Scalise Meet the Press

U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, appeared on NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on Sunday, September 29, 2019.

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise joined NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning to defend President Donald Trump from the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

"The Framers did not put the power of impeachment in the Constitution so that you could stop somebody from getting elected who was duly elected in 2016," Scalise, R-Jefferson, told host Chuck Todd in an at-times contentious interview. "It's a high crime and misdemeanor standard, and they should take that with the respect that it deserves in the House."

Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, has been a key ally of Trump since the president took office in 2017 and has emerged as a significant surrogate defending Trump from Democrats' investigations into alleged misconduct.

It's a role Scalise is expected to continue to play as the impeachment efforts mount.

Democrats in the past week have seized on a whistleblower's complaint about a July phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during which Trump brought up unproven allegations against political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son's work for a Ukrainian gas company. The Trump administration released a memo detailing the call and a copy of the complaint has been made public.

"They have been investigating President Trump for over two years and the entire time making baseless allegations," Scalise said during the Sunday morning national TV appearance. "Speaker Pelosi, the day before the transcript came out, was saying that was going to show that the president broke the law, and then they didn't have any quid pro quo — all of the things that they were saying."

Todd repeatedly pushed back on Scalise.

“Do you think it was appropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader for help investigating his chief political rival in 2020?” Todd asked Scalise, without receiving a direct answer.

Instead, Scalise said people have misinterpreted the transcript and that Trump was seeking Ukraine’s help in continuing to probe Russian’s attempted meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“He was talking about the 2016 interference that happened in our election,” he said. “There’s still a lot of information about how the Russians interfered in our election when Barrack Obama was president, and I’m glad President Trump continues to look into that interference so it doesn't happen again.”

Scalise said Congress should be focused on larger priorities instead of impeachment heading into the final stretch of the year.

"They're investigating everything, and instead of, by the way, we should be moving USMCA to get a better trade deal," he said. "We should be passing bipartisan legislation to lower drug prices. They won't bring those bills to the House floor because all they're focused on is impeachment."

Watch the full interview via NBC here.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.