CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: “THE MILITARY SHOULD BE COMMENDED. THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY SHOULD BE COMMENDED. THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE DELTA FORCE WHO CARRIED OUT THIS OPERATION SHOULD BE COMMENDED.”
NEW YORK - In case you missed it, the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) joined NBC’s Meet the Press, where he discussed the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi and House Democrats’ ongoing, methodical progress in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s abuse of power.
CHUCK TODD: […] Obviously, there were a few other topics I want to talk to you about, but the news of the morning, the killing of al-Baghdadi. Your initial reaction to it, and I'm curious if you've learned or if you know if Speaker Pelosi has learned any information outside of what's been said on camera?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: It's not clear yet whether the administration has communicated with Speaker Pelosi as the president indicated he did not do so in advance of the operation. This is a very meaningful step in the right direction in terms of the war on terror. The military should be commended. The intelligence community should be commended. The men and women of the Delta Force who carried out this operation should be commended. I'm pleased that it's been completed in a very substantial way and that they have returned home safely and no American lives have been lost.
TODD: Are you pleased that the president green lit this mission? And do you think it's been an appropriate mission to green light?
JEFFRIES: It was certainly an appropriate mission to green light. And so in that regard, the president made the right decision. Now we need him to continue to make appropriate decisions moving forward.
TODD: What does that mean?
JEFFRIES: The war on terror continues, and we can't cede American leadership in the Middle East, which remains a dangerous part of the world, to entities like Russia or Turkey or Syria and Iran.
TODD: What does that mean? It's interesting, you use the phrase the war on terror continues. I take it you don't approve of the shrinking of the American footprint in Syria.
JEFFRIES: That was an erratic decision and has been widely condemned just this week. Chuck, as you know, the House, in a strongly bipartisan way denounced the decision by President Trump to abandon our allies, the Kurds, in northern Syria. Individuals who have fought with us closely, who have died fighting on behalf of their land and on behalf of the safety and security of the American people. That was an inappropriate decision. And in terms of international relations, our credibility is the ultimate currency that we have. And so betraying our allies is wrong. It has consequences. And hopefully we'll see a continuing American presence as appropriate moving forward because we know that ISIS will still try to reconstitute itself notwithstanding the death of its top leader.
TODD: Does this at all, though, make you feel better about the idea of shrinking footprints, but having these smaller —the president seemed to describe perhaps our military being stationed more in Iraq and then being able to do these sort of precision strikes when necessary. And is that a model for Afghanistan?
JEFFRIES: Well, certainly, I think a smaller strategic force is the ultimate objective. We have been involved in the Middle East now, particularly Afghanistan, for the better part of 18 years. I think the American people in a broadly bipartisan way understand the need to withdraw and extract ourselves from that situation, but it has to be done in a responsible fashion.
TODD: Let me move to the big story that is the focus in the House of Representatives and that is the impeachment inquiry involving the president and his decisions around Ukraine.
I want to show you, I'm going to show a few quotes here from Members of your Caucus. Gerry Connolly: "What I think you have in the public domain already is more than sufficient for an article of impeachment." Ted Lieu: "The most damning evidence basically already came out." Jackie Speier: "Frankly, I think we have enough."
The point being this, at what point do you think it is time to move to a public airing of everything you found and moving toward wrapping up your inquiry?
JEFFRIES: Well, Speaker Pelosi, who, by the way, is doing a phenomenal job, has made clear that we're going to continue to proceed in a serious and solemn fashion to undertake our constitutional responsibility. We're going to follow the facts. We're going to apply the law. We're going to be guided by the constitution. We're going to present the truth to the American people no matter where that leads because nobody is above the law. Chairman Adam Schiff will make the ultimate decision from the committee standpoint in terms of when we transition from the accumulation of information which has been coming in in a rapid way to the public presentation, and we'll see when that occurs.
TODD: Well, I only ask it this way. Many have compared this stage of the impeachment inquiry to sort of a grand jury, and you can seek and indictment from a grand jury even before you've got all the information you're going to use in your trial. So do you view this the same way that you may have enough to get your indictment, but that doesn't mean you stop your investigation?
JEFFRIES: Well, let's be clear. The evidence of wrongdoing, as many of my colleagues have suggested, is hiding in plain sight. We have the rough transcript of the July 25th call where Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain and thereby solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. That undermines or national security and is textbook abuse of power. We have the whistleblower complaint that has been validated by the witnesses who have come forward. We have a confession that was made by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff, who acknowledged that there was an ongoing pressure campaign to withhold $391 million in aid that had been allocated in a bipartisan way in order to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. We had Ambassador Bill Taylor come forward. He is a Trump appointee. He is a West Point graduate. He is a Vietnam War veteran and acknowledged that there was a scheme that was underway essentially to elevate President Trump's personal political interests and undermine our national security interests.
TODD: You've got a lot of deadlines you guys are going to have to meet perhaps between now and, say, the start of the Iowa caucuses when it comes to impeachment. But there's one that comes up on November 21 and it's funding the government. What are you and your colleagues and House leadership doing to try to avoid a government shutdown?
JEFFRIES: We continue to be in dialog with the Senate, but it’s important to note that the House has done its job. We have passed the appropriations bills according to the timeline that had been set forth, led by Steny Hoyer in partnership with the entire House Democratic Caucus. The Senate has failed to act. That said, we expect that we will actually come to an agreement to fund the government sooner rather than later in light of the reckless 35 day government shutdown that took place earlier this year where Donald Trump was effectively forced into an unconditional surrender. I don't think Mitch McConnell wants a shutdown. We certainly don't want a shutdown. And we need to find common ground in order to fund the government and do it soon.
TODD: And do you believe that you do need to be wrapped up with what you're going to do with impeachment before the end of the calendar year?
JEFFRIES: No, we're not going to put a timeline on this investigation other than, as Speaker Pelosi said, we're going to proceed expeditiously. And, of course, we're going to proceed comprehensively and fairly in order to get things done.
This is a matter of urgent national security concern. The president betrayed his oath of office. He's undermined our national security, of course, and the integrity of our elections. This is an abuse of power and it's fundamentally about the United States Constitution. That is the timeline that will dictate when we wrap things up.
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