ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A dozen people have testified over five days in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Through hours of public testimony, Democrats have tried to build a narrative that President Trump used the promise of a White House meeting and withheld security aid to pressure Ukraine's president to conduct politically motivated investigations. Republicans have argued that there was no quid pro quo, that the president never demanded the investigation and that Ukrainians ultimately got the security aid. So to walk through all of this, we are joined by Hugo Gurdon, editor-in-chief of the Washington Examiner.
Welcome back to the studio.
HUGO GURDON: Thanks for having me, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Before we discuss the hearings as a whole, give me your reaction to today's testimony from Fiona Hill and David Holmes.
GURDON: Well, I thought that they were both pretty strong witnesses, and I would say prosecution witnesses for the Democrats.
SHAPIRO: For the Democrats.
GURDON: They both came across - were pretty good, particularly Dr. Hill, coming across as experts in their field. I mean, she's evidently extremely smart, very knowledgeable, et cetera. But very interestingly, their language, I think, was peppered with phrases, which would help try and convince - or help - would help convince the public, which is what these hearings are all about, that something nefarious was going on. Just for example, I mean, Mr. Holmes referred to the self-styled three amigos...
GURDON: ...Just two days after Kurt Volker had said, no, I don't know where this comes from.
GURDON: We certainly didn't call ourselves that.
GURDON: There's something - you know, it kind of suggests something wrong.
SHAPIRO: Because you talk about the overall effort to convince the public, do you think that this has had that effect? I mean, polls show that some 30% of Americans could be persuaded. Do you think this likely persuaded them one way or the other?
GURDON: You know, I think that if this had been an isolated thing, if it had not come after more than two years of the Democrats trying to find some way of undermining President Trump first...
SHAPIRO: Are you talking about the Mueller investigation specifically?
GURDON: The Mueller in particular, first with the idea of collusion, which was debunked, then with the idea of obstruction of justice, which didn't make any headway. If it hadn't been clear that the opposition to President Trump had declared its resistance since before he was even inaugurated, then it might have been more persuasive.
SHAPIRO: Although Schiff, in his closing remarks - chairman Adam Schiff said that this is not a coincidence, that it was the day after the Mueller testimony that President Trump had this now-infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president...
SHAPIRO: ...Effectively saying, I've seen what I can get away with.
GURDON: Well, yes, Adam Schiff would say it's no coincidence. But in fact, also, the Republicans say it's no coincidence. Devin Nunes in his summing up said no coincidence the day after the Mueller report and the Mueller investigation had failed to get Trump, the Democrats started on their new thing by, you know, there was this conversation, which was then leaked, and Adam Schiff, you know, set the new scandal in train. Now look. You know, it has always been a political thing. It is not that - the Democrats want to suggest and have been using the phrase bribery and trying to describe bribery. And I think that - so they want to suggest that a crime was committed. I think that the - you know, the Supreme Court turned down the expansive interpretation of bribery that they wish to try and persuade the public took place. But the truth is that this is not a criminal prosecution. It's not litigation.
GURDON: It's actually all about persuading the public. If they feel - which I think they're not going to - that the public is going to back impeachment, you know, then so much the better for them. They can get rid of President Trump before the election. If it just cakes him with dirt before the election, it makes him less electable.
SHAPIRO: Hugo Gurdon, editor-in-chief of the Washington Examiner, thank you for coming in.
GURDON: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.