(NEW YORK) — California Rep. Eric Swalwell joined ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Wednesday, calling out President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for an alleged “shakedown scheme” involving Ukraine and at least four men who have recently been arrested on campaign finance charges.
When prompted on how House Democrats will respond if Giuliani continues to refuse to cooperate with a wide-ranging subpoena from the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, Swalwell said they will take it as a guilty plea.
“If that’s the case, we will file that away as a consciousness of guilt. … Innocent people would appear, a guilty person with something to hide would not. And [the committees would] consider that as a potential obstruction of Congress and for the president,” he told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Brad Mielke, host of ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump and Donald Trump is Rudy Giuliani.”
Swalwell said personal lawyers don’t act unless authorized by their clients.
Tuesday was the deadline for Giuliani to comply with lawmakers working on the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 24 after a whistleblower filed a complaint regarding a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Giuliani’s defiance, along with attempts by Trump administration officials to bar witnesses from testifying before the lawmakers, has escalated the standoff between House Democrats and the White House.
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said lawmakers have to stay focused on the impeachment probe because of the urgency of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
“So you have crime, confession and cover up,” Swalwell said. “And the American people understand all three of those. And the best way to protect an upcoming election and our national security, I think, is to stay singularly focused on this incident right now.”
Since the beginning of the impeachment inquiry process, a number of State Department employees, including former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; former national security adviser on Russia Fiona Hill; former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, have given closed-door depositions on Capitol Hill.
Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, became the sixth witness called before the committees on Wednesday.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, initially blocked from testifying by the White House, is scheduled to meet before lawmakers on Thursday. They are also scheduled to hear from their first Pentagon witness, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper, on Friday.
Swalwell said it’s clear so far in the process that House Democrats believe Trump is at the bottom of this. In a tweet on Monday, Swalwell said when a lawyer is indicted, “the client takes the fall.”
“If they don’t want to show up and they don’t have anything that could exonerate themselves, we’re just going to conclude that [as] consciousness of guilt,” he reiterated.
When asked why the House is keeping the deposition process private, Swalwell said the committees want to ensure the witnesses aren’t tailoring their testimony based on the others’ stories.
“We’re taking a first pass at the timeline and the number of people involved in this shakedown scheme.” he said. “We’re keeping a close hold for now. That’s not to say there won’t be public hearings in the future. But any investigation like this, you do keep a close hold.”
He added, “The public will be read in very soon.”
Swalwell announced in April that he would join the list of Democrats running for president in 2020. However, soon after the first set of Democratic debates, he dropped out of the race.
During his brief run, the lawmaker focused his campaign narrowly on gun reform and student loan debt relief.
Other than the impeachment inquiry, gun control was a hot topic at the fourth Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and the New York Times on Tuesday.
“It was a little refreshing to watch it, you know, from the couch and not on the stage,” Swalwell said.
The lawmaker’s priorities have not changed, as he praised former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s remarks on gun reform, pushing for a mandatory buyback program where the government can require gun owners to turn in their assault weapons in exchange for payment.
O’Rourke’s priorities, not too far from Swalwell’s, would also institute red-flag laws and university background checks.
“I really enjoyed the conversation around assault weapons and a mandatory buyback,” he said. “To see Beto O’Rourke lean in and say that, you know, if we really want to do something about these mass shootings, we can’t leave 15 million in our community and then as the other candidates engage with him on that, that was fulfilling.”
During the first presidential debate in June, Swalwell, 38, told former Vice President Joe Biden, 78, that he should “pass the torch” to the younger candidates.
When prompted by the hosts, he said it’s more about mindset than age.
“It was really a mindset and just offering something other than, you know, decades of service in Washington, and that’s not to take away the service of senators,” he said. “I just think that elections are generally about change and we win when we offer change.”
The Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program with new episodes every Wednesday. ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein interview the biggest names and examine the biggest issues in U.S. politics
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