Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick In Unique Position On Ukraine

Oct 6, 2019
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Now the impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son is the topic here in Washington. Some members of Congress who've returned to their districts find it's true there, as well. One Pennsylvania Republican is in a unique position. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent who was sent to Ukraine in 2015 to help that country crack down on corruption. NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Philadelphia.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Just a year before Brian Fitzpatrick was elected to Congress in 2016, the FBI assigned him to work in Ukraine for a few months.

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BRIAN FITZPATRICK: So I got sent out there to give them a hand and help them set up what was known as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

BRADY: Fitzpatrick talked with member station WHYY's Radio Times last Wednesday.

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FITZPATRICK: The prosecutor general's office was a problem. There was a lot of corruption within that entity itself. And, obviously, it was believed that Mr. Shokin was part of that problem.

BRADY: That's Viktor Shokin. He was the prosecutor general in Ukraine, which is like the attorney general here in the U.S. Fitzpatrick's assessment of Shokin differs from that of fellow Republican President Trump. Trump called Shokin a fair prosecutor and said he was treated very badly when former Vice President Joe Biden insisted Shokin be removed from office. Fitzpatrick also has a different view on the whistleblower whose complaint prompted Democrats to launch the impeachment inquiry. The congressman says that person should be considered credible. He says the allegation deserves investigation. But he says law enforcement should do that, not Democrats. It's a middle-of-the-road approach that may seem like a good fit for his moderate, suburban district outside Philadelphia.

But at this post office in Levittown, Penn., voters are not in a moderate mood on the subject of impeachment.

SUE LYNN: I think that, years ago, they used to not put the presidents under like they do today. And I just think it's wrong.

BRADY: While Sue Lynn opposes the impeachment inquiry, Emily Moore supports it because she thinks Trump should not be president.

EMILY MOORE: No ethics - he lies all the time. And what is more frightening is our children are watching this.

BRADY: Criticism of Congressman Fitzpatrick extends to social media, where conservatives say he should give President Trump more support now. And on the left, there are people like Kierstyn Zolfo with the anti-Trump group Pennsylvania Statewide Indivisible. She says Fitzpatrick should play a more visible role now and actually help Democrats with the impeachment inquiry.

KIERSTYN ZOLFO: Because it's not just that he was in the Ukraine. Right now, he's the co-chair of the House Ukraine caucus. So one would imagine that he should have more of an opinion, be more towards the front of this issue. He's on the Foreign Affairs Committee, too. So these are all areas that are entwined in this whistleblower situation.

BRADY: At Muhlenberg College in Allentown, political scientist Chris Borick says Fitzpatrick is in a difficult position.

CHRIS BORICK: It seems like he's straining to find that sweet spot where he can make a case of concern about the president's actions - while not seem to be all in on the movement forward with an impeachment inquiry.

FITZPATRICK: Borick calls Fitzpatrick an adept politician. He survived the 2018 election when other Republicans in swing districts lost their seats. Borick says this middle-of-the-road approach may be the best option for Fitzpatrick while he and the rest of the country wait to see how the impeachment inquiry plays out. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERS PARKER'S "CIRCLE SAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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