Trump 2020 Official On How Impeachment Will Affect The Campaign
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The House has spoken.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ADAM SCHIFF: President Trump abused the power of his office by conditioning two official acts to get Ukraine to help his reelection.
SHAPIRO: That was Congressman Adam Schiff standing with Democratic leaders this morning as they announced two articles of impeachment against President Trump - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This is the first time impeachment proceedings against a president have taken place while the president is running for reelection. And so earlier today, I spoke with Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 campaign.
Thanks for being here.
MARC LOTTER: Well, thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: Trump has called impeachment a dirty, filthy, disgusting word. And I know you've always argued that it helps your campaign. But when even the president has expressed dismay about being saddled with this, how do you overcome that weight around his neck?
LOTTER: Well, I think anyone would say that no president wants to be impeached. And I don't think even the facts that we know today show that there should be an impeachment. But if that's what the Democrats want to do, if they want to take our country through this, then our campaign is going to be prepared to respond in kind. And what we have seen is an outpouring of people signing up to volunteer. We've seen a influx of new first-time donors, the likes of which we have rarely seen before. So...
SHAPIRO: We've seen some numbers on that fundraising. Can you give us any specific data points?
LOTTER: I'm going to go off memory here. But I - if I remember correctly, we've had 300,000 new donors reach out to us since Nancy Pelosi announced her impeachment inquiry a few months back. And so we're seeing people across America reacting to this, and they're coming to this campaign. They're wanting to stand with the president of the United States. We know that this is not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. And if that's the way the Democrats want to argue the campaign, then that's where we'll fight it out.
SHAPIRO: So you see this as mobilizing the base. Do you have any evidence that when it comes to independents and Democrats who shifted to voting for the president in 2016, that impeachment is not going to drive them away?
LOTTER: Well, I think we've seen some of the public polling out there that has shown that impeachment has lowered - the approval for it has dropped among independents, especially in many of the battleground states. And I think...
SHAPIRO: I think those polls can be debated. I don't want to get too deeply into the numbers here, but there are polls that show that a majority of people support impeachment. There are polls that show...
LOTTER: It depends on the poll...
LOTTER: ...At the moment. But I think what we can say is that most Americans actually just want to see something done. And so while it is great news that the Congress looks like they're finally going to be talking and passing the USMCA, this is...
SHAPIRO: The trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.
LOTTER: This is the president who's going to focus on continuing to create jobs and do the things that the people asked him to do.
SHAPIRO: From a campaign standpoint, would you like to see the president participate in the House proceedings and potentially an eventual Senate trial?
LOTTER: Well, I don't think about it from a campaign standpoint. I think about it from a White House standpoint and what standard that would set for future presidents. And I'll trust the folks in the White House, the lawyers there, to make the best decision on whether he should. But my general sense is that when you're in areas such as this, you are setting a precedent that may have to be followed by future presidents, and that's something that should be considered.
SHAPIRO: Sure. But to make a gross generalization here, a campaign is an exercise in salesmanship. Does it make it easier or tougher for you to, quote, unquote, "sell" the president if he participates or decides not to participate?
LOTTER: Well, I think the president will participate whether he's standing in the well of the Senate or whether he is talking about it at campaign rallies, like he will be tonight in Pennsylvania or whether he's going to Michigan next week. This is a president who lets the American people know what's on his mind. That's not going to change. But whether he has to do that in person in the Senate - that I'll leave to the lawyers to decide.
SHAPIRO: At the heart of this impeachment inquiry is an accusation of leveraging official acts for campaign help from Ukraine - investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The president has said that he would accept help from a foreign country in the 2020 campaign. As a senior staffer on his reelection effort, would you accept an offer of assistance from another country?
LOTTER: I think what we're talking about here, especially as it relates to Ukraine, are allegations of impropriety or potential impropriety by the then-sitting vice president of the United States. Regardless of what - or whether he is a candidate in 2020, we're talking about conduct that took place while he was vice president.
SHAPIRO: But I...
LOTTER: And it's something that needs to be looked at. Even - you had the witnesses that were testifying during the Intelligence Committee that said they raised these red flags.
SHAPIRO: Let's set aside the Bidens in Ukraine. Let me just ask you point-blank. Would you accept assistance from a foreign country if it was offered to you?
LOTTER: That is something that's against federal law. And so I'll follow the FEC guidelines.
SHAPIRO: Marc Lotter is director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 campaign. Thanks for coming in.
LOTTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.