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Rep. Zoe Lofgren On Impeachment

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Congress has moved to impeach four presidents. Zoe Lofgren of California has had a role in three of those episodes in history. She was a staffer to a Judiciary Committee member during Watergate.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The House Judiciary Committee has just approved its first article of impeachment against President Nixon.

SIMON: She was a member of that committee in her own right when Bill Clinton was impeached.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Tonight, the House Judiciary Committee votes to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Clinton's behavior.

SIMON: And now Representative Lofgren is one of the House impeachment managers.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Where the stage is set for President Trump's historic impeachment trial.

SIMON: Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, thanks for joining us.

ZOE LOFGREN: Thank you. You bet.

SIMON: Can you tell us what part of the case you'll present?

LOFGREN: I can't at this point. We're going to work as a team. We are all busy reading through the trial briefs and the like. And we will be working that out over the weekend.

SIMON: We learned Friday, of course, the president is going to have Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr on his legal team in the Senate. Any reaction?

LOFGREN: He should have whoever he has confidence in. So if he has confidence in them, good for him.

SIMON: But Alan Dershowitz is kind of a well-known figure in the court room, isn't he?

LOFGREN: Well, I believe he is. Course, we have a Senate, not a courtroom. And we on the House managers team will be presenting the evidence and the Constitution and the law, based on the record that we put together in the House, along with other information that has emerged so that the Senate will hopefully have the full picture they need.

SIMON: When Robert Mueller presented his report about Russian interference, you said it didn't make the case for impeachment. Now, of course, we understand that the Ukraine allegations are different.

LOFGREN: Yep.

SIMON: So that's what changed your mind?

LOFGREN: Well, you know, the Mueller report was looking for a crime, not for a high crime and misdemeanor. When the information emerged about the president's misuse of presidential power for his own benefit relative to the Ukraine matter, it was, I think, a very serious misuse of presidential power. And also, as it occurred, there was substantial evidence that could be relied on to reach that unfortunate conclusion.

SIMON: What do you think you learned through your experience in the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings that stays with you now?

LOFGREN: Well, on the Nixon impeachment, I was - you know, I wasn't in charge of anything. I was a law student. And I was working for Congressman Don Edwards, a member of the committee. I ended up getting involved in the impeachment. Actually, I wrote one of the articles. But I do remember as an observer just being on the scene when the facts came out, the members of the Judiciary Committee came together to say, you - this cannot be permitted. It taught me that the facts should lead to the conclusion.

SIMON: Representative Lofgren, there - how do you meet the argument that there are elections 10 months away? Why not let the American people make the ultimate decision about Donald Trump?

LOFGREN: Well, the elections, we hope, will be free and fair. And I think it's worth pointing out that the president's misconduct itself had to do with tainting and corrupting the American election through the interference of a foreign nation. So this has to be heard.

SIMON: Are you suggesting, Representative Lofgren, if President Trump isn't put through an impeachment trial and not convicted, you believe he, and perhaps his associates, are intent on interfering with or opening the door to Russian involvement in the 2020 election? Is that what you're saying?

LOFGREN: I'll just say this. His efforts with Ukraine to have them essentially discredit his major opponent in the election was an extraordinary misuse of his power. We've now seen the Russians have broken in on a cyber basis to the company that was the subject of his efforts to smear his opponent. So this is not a good scene.

SIMON: Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, thanks so much for being with us.

LOFGREN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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