Mike Pence on President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that launched the House impeachment inquiry.

Partial transcript as follows:

WOODRUFF: Let me turn to Ukraine and then the impeachment inquiry under way right now in Congress by the House of Representatives. The president, as you know, says he never pressured Ukraine’s President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. But there’s now reporting by a number of news organizations, including the Associated Press, that, as long ago as May, after the president’s first phone call with President Zelensky, that he was strategizing, anxious, worried with his staff about how to deal with this pressure from President Trump.

PENCE: Well, that’s — that’s not what President Zelensky has said. He actually said there was no pressure. In his conversation with the president, he said…

WOODRUFF: But the people around him…

PENCE: that — that, in discussions that I had with him, that there was no pressure. And I think any American who takes time to read the transcript of President Trump’s call with President Zelensky will see the president did nothing wrong. There was no quid pro quo.

WOODRUFF: But in that transcript, Mr. Vice President, the president mentions Joe Biden. And he says to President Zelensky, “I hope you will look into this,” in a reference to what happened to Joe Biden’s son, to Vice President Biden’s son, and to Mr. Biden. What did you think when you read that in the transcript? Did you think that it was appropriate for the president of the United States to bring up a political rival?

PENCE: Well, I think the president has made clear that his discussion in that matter was all about looking to the past. But — and I can tell you that, in — in the president’s call, when the American people take time to actually read the call, which I know was greatly distorted by the way it was characterized…

WOODRUFF: But what did you think…

PENCE: … in the whistle-blower’s report. The whistle-blower spoke about eight different references to the Bidens. That was simply…

WOODRUFF: But it’s just the whistle-blower, Mr. Vice President. It…

PENCE: And — but the other thing, the other…distortion, Judy, frankly, was when the chairman of the Intelligence Committee read into the record before the committee a fabricated version of the phone call.

WOODRUFF: But it’s not just

PENCE: That’s why, any time this topic comes up, I always tell people, make sure and sit down and read the transcript, and you will see there was no quid pro quo. The president did nothing wrong. And I can assure people that, in all of my discussions with President Zelensky on the president’s behalf, we were completely focused on restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, standing with them against Russian aggression, helping to support their efforts to deal with corruption in their country…

WOODRUFF: But I — excuse me.’

PENCE:.. and enlisting more European support.

WOODRUFF: Excuse me for interrupting. But to bring up Joe Biden’s name, the man who is likely to be, may well be the Democratic nominee for president next year, did it raise a red flag with you? And, by the way, it’s not just the whistle-blower. It’s William Taylor, longtime respected diplomat, appointed by President Bush, reappointed by President Trump, who said — and I’m quoting — based on everything he was told by people who talked to the president, that the president was withholding military aid for Ukraine and the promise of a White House meeting because they weren’t committed to investigating the Bidens. This was in the transcript. You read that transcript. Do you — does Bill Taylor, William Taylor, have credibility, as far as you’re concerned?

PENCE: Well, are you referring to William Taylor’s testimony before the committee?

WOODRUFF: His account, the testimony, as far as we know.

PENCE: Well, I — we can’t really count on that, because all we have from the committee are leaks

WOODRUFF: Well, we have his statement.

PENCE: I mean, Judy, the — the process that’s going on in Congress today is a disservice to the American people, and it’s a disgrace. I mean, to have impeachment hearings taking place behind closed doors, and the only thing the American people learn about are piecemeal release, leaked apparently by the Democratic leadership on the committee to the press.

WOODRUFF: This was his opening statement, 15 pages.

PENCE: It’s just unacceptable, Judy. The — the committee ought to release the entire record of all of their witnesses, how they responded, how they clarified points that they had made in their testimony. And the American people deserve to know that. I mean, the…

WOODRUFF: Again, it wasn’t leaked. It was in his statement that he released to the public.

PENCE: Well, yes, according — look, the American people have a right to know. Impeachment is a great and serious matter in the life of this nation, and the way the Democrats are conducting this so-called impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill, behind closed doors, is wrong. And they should — they should open this whole process to the light of day. They should release all of the transcripts.

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