Transcript: Rep. Steny Hoyer on "Face the Nation," November 3, 2019

Hoyer: Congress must protect Constitution with impeachment probe
Hoyer: Congress must protect Constitution wit... 06:31

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer that aired Sunday, November 3, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning to you. 

REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard from Leader McCarthy that this is just a wholesale rejection of the way Democrats are laying out this impeachment inquiry.

REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER: Margaret, you know what I say is when lawyers have a statement, that when you have the facts you pound on the facts. When you have the law, you pound on the law. When you neither have the facts nor the law, you pound on the table. What you just heard from my friend, the minority leader, was pounding on the table. With talks about the whistleblower, the whistleblower said, 'Look, I heard something.' Then people investigated what he heard and the problem that Kevin has, and the Republicans have, is witness after witness after witness says, 'Yes, I was there, I listened. Those are the facts.' That's what's critical in any trial. You wouldn't call the whistleblower. What you call, is the people who were actually there, which is what Adam Schiff has done acting as a investigator. And in the investigations, in both Nixon and Clinton, you had a special prosecutor, they investigated. They investigated confidentially. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

REP. HOYER: And Republicans said that was the right thing to do. Now--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So--

REP. HOYER: Now, we passed a resolution says we're going to move to a public hearing where all the transcripts, all the depositions, are going to be made known to the president and to the members of Congress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When do public hearings begin?

REP. HOYER: I think relatively soon. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean? It sounds--

REP. HOYER: Well, relative--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --a lot like what we just heard Speaker Pelosi say--

REP. HOYER: Well, it--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --which was pretty vague. 

REP. HOYER: Well, it was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've only got, what--

REP. HOYER: But, why--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --eight days--

REP. HOYER: Why is it--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --before Thanksgiving?

REP. HOYER: But- but, no, we have- we have not- time is not constraining us. The truth and the facts are constraining us. We are going to move as soon as the facts and the truth dictate that we have. Which means that when Adam Schiff is determined that he is through what he needs to have, in terms of testimony and Evans, he will then pursuant to the resolution submitted to the Judiciary Committee, and the Judiciary Committee will proceed in a manner given the rights to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REP. HOYER: --the president and to the Republicans that exceed, frankly, the rights that were available to the minority in the Clinton- we were in the minority- and to the Republicans. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, all- do you expect all the public hearings to be wrapped up before Thanksgiving? Or is this going to take us well into December?

REP. HOYER: I- I- Margaret, you asked me a question I don't know the answer to because I don't know what witnesses are going to come forward, what they're going to say, what evidence will have to be pursued by knowing the intel committee, but then by the Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

REP. HOYER: You know--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why--

REP. HOYER: --Kevin is correct. This is a very serious matter. And I think all the American people understand we did not rush to this judgment. As a matter of fact this went on for over a year and both the speaker and I said, 'No we're not there, we're looking at the facts. We're committing oversight which is our responsibility under the Constitution.'

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the- my question on timing here also has to do with the fact that what we saw on the vote this week was not a single Republican vote for it. Why not take--

REP. HOYER: Can I stop you on that?

MARGARET BRENNAN: --your time- well, why not- I know it's just a resolution, it's not--

REP. HOYER: No, no, more than that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --articles yet, but--

REP. HOYER: --I think the Republicans didn't vote for it because Mr. McCarthy told them, and I've talked to some of them, 'this is a procedural vote.' It was not. It was a substantive vote to assure that a fair hearing going forward before the public was going to be held.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So is it still important to you to have this be a bipartisan vote, when articles of impeachment are actually put forward? Do you actually expect to peel away a few Republicans?

REP. HOYER: Look, I think every member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, ought to vote not their party, not their partisanship, but the Constitution, and the protection of the Constitution. If they believe, and this is the answer they're going to come to grips with. Because 80 percent of the American peoples thinks it was wrong for the president of the United States to be withholding dollars appropriated by the Congress for Ukraine's defense. And in effect saying, 'you can't get a meeting with me in the White House unless you undertake an investigation'--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But--

REP. HOYER: Eighty percent of the American people thinks that was wrong. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but this--

REP. HOYER: And that had--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --may hurt Democrats to have this be perceived to be partisan, fully. I mean if you go into--

REP. HOYER: Well, look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: If the House goes ahead with the impeachment, and the Republicans as you know control the Senate, it's unlikely that you're going to get 20 senators to vote to actually convict the president on this. So does this ultimately become a political albatross for Democrats who are trying to run in 2020, because they couldn't deliver?

REP. HOYER: MARGARET, this is not a calculation about whether this is good for us politically or bad for us politically--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it will have political ramifications--

REP. HOYER: It- it may well have. But we have a duty. We have a duty to the country, to the American people, and to the Constitution of the United States. And if we find, after the Judiciary Committee considers all the evidence, that there is reason to believe probable cause we lawyers would say, that the president of the United States has committed a high crime and misdemeanor. Now high crime, according to Hamilton, is an abuse of power, not a crime as we generally think of it, but an abuse of power. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is--

REP. HOYER: Eighty percent of the American people think the president should not have been involving a head of a foreign government in our elections.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and in- it ultimately comes down to whatever--

REP. HOYER: And that puts not only our constitution at risk, but---

MARGARET BRENNAN: --whatever Congress decides it is. 

REP. HOYER: --our national security at risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I want to quickly ask you--

REP. HOYER: Okay..

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to a lot of the country, this just looks like political fighting. And it doesn't look like anything is getting done here in Washington. Can you actually do things, like the free trade deal?

REP HOYER: We can. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or actually get legislation through, or is--

REP. HOYER: We--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --impeachment just sucking up all the oxygen and- and getting lost at people on home? 

REP. HOYER: Well, you know we passed over 400 bills. Many of which--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I see your--

REP. HOYER: I have a list.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --list of all the bills here.

REP. HOYER: But- but you see my list and you're sort of smiling. Well, isn't that what you asked me? We have passed a lot of very substantive legislation. Major reform bill, trying to make our streets safer from gun violence, trying to make sure that women are safer on the- our streets, making sure that we have equal pay, we raise wages--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

REP. HOYER: --we protect pre-existing conditions. All of those are big issues. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

REP. HOYER: And we pass them. And they sit, ironically, in the body that the Republicans--

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the Senate--

REP. HOYER: --control and they accuse us of not doing anything, while--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's--

REP. HOYER: --they hold 400 bills that aren't being attended to.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I'm running out of time here.

REP. HOYER: Okay.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I thank you for joining us here. We'll be back in one minute.