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Week In Politics: Countdown To Impeachment


President Trump is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The full House is expected to vote Wednesday. Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington correspondent, joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us on a historic week.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: A few days before the actual vote. But looking back on the impeachment inquiry, what facts and moments stand out to you?

ELVING: Perhaps none from the grim hours of this past week - the trench warfare we saw in Jerry Nadler's committee. But there were shining moments that came earlier in the House Intelligence Committee hearings - when lifetime public servants, such as Fiona Hill and ambassadors Taylor and Yovanovitch, stepped up, put their careers on the line and said this president had done something beyond the pale. And when Ambassador Gordon Sondland said yes, there was a quid pro quo, and everyone was in the loop. Those salient moments of testimony are what's driving this process.

SIMON: The president may be impeached just as he runs for reelection - hasn't happened before. How do you see this breaking as a campaign issue for both parties?

ELVING: It may not surprise you, Scott, to hear that the president sees it as one more big boost for himself, another log on the grievance fire inside some of his supporters. We saw quite a few moments like that in the first campaign, when what seemed like crippling stories for Trump just gave him a leg up on his rivals. And that might happen again. But in this case, Democrats said they had no choice in the end. They did have a choice after the Mueller report. And they chose not to pursue impeachment. But once the whistleblower blew, once the Democrats knew what Trump had done regarding Ukraine, that was the final breach in the dam - the challenge that could not be ignored.

SIMON: Let's look across the way. Voters in the U.K. gave Boris Johnson's Conservative Party a historic majority. Some people see implications for U.S. elections. Do you?

ELVING: How lonely would I be if I didn't, Scott? The almost-too-obvious message is that a lurch to the left - along the lines of the Labour Party's platform this fall, the program of its socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn - would be disastrous for the Democrats in the U.S. But progressives are already pushing back on that, Scott. And they can draw significant distinctions between the British crisis and our own, differences between Corbyn and the socialist Bernie Sanders or between Corbyn and some of the other Democrats. And, yes, those distinctions matter. But we're going to hear a lot about this when the candidates debate again Thursday night in Los Angeles.

SIMON: Ron, I feel the need to ask this question before the end of the year because there've been a lot of questions throughout the year in the Democratic primaries about the candidacies of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Is one too moderate? Is the other too radical? Are they both too old? Lot of - has been thrown at both of them. And at the end of the year, they are No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls - Joe Biden winning more support than any other candidate from African Americans, Bernie Sanders from young voters. After all that's been thrown at them, why are they still so strong?

ELVING: Yeah, how about that? Maybe it is geezer chic. Maybe these guys are like comfort food in a crisis or chicken soup for the political soul. You know, we had so much talk about this huge field, all the gender and racial diversity. And now here we are with two old white guys, plus one white woman who's 70 and a white guy who's 37 and never won a statewide race. But who knows? Maybe someone else will still emerge. It's not even 2020 yet.

SIMON: It's going to be quite a year. Thanks very much. NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.