SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Republican Congressman Rodney Davis defended the content of President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as a justified inquiry to establish safer U.S. elections free of foreign interference, and defended the Trump administration’s initial move to block its release because “any conversation between two leaders of a foreign country and President of the United States is all a national security issue.”
Davis discussed the matter during a 36-minute exchange with Capitol Connection moderator Mark Maxwell on Thursday in an interview that is set to air on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
“Any phone call between leaders of countries made by the President in any administration has always been subject to executive privilege,” Davis said.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph McGuire, who was appointed to his post by President Trump, did not express any concerns over the content of the rough transcript’s release to the public due to improper classification.
Intelligence officers who have documented Oval Office phone calls with foreign heads of state also said they saw nothing in the exchange that was sensitive enough to qualify as classified material of a national security nature.
During sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last week, McGuire confirmed the whistleblower complaint that triggered the investigation was “credible” and of “urgent concern.” Despite those criteria, McGuire temporarily withheld the document from the House committee because the Department of Justice asserted executive privilege over its release.
“This administration, the Trump administration, has been more transparent than any administration I can remember by releasing a call like this,” Davis argued.
In fact, the Trump administration was refusing to release the rough transcript of the phone call until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a move to open an impeachment inquiry. The White House did not move to release the readout of the conversation until the following day under mounting pressure of the impeachment proceedings.
Eventually, under pressure of impeachment, the Trump White House relented and claimed the document was not to be withheld under executive privilege, which ultimately allowed for its release to the public.
Rep. Davis contends that President Trump asked Zelensky to “go in and investigate how Ukraine or how any foreign country may have interfered in our 2016 election.” Four months prior to that call, the U.S. Department of Justice had already concluded that Russia had made repeated attempts to interfere in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump win.
Throughout the duration of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, President Trump defended himself against accusations and suspicions that his campaign may have colluded with Moscow to sway the election in his favor.
Yet, on Thursday, from the South Lawn of the White House, the President publicly asked Ukraine and the authoritarian Communist government of China to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a request that the Chairman of the Federal Election Commission determined would be a violation of federal law.
“I’m not going to judge whether that’s an act of collusion,” Rep. Davis deferred when asked if a foreign country digging up opposition research constituted an in-kind campaign contribution. “The President made the request in a public setting. That’s a big difference.”
“I guess we’ll cross that bridge if there’s any information ever given,” Davis parried. “Clearly, you’ve got to have information to have an in-kind contribution.”