An update on the Trump impeachment inquiry: Members of Congress weigh in

Scott Pelley reports the new developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump and speaks with voters and two members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who say the inquiry is necessary

This week's impeachment inquiry developments

Today, lawyers representing the whistleblower who ignited the impeachment inquiry say there is a second whistleblower now, who is familiar with the phone call between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. That phone call came to light two weeks ago after a U.S. intelligence officer filed an official complaint alleging Mr. Trump solicited a foreign government to help his 2020 campaign. Late Friday, the White House received its first congressional subpoena for records. Also last week, members of Congress went home to hear from their constituents. We travelled with two members who are now facing some of the most consequential decisions of their careers.

Their congressional districts are 1,700 miles and worlds apart. New Jersey's 11th Congressional District is white, suburban and wealthy. Texas' 23rd Congressional District is wide open and 70% Latino. The Texas district is represented by a Republican: Will Hurd. 

voters-ver-6-10-4-19-copy-01-002-001.jpg
Rep. Will Hurd speaks with correspondent Scott Pelley

Will Hurd: Now, these are allegations that the whistleblower brought up. And we should be trying to understand what is true and what isn't.

The representative for New Jersey's 11th District is a Democrat: Mikie Sherrill.

Scott Pelley: Many Americans are saying, "We just went through two years of this with the Mueller Report. And now we're gonna do this again?"

Mikie Sherrill: I think what I'm asking for from the American people is faith. Faith in our democratic values. Faith that we can do this, relatively quickly and get to the bottom of this, and protect our democracy.

There was no 'bottom', last week, to the cascading events. Thursday, the president's former point-man on Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, provided text messages to Congress. Among them was a text Volker sent to his counterpart on President Zelensky's staff in preparation for the phone call. "Heard from White House," Volker wrote, "Assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / 'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington." This suggested Zelensky would be invited to the Oval Office if he agreed to investigate a rumor that Ukrainians helped Democrats in 2016 and were hiding a Democratic email server. There is no known evidence of this.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Trump doubled down on what he said in the call.

President Donald Trump: Believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully. There are those that think I'm a very stable genius. Okay? I watch my words very, very closely. 

The call with Zelensky came in July, days after Mr. Trump suspended military sales to Ukraine, which is fighting rebels backed by Russia. In the official record, President Zelensky asked for Javelin anti-tank missiles. President Trump replied, "I would like you to do us a favor though." That's when he asked Zelensky to investigate the rumor about 2016. 

Scott Pelley: What do you make of that?

Will Hurd: I wouldn't have handled the conversation that way 

Republican Will Hurd is on the committee leading the investigation.

Will Hurd: It is behavior that I wouldn't have done.

Scott Pelley: Is it improper?

Will Hurd: Is it an impeachable offense? I don't think so. But that, in concert with some of the allegations made by the whistleblower, is why I think we should understand what actually happened and the lead up to that phone call-- in my opinion is more-- is more important to understand, motivations and intentions by all the actors involved.

voters-ver-6-10-4-19-copy-01-012-001.jpg
Rep. Mikie Sherrill

New Jersey Democrat Mikie Sherrill is a former Navy pilot, federal prosecutor, and military advisor on Russia. She opposed previous calls for an impeachment inquiry until the phone call. 

Scott Pelley: President Zelensky says we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes and President Trump's immediate response is "I'd like you to do us a favor though." 

Mikie Sherrill: This is what's so critical. Those Javelins are pretty much what stands between-- Western Europe and Russian tank forces. To put that security aid at risk because he wants to not fulfill the duties of the President of the United States of America but to, instead, serve his own personal self-interest that, again, was the bright line.

Representative Sherrill's New Jersey district lies across the Hudson from Manhattan. Last November, she became the first Democrat to win the seat in 34 years.

Over coffee, we heard from her constituents; Republican Karen Arakelian; Democrat, Brett Wellman; and Kathy Abbott, who was a Republican member of a town council.

voters-ver-6-10-4-19-copy-01-013-001.jpg
Voters in New Jersey

Kathy Abbott: Well, I do think that a line was crossed. Now he's meddling in foreign policy without understanding policy and understanding that you cannot involve foreign governments in your reelection campaign.

Scott Pelley: You've been a Republican how long?

Kathy Abbott: About 25 years.

Karen Arakelian: I disagree. I think this is something that has been being asked for since the day the man was elected. And they're just waiting and trying to find something, making many big things out of nothing. And this is another one. And I think the truth will come out. And I'm kinda glad that they're doing it because what we heard of the conversation is basically a conversation between two leaders of countries and they want to get to the bottom of what happened.

Brett Wellman: Private conversations and leveraging the office of the Presidency of the United States and federal funds are two very different things. 

Karen Arakelian: Is that what you think happened?

Brett Wellman: Yes!

Karen Arakelian: I don't think that's what happened at all. 

Scott Pelley: What would you say to someone who says, "Look, we're 13 months away from the election. Let the voters decide"?

Mikie Sherrill: When we are seeing the president already taking steps to undermine the 2020 elections, I'm not sure we have that luxury.
  
Will Hurd's district stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. Hurd is the only black Republican in the House. A former CIA officer in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Scott Pelley: Anybody talking to you about impeachment?

Will Hurd: No, when you look at the calls or the emails that we get into the office from constituents it's no different. Gun violence is still an issue in my district. And still we have a crisis going on along our border. 

voters-ver-6-10-4-19-copy-01-0016-001.jpg
Voters in San Antonio

In San Antonio, we brought up impeachment with Democrats, Jennifer Falcon and Trish Mendoza, and Republicans, Andres Holliday and Stephen Pennington. 

Jennifer Falcon: I think we should have done it a long time ago. Trump has incited violence and is a misogynist and has really fueled the fire of racism in America. 

Scott Pelley: Andres, what do you see in the phone call?

Andres Holliday: I see something that most likely happens on a day-to-day basis with leaders of nations. I mean all the time there's going to be conversations of "How can we work together on things?"

Trish Mendoza: I read the transcripts like probably all of us have like a lot of people have and what I read was sounded like our president pressuring the head of a foreign government to do him a favor, a political favor. 

Stephen Pennington: We'll have to see what comes out. Because, I don't see anything that would rise to high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense. I just don't see it.  

President Donald Trump: And Biden is not the brightest person.

All week, Mr. Trump worked to shift attention to his reelection rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump: If Biden is corrupt, if his son is corrupt, when his son takes out billions of dollars billions, when they do that, that's no good.

Biden is the focus of a conspiracy theory for which no evidence has been publicly produced. In the Obama White House, Biden worked with the European Union to force out a Ukrainian prosecutor who was considered weak on corruption. At the time, Biden's son was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that had been investigated but not charged. There is the appearance of a conflict of interest, but Ukraine says neither Biden was suspected of anything illegal. Still, Mr. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed a theory that Biden must have forced the prosecutor out to protect his son from something. On the call with Zelensky, Mr. Trump says, "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great." Mr. Trump was offering U.S. Attorney General William Barr to help in a foreign government investigating one of his reelection opponents. Barr denies being involved. 

President Donald Trump: China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with, uh, with Ukraine.

Mr. Trump's surprising request to China, last week, for no stated reason, was an example of the president of the United States hurling indictments without facts. In a news conference with Finland's president, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Mr. Trump what he wanted Zelensky to do in regard to the Bidens.

President Donald Trump: Look, Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. And you know it. His son walks out with millions of dollars. The kid knows nothing. You know it, and so do we. Go ahead. Ask a question now.

Jeff Mason: The question, sir, was: What did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter?

President Donald Trump: Are you talking to me?

Jeff Mason: It was a just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir.

President Donald Trump: Listen. Listen. Are you ready? We have the President of Finland. Ask him a question.

Jeff Mason: I have one for him. I just wanted to follow up on the one that I asked you, which was —

President Donald Trump: Did you hear me?

Jeff Mason: — what did you want him to —

President Donald Trump: Did you hear me?

Jeff Mason: Yes, sir.

President Donald Trump: Ask him a question.

Jeff Mason: I will, but —

President Donald Trump: I've given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude.

Jeff Mason: No, sir. I don't want to be rude. I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I asked you.

President Donald Trump: I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax. And you know who's playing into the hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country. And I say, in many cases, the "corrupt media" — because you're corrupt.  

Among those text messages given to Congress, one seemed to clear the president's motives. The senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine complained, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." The U.S. ambassador to the European Union replied, "The president has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo's of any kind." But that message was written days after the Ukraine story had broken in public.

A CBS News poll shows 55% of voters support the investigation. Our restaurant poll found 100% agreement on how the political parties should proceed. 

Scott Pelley: You all believe that this should be top priority in Washington today and that the other things should wait?

Brett Wellman: Absolutely.

Kathy Abbott: Unfortunately, yes.

Karen Arakelian: Let's get it done now at this point. It's happening. Let's do it as quickly as possible, 'cause there's a lot of really important issues that have to be addressed.

Scott Pelley: These last two weeks have been pretty tough and I wonder if any of you think that the rhetoric is already way too overheated?

Trish Mendoza: I think it's been overheated for a while. The temperature needs to be cooled down significantly so that people who are just regular citizens, voters like ourselves, can come together and actually have conversations about the way forward. 

Andres Holliday: I could – I could not agree with that-- that more. I think-- that--

Trish Mendoza: Well, there you go.

There are not likely to be handshakes across the aisle of the house as the question of impeachment dominates the foreseeable future. 

Mikie Sherrill: Now that we've done it, I think we need to really make sure we're conveying to the American people how seriously we take this, how sober this is. This is not a happy time for us. 

Will Hurd: There are many people that look at the whistleblower complaint as an example of why there should be impeachment. And the other side wants to look at this as exoneration of what the administration is doing. What I want to do is understand the truth.

Produced by Nicole Young and Henry Schuster. Associate producers, Katie Kerbstat, Rachael Morehouse and Dina Zingaro.

  • Scott Pelley
    Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"